Soldiers and veterans of the mortar platoon of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), honored one of their own with a flag folding ceremony June 19 at the Bastogne Memorial.
Seven Soldiers who served with the late retired Master Sgt. Thomas LeVesque traveled from across the country to honor their former platoon sergeant who served with him in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, 1990-1991, in Bulldog Battalion.
Retired Master Sgt. Richard Hagedorn led the way in organizing the ceremony and spoke at the event. Hagedorn’s first assignment was in the mortar platoon of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-327th Inf. Regt., where he served under LeVesque.
“I was lucky to be a part of this great unit and have Master Sgt. LeVesque as my first platoon sergeant,” said Hagedorn, who retired in 2013 after 24 years in the Army. “I learned a lot about what a leader should be, know and do. He was confident and competent in his duties and he cared for all of us.”
LeVesque died June 1, 2007.
Hagedorn and LeVesque’s son, Mark, had a conversation reminiscing about the good times and memories they shared of the master sergeant when the idea sparked for special ceremony for LeVesque took hold.
“Rich and I were sharing stories on the phone a week or so ago,” Mark said. “I mentioned I would like for him and some of the Soldiers from Dad’s platoon to refold his flag in his honor. Rich was all about it. He just took the idea and ran with it. It turned out better than I could have imagined.”
The ceremony was livestreamed on social media platforms to ensure all of Levesque’s Family, friends and Soldiers could witness the event.
The outpouring of respect, attendance at the event and sincere love for LeVesque was warmly received by his entire Family.
“It’s hard to describe in words,” Mark said. “To see what he meant to people was incredible. I watched the video at least five times today. My father loved the 101st. I am extremely grateful. We can’t put it into words. The only word I can describe it is unbelievable. It’s definitely a closure.”
The ceremony also inspired the Soldiers serving in the mortar platoon. The majority of the platoon was packing and setting conditions to prepare for training in the field early the next morning, but several Soldiers ensured they were in attendance to honor a hero within their lineage.
Sergeant First Class Timothy Hansen, mortar platoon sergeant, HHC, 1-327 Inf. Regt., felt honored to fold the flag for a Soldier who once served in his position many years ago.
“We folded a flag with Soldiers who served in this platoon 30 years ago,” Hansen said. “You hear so much about these guys who were in that position back then and they were so great. It makes me ask if I’m good enough to be in this spot. Since I am, it’s very uplifting.”
LaVesque will always be a part of Bastogne Brigade and Bulldog Battalion. His memory will live on forever, and in the words of all of his comrades in his mortar platoon, he will forever remain “Above the Rest.”