By Sgt. 1st Class Joel Quebec
CARY, N.C. - The Army Reserve center in Cary, N.C., was renamed June 8, in a light but solemn ceremony that celebrated the short life and service of Spc. Daniel Lucas Elliott.
Elliott, a military police officer assigned to the 200th Military Police Command, was killed in action July 15, 2011 in Basra, Iraq, when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb just three days shy of his 22nd birthday.
According to his family, his decision to join the military came in 2001 when he was just 11 years old as a result of the 9-11 attacks. The Elliotts had been watching the events unfold on television and Lucas turned to them and said, "I'm going to do something about that."
On Jan. 10, 2007 Lucas entered the Army. Two years later in January 2009, he was deployed to Iraq for the first time with the 810th Military Police Company and saw duty in Camp Liberty and Camp Basra supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. In March 2011, he volunteered again to deploy to Iraq with the 805th Military Police Company for Operation New Dawn.
"He dedicated himself to his country then," his father, Ed Elliott, said of his decision to serve. "He stuck to it."
Lucas, as Spc. Elliott was known, didn't have to go on the second deployment it was the service that drove the Eagle Scout to volunteer again.
The ceremony itself was standing room only as soldiers, family, friends and community members gathered to remember Lucas. Two major generals, like-minded commanders, both spoke of a soldier's service and the strength that comes from family and how it strengthens the nation. They talked of the remembrance of our heroes and how it reflects in our national values.
Maj. Gen. Gill Beck, commanding general of the 81st Regional Support Command, spoke to family saying, "I know what it's like to love a son, but I don't know what it's like to lose a son."
Beck concluded by saying, "From here forward as soldiers enter into this building they will have a model, an image, of what it means to be committed to our Army, committed to our nation and what it truly means to be a soldier and a member of the profession of arms."
Maj. Gen. Sanford Holman, commanding general of the 200th Military Police Command, highlighted the community strength represented in the large attendance at the event. He acknowledged the Elliott family's resilience and how community contributed to it. "The way that the unit and community have surrounded [the Elliott family] just sends chills up and down my spine," he said.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht told the audience that it was his honor to be in the midst of so many heroes saying that being part of the ceremony was very humbling.
"Like many citizens, I didn't serve in the armed forces," he said. "But there is not a day that goes by that I don't benefit from the sacrifices of the people in this room and the men and women all around the world who risk their lives every day so I can be free and enjoy a great life."
Although he didn't personally know Lucas he had the opportunity to meet the family and hear stories from those with whom he was close.
"As mayor of this town, I am truly honored to have this facility named after somebody that embodies what it means to give service to everyone else, he said."
The reality of Lucas' the person, however, was spoken by his brother, Brad Elliott, who spoke of the man, his service and memory.
"The measure of a man is not hinged on what he does while he's here walking with us," he said. "But yet it's what's being done for him or because of him after he's gone."
Judging by the crowd at the proceedings, it was obvious that Lucas had contributed a lot to the community in a little over two decades of life. He was described as someone who would go a mile just to save you a step.
"He would literally give you the shirt off his back," Brad said. "I've seen him do it."
Brad shared a couple specific memories of his brother that brought smiles and a lighter spirit to an otherwise somber occasion. Stories of their youth, hunting and fishing and family that were also a reflection of the young soldier's love of life and the outdoors. Brad was certain that anyone who knew his brother had fond memories of him also and he encouraged everyone to always think of him that way. He felt that his brother's biggest passion was being outdoors no matter what he was doing.
"This is a great honor for my brother, my family and all his friends. It's an honor that leaves our souls well fed and our hearts left with plenty of pride."
A poem was read by Jessica Dickens, the daughter of a soldier who had served with Elliott previously but was still deployed and could not attend the ceremony.
By all accounts, Lucas was the ideal citizen-soldier.
Sgt. Jonathan Merck, who served with him and was present the day he died said of him, "He knew his job, he knew it well. I was very confident in him and his abilities."
Lucas was probably one of the best soldiers we had in our unit," said Cpl. Eric Hickey. "He was also the first there and always volunteered for everything." He said that the memorialization was a good way to remember one the best. "He was a good friend," Hickey added. He was really nice and always meant what he said."
"He was about as good a soldier as I could ask for," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Jones, Elliott's squad leader on his second deployment. "I could rely on him to do pretty much anything I asked. You couldn't ask for a better soldier."
It was Jones that had initially mentioned some form of memorialization for Lucas to 81st RSC leadership during a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration event in Concord, N.C. "I think it's really fitting," he said. "It's really the least that we could do."
After the ceremony, his mother, Patti spoke with WTVD, the ABC affiliate in Cary. "It's a tangible place that I can go and know that everybody who comes here remembers him when they're here," she told reporter Sheyenne Rodriguez.
"The Army Reserve family has been phenomenal, "she said. "And to know that they went this extra step to make this happen really means a lot."
She says that she tries to honor her son's memory every day by serving other soldiers.
"He would be so upset if he thought I was crying every day," she said.
The Elliott family and the troops who know them and knew Lucas are hoping that the dedication of the building will serve as an inspiration to others.
"His mission is complete, " Patti said. "God was though with him, He was not through with us, so we need to make sure that we live everyday to put greatest potential."
"We've just got to remember that he's still with us," Brad said. "He's just got a lot better view than we do now days."