He recalled that day in 2002, the 90-degree heat and dozens of soldiers dressed in full combat gear, the multitude of MH-47 Chinooks waiting to transport them from the base to snow-covered mountains of the region.
He didn't meet Petty Officer 1st Class Neil C. Roberts that day, but likely saw him among the soldiers en route to the fight.
Sunday, Hines, chairman of the Supreme Sacrifice Committee of the York County Joint Veterans Council, stood beside Roberts' grave in Prospect Hill Cemetery paying tribute to the soldier.
Roberts and 11 other soldiers with York County ties have died in combat since the 9/11 attacks, Hines said.
Hines led the memorial service at 11 a.m. that began with the Pledge of Allegiance and ended with taps. He thanked Roberts, his family and men and women who have given
their lives for freedoms Americans enjoy daily.
Among a few dozen participants paying respects were members of Veterans Post No. 35; U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, R-York County; York County Commissioner Doug Kilgore; and York City Mayor John Brenner.
Emotions still raw: They stood outside in the brisk winter wind alongside Roberts' in-laws, who say their emotions remain as raw as the day they learned he'd died. Roberts' wife, formerly Patricia Page, is a York County native who lives in Virginia Beach, Va. There, she and their 6-year-old son, Nathan, have a military-based support system.
Page's mother, Lois Page, said it is difficult for her daughter to make the trip here to her late husband's grave. Still, Lois Page says the family appreciates the yearly tribute.
Cory Goshorn, 37, of York, is a family friend who attended the memorial. He was among the first outside the family to hear of Roberts' death.
"You don't want to think about it, but you almost expect something like this to happen," Goshorn said about Roberts' death, explaining that the role Roberts played in the initial days of the battle was a dangerous one. "He (used) every clip. From what I hear, (American soldiers) took out a large number, much more than the casualties we suffered."
Roberts and fellow Navy SEAL team members were to be deposited March 3, 2002, atop a mountain where they would fight al-Qaida, but soon discovered the area was overrun with fighters.
Their helicopter was fired upon at the same time Roberts prepared to exit the helicopter. The decision was made to abort the mission, the helicopter lurched and Roberts fell some 10 feet to the mountain below. There, in three feet of snow, he was surrounded by al-Qaida.
Roberts kept attackers at bay until he ran out of ammunition; he was captured and killed. A 15-hour battle followed the incident, resulting in several American deaths.
The battle, now known as Roberts Ridge, is the subject of two books, a documentary and a television movie. Roberts' face, framed with curly blondish hair and adorned with a mustache, is synonymous with the battle and sacrifices heroes make to protect comrades and country.
"He's a hero for sure," Goshorn said. "He's definitely a hero."
-- Reach Kathy Stevens at 505-5437 or email@example.com.
At least 12 soldiers with York County ties have died in combat since the 9/11 attacks.
The Supreme Sacrifice Committee Joint Veterans Council of York County honors these men:
Petty Officer 1st Class Neil C. Roberts
Cpl. Brian M. Kennedy
Lance Cpl. Joseph B. Maglion II
Spc. Ryan G. Carlock SPC
Spc. Martin W. Kondor
Spc. Nicholas J. Zangara
1st Lt. Neil A Santoriello Jr.
Cpl. Michael R. Cohen
Lance Cpl. Jeffery S. Blanton
Private 1st Class Kenneth E. Zeigler II
Sgt. 1st Class Brett E. Walden
Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder