173rd Airborne to Memorialize Paratrooper Who Died in Hiking Accident

A 173rd Airborne Brigade soldier who died after falling down a ravine while hiking a World War I military trail near Vicenza, Italy, will be remembered by his unit in a memorial ceremony, the Army said Tuesday.

No date or venue has been announced for the ceremony to celebrate the life of Sgt. Cade D. Pendergraft, 24, who was hiking the Road of 52 Tunnels trail on Monte Pasubio, about 30 miles northwest of Vicenza, on Sept. 19 when the accident occurred.

An Italian search-and-rescue team arrived at the scene of the accident quickly, but medical personnel pronounced the soldier dead that afternoon, the 173rd said in a statement posted on its Facebook page three days after the deadly fall.

“Sgt. Pendergraft was special,” Lt. Col. Derek Noel, commander of the 173rd’s 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, said in the statement. “He utilized every available moment to better understand the world he lived in. We will remember and honor Cade as an ideal example of a warrior, scholar and leader.”

Pendergraft was described by his unit, family and friends as someone who relished being stationed in Italy and “traveled to the far reaches of Europe with every free moment.”

His mother, Christina Duncan, wrote on Facebook that her son “had some incredible trips still on the horizon.” He planned to go to South Africa over Christmas and wanted one day to travel to the North and South Poles, he had said in recent text messages that his mother posted on Facebook.

Duncan had planned on traveling to Europe during the summer to visit her son, “but due to Covid, I never got to do that,” she wrote.

“I wanted to surprise you. I had been hoping for it for a long time,” Duncan wrote in one of the text messages that she posted. “I was going to dock in Venice and stay in Italy. Oh well.”

Pendergraft replied simply: “Miss you.”

Nicholas Sohn, who shared a room with Pendergraft during in-processing at Vicenza two years ago, described him as “a great soldier and NCO” with “a lot of drive.”

“It’s a sad day to lose him,” Sohn said in a comment on the 173rd’s Facebook page.

From Fontana, California, Pendergraft joined the Army in 2015, serving with the 1st Infantry Division and deploying to Poland for contingency operations. He also deployed to Romania in 2019, after joining the 173rd Airborne in December of the previous year.

He received numerous awards, including the Army Achievement Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Pendergraft is survived by his father, Stephen Pendergraft in Simpsonville, South Carolina; and his mother Christina Duncan and brother Blake in Fontana, the 173rd said.

The dignified transfer of his remains to the United States was underway, the 173rd said in its statement last week.

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