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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots
By Army Sgt. Lizette Hart

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Remembering Those Who Made The Ultimate Sacrifice
(June 6, 2011)

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BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (6/2/2011) – The sergeant's voice cracks as he reads the names from the paper in front of him. His emotions can almost be heard beyond the lump in his throat as he recites name after name. He speaks the last one, pauses a moment, and makes his way to the bell behind him. He lifts the hammer, gently taps the bell, stands for a moment of silent remembrance and returns to his seat. The sound of the bell cuts through the silence and resonates throughout the minds of the audience attending the ceremony.
A formation of service members comes to the position of attention to render honors at a Memorial Day ceremony, Camp Vance, May 30, 2011. The ceremony was held to honor the fallen service members assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan.
A formation of service members comes to the position of attention to render honors at a Memorial Day ceremony, Camp Vance, May 30, 2011. The ceremony was held to honor the fallen service members assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan.
Service members and civilians assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan attended a Memorial Day ceremony held at Camp Vance, May 30.

The ceremony was attended by 25 VIPs, 230 service members in formation and 20 civilian and service member bystanders. Seven service members were in attendance as the rifle team that delivered the 21-gun salute.

The ceremony began with the telling of the CJSOTF-A history. With the arrival of a Special operations forces unit to Afghanistan in late 2001, multiple rotations of various SOF units have made their way to and from the country. The combination of two tasks forces units created CJSOTF-A in early 2002. 3rd, 7th and 20th Special Forces Group took turns assuming the responsibility of commanding the task force. In 2009, the deployment rotation was realigned and 3rd SFG was given complete responsibility of CJSOTF-A.

Capt. Jerry Squires, chaplain, CJSOTF-A, asked the audience to bow their heads and join him in praying for the fallen service members, their families and the service members who stood in the formation.

“Today we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy,” said Squires. “Today we also remember the families of our fallen. We ask for gracious blessings to fill their homes and comforting presence with all who mourn.”

Five soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Band had the honor of playing the national anthems of the countries that had service members who lost their lives. They began with the national anthem of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and continued with the Commonwealth of Australia, Canada, the French Republic and the United States of America.

Brig. Gen. Scott Miller, commander, Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command–Afghanistan, took a moment to speak to the audience.

“I stand here on Memorial Day, and I look over to the men to my right, who have the duty of reading the names of our fallen, and not just our U.S. fallen, but our coalition, our partnered forces,” said Miller. “When I look at this wall... I think of the men and women, in the prime of their lives, who have lost their lives; they've given it all up. I also think about their families they have left behind, whether it be spouses, parents, grandparents or children, and as importantly, their friends.”

Capt. Rinaldo Manago, commander, Base Defense Operations Center, introduced the service members who represented each service and nation of the fallen heroes who were honored at the memorial ceremony. Following each segment of names, the service's representative stepped to the bell and struck it with a hammer.

“Reading the names of those killed in the service of their nation is a symbol and a powerful way to remember those that gave all,” said Manago. “Name reading is a very symbolic and highly meaningful act.”

Col. Mark Schwartz, commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Meffert, both of CJSOTF-A, placed a memorial wreath at the base of the stone memorial, which holds all the names of the fallen service members. It features 11 flagpoles, seven of which are used to display the flags of the United States, Government of Afghanistan, Canada, Jordan, Australia, France and the United Arab Emirates. The large white-stone memorial, placed in front of the flag poles and headed with the words, “In memory of our fallen heroes,” is etched with the names of the fallen service members.

The memorial was recently refurbished with the addition of marble stone and regimental crests representing each of the CJSOTF-A SOF elements, to include the Air Force, Marines and Navy. An oversized replica of the CJSOTF-A arrowhead insignia rests before the memorial which bears the heroes' names.

The ceremony came to a close with a 21-gun salute given by the color guard. Capt. Squires gave a closing benediction and the band then played taps. The occasional clearing of a throat and frequent sniffles could be heard between the notes of the song used to indicate closure.

Article and photo by Army Sgt. Lizette Hart
19th Public Affairs Detachment
Copyright 2011

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