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A tiered granite monument honoring three fallen National Guard members, including Carlos Wilcox of Cottage Grove, greets visitors to the National Guard Armory in Stillwater, where the soldiers' unit is based. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente

Memorial honors fallen Cottage Grove, Woodbury soldiers

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news Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Charlene Wilcox of Cottage Grove said Minnesota has done a lot to honor her son, Carlos, and two of his fellow National Guard specialists since they were killed while serving in Iraq three years ago.

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The latest remembrance came last month when the Guard dedicated a memorial in Stillwater to Wilcox, Daniel Drevnick of Woodbury and James Wertish of Olivia. The memorial is located at the National Guard Armory, which was home to the men's 34th Military Police Co. unit.

The ceremony dedicating the memorial in Stillwater came nearly three years to the day after the 27-year-old Wilcox was killed when the unit's base in Basra was attacked July 16, 2009.

Charlene Wilcox, her family and the families of Drevnick and Wertish attended the dedication alongside members of the 34th Military Police Co.

"Whenever anyone pauses by the memorial to reflect or remember," Spc. Nicholas Pedersen said in an announcement of the memorial, "it is my hope that we will not simply mourn the immeasurable loss suffered, but also recall the lives they lived and the incomparable level of dedication they all displayed."

The three-tiered black granite monument has a dominating presence in the armory's lobby and is illuminated from above 24 hours a day. Flowers adorn the monument's lowest tier. The three soldiers' names are scribed on a faux book made of granite on the second tier. Atop the monument is a bronze "soldier's cross" -- a helmet perched on the butt of a rifle sticking up from a pair of military boots. Below the boots it reads: "Lord bless those heroes who have given their lives, for we will never forget their sacrifices."

In addition to the monument, the men are remembered in two second-floor displays. One features a cardboard sign recognizing the fallen soldiers that was handwritten by troops shortly after their death and posted on the base in Basra, along with an American flag that flew over the base. Another display includes photos of the three men alongside a National Guard jacket; a name patch on the jacket reads: "Fallen."

Charlene Wilcox said she was told the memorial will stay at the armory and only would move if the Guard unit is relocated. She said she could not ask for anything more as a remembrance.

"It's something that will be forever," she said.

Carlos Wilcox was buried at a national cemetery in Indiana. His father, who served in the Air Force and was killed in a car accident when Carlos was young, also is buried at the Indiana cemetery. Carlos' friends visit his gravesite every year, his mother said.

Charlene Wilcox, who teaches at Cottage Grove Middle School, said many events have been held in honor of her son and other Minnesota soldiers who were killed while serving overseas. The men were remembered at a Memorial Day ceremony. Their family members were invited to Camp Ripley, where they trained. An annual motorcycle ride is named in their honor. Their relatives were invited to watch a Minnesota Twins game from a Target Field suite on a military appreciation day earlier this year.

"Minnesota's just been so wonderful in remembering our boys," she said.

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