Ed Ricord joined the Army in 1979, he trained as a medic.
Roland “Poncho” Carrizales signed up for the Army in 1991 and went to the 10th Mountain Division.
The two would meet on a fateful day in 1993 that each remembers in the flashes of a firefight. Then they would meet again years later to mark what happened that day and rectify what failed to happen afterward.
The men were serving in Mogadishu, Somalia, running patrols in the dangerous city on a peacekeeping mission that would soon see some of the fiercest urban combat the U.S. military had faced since Vietnam.
It’s what many former members of that unit now call the “forgotten” Black Hawk Down. No, not the famed Task Force Ranger and Delta Force Oct. 3-4, 1993 battle, but a crash that preceded those incidents by a matter of days.
There was no movie made, nor any shiny medals for the soldiers of 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, attached to the division’s Task Force 2-14.
But they served in the same mission, braved the same dangers, lost lives and saved lives with nearly no fanfare.
On Sept. 25, 1993, Ricord rode out with company convoy to a Black Hawk helicopter crash site. Ricord spotted the remains of the helicopter crewmen at the airframe. He went to work.
“After recovering both sets of remains all hell broke out with small arms fire,” Ricord said.
An officer called over that one of the convoy soldiers was wounded. Ricord rushed towards the gunfire.
Carrizales lay on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot to the neck, pinned under metal.
“I told him that he picked a great place to take a break and that I would take care of him,” Ricord said.
30 years later, Carrizales told Army Times on Friday that he remembers Ricord before that firefight and the gunshot wound that paralyzed him.
“He’d tag along on some of the missions,” Carrizales said. The Texas native remembers Ricord saying he liked to go out with them because “you guys get into the shit every time we go out there.”
Ricord patched up Carrizales and others as best he could, as he’d done for more than a decade and would do for more years than he cares to count until he retired from the Army. Then he went back to the mission and Carrizales went home to recover.
More than two decades later, Carrizales saw a Facebook comment from a friend of Ricord’s who noticed some writing online about the incident by a fellow veteran.
The guy contacted him and asked if he’d like to talk with Ricord.
“Who wouldn’t?,” Carrizales said. “I owe my life for what he did out there.”
The two met up and started a fast friendship. For years they’ve called and messaged each other, checking in as old veterans do.
So, when Ricord called up a few weeks back and told Carrizales he was heading down to San Antonio to swing by the gravesite of another soldier friend, one who didn’t survive that operation, Carrizales thought nothing of meeting up with his old medic buddy.
But Ricord had something special in tow.
Nearly four years ago news came out about multiple medal upgrades for Rangers, Delta and many 10th Mountain soldiers who served in Operation Gothic Serpent. Army Times published coverage of a documentary released in 2019 about the 10th Mountain soldiers of Task Force 2-14.
But nothing mentioned Charlie Company and those attached to the task force.
That didn’t sit right with Ricord.
He got to work creating his own special tribute – a custom rebuilt 1993 FLH Harley Davidson Eagle Eye Ultra Classic motorcycle.
The paint job? Chocolate Chip desert Cammie, just like those the soldiers wore on their deployment.
Ricord and his wife Laura Ricord hauled that bike across the state of Texas and for a specific reason – so that Carrizales could be the first soldier in the unit to sign the bike.
And on Friday, that’s what he did.
“It blew me away, honestly,” Carrizales said. “Ed told me years back, ‘I’m gonna work on something for you guys. I thought it would be something small. I hope that it can bring us all together…I think it’d just give us closure.”
Now the bike will continue its journey to California, Alabama, Illinois, Iowa and Chicago between now and October, when Ricord will deliver the machine-turned-artwork to Fort Drum, New York so that 10th Mountain soldiers of today and the future will see that the soldiers of Charlie Company were not forgotten.
And Carrizales plans to be there.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.