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Captain Tristan Neil Aitken

June 29, 2012

This week’s story is told by Kenneth Meador, a soldier who served with Captain Aitken. The story needs no editing or revising. It’s a story of friendship, faith and service.

As a new Soldier, who never even had the chance to train with my unit before deploying for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I was immediately influenced by the leadership of Cpt. Tristan Aitken.

Cpt. Aitken did all the little things that make a good Army leader great. He spoke to all of us in Headquarters Battery every single day during the invasion. He ALWAYS asked about my family and knew my wife’s and my parent’s names. He knew where I was from and referenced it frequently in conversation. Every morning, in the pre-dawn hours, while all of our Soldiers would perform “Stand-to” a defensive measure to prevent early morning attacks, Cpt Aitken would walk the line and make sure every single Soldier was OK in our hasty fighting positions.

Even his tragic death was an example of leadership. One of our tankers had become stuck and instead of sending a team with a junior office to retrive the vehicle and crew Cpt. Aitken went himself. His vehicle was struck with an RPG on the morning of April 4th 2003. May he rest in peace.

FindAGrave.com’s page on the Captain has this to say about him:

Army Capt. Aitken was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia. Aitken was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade shot through the passenger window of a Humvee that he and another soldier were driving near Baghdad International Airport. A dozen years ago, Texas Christian University freshman Tristan Aitken joined the annual student rite of spring and followed the migration to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He didn’t go to join the party animals; he went to minister to them. “He went to preach the gospel on the beach,” his father, Ronald Aitken, said. “And that’s what he did.” Tristan carried that faith from the sands of Fort Lauderdale to the sands of the Middle East, drawing on it for calm as commander of 217 soldiers in Iraq. Tristan was a career military man who had been married just 16 months. He was a soldier; a member of a military family taught to take orders and not grumble. His father is retired Navy and his sister is an Army second lieutenant. Years ago, at Centre County Christian Academy, he was cool — the dark glasses, two thumbs-up kid. But in an e-mail to a school chum, he was reflective, asking for prayers that he bring his men back safely.

Today, Captain Aitken lies in rest in the most hallowed grounds on American soil. Arlington National Cemetery will forever be the earthly home for the vessel which carried this American Hero through life.

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