Service honors fallen at Kings County Freedom Memorial

FRESNO, Calif.

Army Sergeant Joshua Soto is one of 794 names on the Kings County Freedom Memorial and one of 9 to be recently added.

There are hundreds of names that are more than just an etching on a wall. They're a story, part of a family, and now a memory.

"There's a chunk torn out of you, and nothing ever fills it," relative Ernie Sierra said.

Ernie Sierra says he often told his young nephew about the dangers of military life. But after 2 tours in Iraq, the 25-year-old Sgt. Soto went back for a 3rd and final time.

A roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Iraq in June of 2009. Soto leaves his family and young son behind.

"He was a young man of extraordinary nature," Sierra said.

Also named on the wall are those who served but didn't die in combat. It's something that makes this memorial different and unique.

For Captain Mark Black, it's honoring the two lieutenants who died in a training accident just outside Lemoore last year.

"There's a story assigned with each one of them. In my position I get personally involved with, in many cases, the ramifications and aftermath of that," Capt. Mark Black, USN/cOmmander Strike Fighterwing, Pacific, said.

"That's what they wanted to do - recognize everybody that served in the military and died while on active duty," Kings County Veterans Service Officer Joe Wright said.

While it may not bring loved ones back, family members say it's the most honorable form of closure.

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