Thursday, June 2, 2005

Memorial Day in Iraq at Camp Victory’s Al-Faw Palace

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – More than 200 Coalition troops and civilian contractors gathered to honor the fallen during a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony at Camp Victory’s Al-Faw Palace.

Since April 2004, more than 860 U.S. and Coalition troops lost their lives while serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For many, the ceremony was more meaningful for those in attendance because they were not only remembering their forefathers, but their peers as well, said Staff Sgt. Leonard E.D. Alejos.

Alejos is the plans and operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge for Multi-National Corps – Iraq’s chaplains office. He said Memorial Day is simply a wonderful opportunity for Americans to express themselves and to remember the many who sacrificed their lives for their country.

“Memorial Day is a chance to honor the fallen who stood to fight for the freedoms and things we enjoy as Americans,” he said. “This particular ceremony is even more meaningful because we are in Iraq.”

The brass ensemble from the 3rd Infantry Division Band performed patriotic songs, welcoming the guests to the ceremony. Chaplain (Col.) Daniel Miller, command chaplain, MNC-I, led the invocation and shared a few thoughts about the importance of Memorial Day.

“We assembled this day to remember those who, as principles, placed their bodies as barricades between our country and her enemies,” he said in prayer.

Lt. Col. Robert A. Bullock Jr., MNC-I civil affairs officer, followed Miller’s prayer with a song. He sang “On This Day,” written by Charles Strouse, which represented the spirit, heart and memory of those lost in battle.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Bolger, deputy commander, MNC-I, spoke about troops who have gone to war in years prior.

“They went because they believed in America and to protect their families,” Bolger said.

He made reference to the 101st Airborne Division’s motto “Rendezvous with Destiny” and the destiny troops are now facing while serving in OIF.

“Much has been expected of this generation who has been called upon,” he said. “Men and women, who we know well and remember today, lie in a final formation flanked by their comrades on green hills on the other side of the world.”

With a list of the fallen service members from OIF projected on a screen, a prayer of remembrance and then the echo of a bugle playing “Taps,” the ceremony concluded.

People in America celebrated the Memorial Day holiday with family traditions like camping, picnics and spending time with family members who have been in the military, said Capt. Victor E. Trujillo, whose hometown is Questa, N.M.

“It’s always been a pastime of my family to spend time at veteran’s hospitals on Memorial Day,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo has been in the Army for five years. He deployed in support of OIF in 2003 with the 4th Infantry Division and is in Iraq for a second time supporting 20th Engineer Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.

“I think we are in a unique situation. Before it was about our grandfathers and uncles. Now we are taking the time to remember those we have actually served with who have given the ultimate sacrifice – people we have known, platoon sergeants, squad leaders,” Trujillo said. “I’ve gained a new appreciation for the service having been in the Army and then having family who have served overseas as well.”

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