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20 years since Somalia: Veterans gather in Plano to remember those killed in action
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

This Thursday marks the 20-year anniversary of one of the darkest days in recent United States military history.

On Oct. 3, 1993, 19 men were killed on the dusty streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, a battle that has been immortalized in Mark Bowden's best-selling book, "Black Hawk Down," as well as a feature film of the same name.

The city of Plano has a strong connection to the battle, as Sgt. Casey Joyce, a 1987 Plano Senior graduate and member of the school's 1986 state championship football team, was one of the Army Rangers killed that day.

More than six dozen survivors of the battle and their families are descending on North Texas this weekend to not only remember their buddies who didn't return home, but also to catch up with friends they have not seen in many years. The weekend kicks off Thursday in Plano with a public memorial service and dinner at the Plano VFW, which was renamed in Joyce's memory in 1999.

"This is the first real big ceremony like this we have ever had," said former Ranger Dale Sizemore, a veteran of the Battle of Mogadishu. "The thing about memorial services is that it is hard to say goodbye all over again."

Money raised at Thursday's event will go toward the VFW's efforts to relocate from its current position in an east Plano strip shopping center to a freestanding building at the intersection of Parker Road and Alma Drive.

While the Mogadishu veterans are not big on reunions, Sizemore said this year is different not only because it is the 20th anniversary, but also because it will help raise money for a cause close to his heart.

"We are really trying to do something good by helping relocate this VFW and will hopefully raise enough money to start a fund for other VFWs," he said. "Keeping these VFWs going is going to be integral to the men coming back from combat so they can stay connected to other soldiers. It should definitely help eliminate some of the post traumatic stress. Just having a mentor is a great tool for these guys."

Lew Bruno, a member of the Plano VFW and chairman of the event, said the post does a small ceremony each year but decided to go bigger this year. In addition to members of Task Force Ranger, U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, as well as state Rep. Jeff Leach and County Judge Keith Self are expected to attend.

Bruno said the post will sell challenge coins at the event as a way to raise funds for the relocation, adding people from overseas have already expressed interest in purchasing the coins, which can be seen on the post's website.

While it will be tough to say goodbye to men like Joyce, Sizemore said the chance to get together with his fellow veterans was too good to pass up.

"Dallas is a great opportunity for all of us to get together with our families," he said. "This is 20 years, and we are not really sure how many more times we can get together in this capacity. We have lost quite a few guys since Somalia -- several to suicide, some to combat and a couple to other means. This weekend will be great."

Want to go?

What: The Battle of Mogadishu 20th Anniversary Ceremony

When: 5 p.m., Oct. 3

Where: Casey Joyce VFW Post 4380, 3420 K Ave.


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