BARTONVILLE — Greg Meier wants people to remember and to learn from what happened to his friend some 15 years ago on a highway in Iraq.
The Maria Stein, Ohio, man was in the U.S. Army Reserves with the Bartonville-based 724th Transportation Co. and his friend was 37-year-old Gregory Goodrich, who was killed along with two other soldiers and five civilian contractors in a massive ambush of a fuel convoy. The two men were roommates, and Meier said Goodrich was one of the guys who had an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
"If he wanted to talk about something, he'd wake you up in the middle of the night and you'd talk about it," he said with a smile. The two were close. Meier was in his mid-20s and admittedly not the guy who wanted to hear about Swiss philosopher Carl Jung, but that was Greg, he said.
"He was the type that you would always learn from."
Meier was to go out on that fateful convoy but had to switch places with Goodrich. The reservists were transporting fuel just west of Baghdad International Airport on April 9, 2004, when they were attacked by an estimated 250 to 400 insurgents in what was described as one of the largest coordinated ambushes of the Iraq war. For miles, a rolling gun battle ensued, with the convoy being shot at with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons.
Goodrich, Meier said, was riding "shotgun" or "right seat" in a civilian truck when the attack occurred. Smoke and oil filled the sky, making it impossible to see. Goodrich, he said, climbed out on the hood of the truck and fought back, firing at insurgents.
Tuesday, April 9, was the 15-year anniversary of the ambush, and to remember the attack, members of the Quiet Pride Motorcycle Club, as they have for many years, organized a ride and then held a brief service at in Alpha Park at the memorial the club sponsored. The 724th memorial features the company's emblem in black granite atop a concrete base. A 125-foot concrete walkway leads from the road in the park to the monument, which sits between the two pavilions near the park's ball fields.
Goodrich, who lived in Bartonville but had roots in Wisconsin and Georgia; Sgt. Elmer Krause, 40, of Greensboro, N.C.; and Staff Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin were killed, as were five civilian contractors. Nearly two dozen were wounded. One contractor remains missing and is presumed dead. The battle was a departure from the way insurgents had been attacking the convoys up to that point as it was far more coordinated and organized as well as much larger.
Maupin, then a 20-year-old private first class from Batavia, Ohio, was captured in the ambush. He was listed as missing for nearly four years and continued to be promoted, a sign the Army believed him to be captured, not dead. On March 30, 2008, the military announced they had found Maupin's remains not far from the ambush site.
Ron "Conan" Hawotte, the club's sergeant at arms, said 35 motorcycles took part in the memorial ride to Glasford and back. It was amazing, he said, to see how many were from out of town.
"We had two from Pennsylvania, one from New York and one from Ohio," he said. For him and the other members of Quiet Pride, it's their honor, and some of them might say their duty to remember what the 724th did that day.
But there were also members of the 724th who came back to Bartonville to honor and to remember their fallen comrades. One of those was Patrick Pelz of Monticello. He was seriously injured on the convoy and spent time in Germany afterward recovering.
"I think it's real important that we come out and keep the people alive, even when they aren't. It's good to remember that even though warfare and combat and things overseas are more modern, people still get hurt and people still die," he said.
Meier agrees. Now 41, he's no longer a 20-something. To him, having a day to remember is like going to a history class. It doesn't have to be just in books, he said. By remembering the people who died, and by remembering what happened, he said, their legacy is secured and they aren't gone.