This article was published as part of a content-sharing agreement between Army Times and The Fayetteville Observer.

FORT LIBERTY, N.C. — The U.S. Army Special Operations Command added five new names to its memorial wall during a ceremony Thursday, May 23, bringing the total number of command soldiers who died in the line of duty to 1,273.

The five USASOC soldiers, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Fort, Campbell, Kentucky, were killed Nov. 10, 2023, when the Black Hawk helicopter they were on crashed in the Mediterranean Sea.

“They rapidly and bravely deployed without hesitation and volunteered to be upfront where the mission is hard,” Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, commander of USASOC, told the crowd gathered at Fort Liberty for Thursday’s ceremony. “They were willing to put their own lives in danger to answer the call and follow their passion to be a force of good in this world.”

The fallen are:

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer

Dwyer, 38, from Clarksville, Tennessee, commissioned from West Point as a fire support officer, then six years later became a warrant officer and went to flight school; first flying Black Hawks with the 101st Airborne Division, before piloting the MH-60L, known as a DAP or direction action penetrator.

“He never met a stranger as his humility, charisma and attitude made him legendary with his company ranks,” Braga said. “He loved flying. He loved people, loved rugby.”

Dwyer is survived by his wife Allie; son Duke, 7; son Brody, 5; mother Gail, father Steve; brothers Christopher and Timothy; and sister Marie, Braga said.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes

Following Thursday’s ceremony, Barnes’ family said the Sacramento, California, native joined the Army because he came from a law enforcement service family.

“If you asked Shane, he’d say ‘Top Gun’ was his inspiration,” his father said.

When he was in fourth grade, his mother said, Barnes wore his grandfather’s flight suit for Halloween and after 9/11, it “cemented he wanted to protect” his country.

Barnes’ parents said that while in flight school, he met his wife. He was 34 when he was killed.

His widow, Samatha Barnes, said she doesn’t want her daughters to grow up being sad.

“I want them to know how much he loved her and if he could be here, he would, but what he chose to do, he was willing to do that,” she said.

Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone

Grone, 26, was intelligent, dedicated to helping his team and a calm, competent leader for soldiers in his charge, Braga said.

“When flying with Tanner, pilots and crew chiefs alike instantly felt more at ease knowing Tanner was there with them,” he said.

Originally from Gorham, New Hampshire, he is survived by his mother Erica, father Steve and sister Emily.

Sgt. Andrew P. Southard

Southard, 27, fit in with his teammates and was “someone trusted to (execute) even the most complicated tasks with honor and integrity,” Braga said. ”His infectious smile and professional drive made him a force within the unit, someone who was present, someone who was positive and devoted to his team and mission.”

From Apache Junction, Arizona, Southard is survived by his wife Ashley; daughter Hailey, 2; son Jack, 5; son Warren, 9; and his parents Kim and Frank.

Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe

Wolfe, 24, was known for his “quick smile, wit and strong work ethic,” often staying late for work, Braga said.

The Mankato, Minnesota, native was “always dedicated to getting one more thing done, smiling the entire time, even when he tried to be serious” and “couldn’t help but break into laughter,” Braga said.

Wolfe is survived by his wife Danielle; mother Julie; father Scott; stepmother Heather; stepfather Dave and brother Cooper.

“These men responded to the worst day of someone’s life, to a country and population in need,” Braga said. “It was not something for which they wanted to receive accolades or for something which they ever expected recognition. … They lived their passion. They lived their creed.”

Gold Star families

Braga said that all of USASOC’s fallen teammates are memorialized in battlefields, cemeteries and on statues around the world, but also by men and women around the world.

He promised each Gold Star family their loved ones would not be forgotten, as their memories are shared with younger soldiers.

He told the families they are part of USASOC’s family, too.

Another Gold Star family at Thursday’s ceremony were the parents of Staff Sgt. Mark Alan Stets Jr., 39, who was killed Feb. 3, 2010, by an improvised explosive device while in Pakistan.

Stets was a senior psychological operations sergeant assigned to Company C, 8th Psychological Operations Battalion, 4th Psychological Operations Group.

His parents, Nancy and Mark Stets Sr., came from Virginia Beach to attend Thursday’s ceremony. They said their son grew up “playing Army,” but first joined the Navy.

Nancy Stets said that her son was on his way to the dedication of a girls school in Pakistan when he and four other soldiers were killed.

“Even though they’re in a dangerous place, doing dangerous things, you don’t expect that to happen,” she said.

He left behind a wife and three teenage daughters.

The Stets said ceremonies like Thursday’s help keep their son’s memory alive.

“Every time we come down here, somebody comes out of the woodwork that knew Mark,” his father said.

For the first time in the 14 years since their son’s death, they said, they met a soldier this week who was serving with their son at the time of his death.

“Soldiers that are involved in the loss of one of their teammates, they have to bury them, and so it makes it hard for them,” Stet’s mother said. “They carry wounds of war that we don’t see.”

Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at or 910-486-3528.

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