(April 28, 2011)
Staff Sgt. Ray Clair, the supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, gazes at some of the names scrawled across the walls of his supply office at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
|JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (4/24/2011)|
There are stories on the walls of the office. Stories of America - of sacrifice and honor and valor and families. Of missing home. Of loyalty. Humor, too, has a place on the walls of his office. As does sorrow. All those sentiments are scrawled across plywood, creating a virtual bulwark that drips history.
Words and names of the men and women of America's military that lived, worked and fought at Joint Base Balad from the beginning of Operation Iraq Freedom until today.
There are people from Ohio up there on that wall, people from California.
Soldiers from Washington state, Wisconsin, Texas, Maryland, New Hampshire and New York stand out in stark black marker script.
|There are other soldiers from other states on those walls, too.|
|Occasionally, Staff Sgt. Ray Clair, the supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 77th Sustainment Brigade, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and a native of La Grande, Ore., said he will stop and look up from his desk and his gaze will focus on a name or a unit.|
“It is almost a stress reliever,” Clair said. “You sit at your desk and see a 100 people who have already been here and got through it.”
Tales of war are as old as Homer's “Iliad,” but the walls in Clair's supply room at the 3rd Battalion headquarters tell a different kind of narrative. The plywood stands mute, but there are stories there if you look hard enough.
While Clair toils at his desk as a supply sergeant he is, in a way, not alone.
Up there on the wall is Spc. Green. He's from Seattle, Wash. Green declares through his black inscription that he was a member of the 758th Maintenance Company.
There is Spc. Furnas from Lebanon, Ohio. He was in the same office in the same building as Clair from 2006 to 2008.
Sgt. M. Muller of the 890th Transportation Company is up on the wall, too. He came to Balad in March 2005 and left in February 2006.
Spc. Kjos from Milwaukee, Wis., was with the 758th Maintenance Company, too. He's on the wall as well.
Then there is Staff Sgt. Hembre. He arrived in Balad in October 2005 and left Oct. 9, 2006. He was with the 322nd Maintenance Company.
Staff Sgt. Karl Muller is there as well. He's from Oakland, Calif.
Sgt. Dustin Gillory is on the wall. He was in Balad twice; once during Operation Iraqi Freedom II and again as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom 10.
The names can tell a casual observer a lot of things. Their favorite sports team for instance.
Sgt. Crowell, out of Fort Hood, Texas, loves the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama. Someone else scrawled “Hook-em' Horns” on another piece of the wall.
Though he does not know the men on the wall, Clair has lived with their presence for more than six months.
“It is a lot of history,” Clair said as he stared at the wall.
Clair said he often turns reflective while he ponders the names. There are unseen faces with the names, of course, and unknown lives. Each name translates into an existence in some part of the country.
Clair, one day, might add his name up there on the wall. Yet he understands the reality of the future regarding those names. One day the wall will come down. He knows that. Still, there is that persistent feeling of something left undone for Clair when he contemplates the wall.
“It makes me sad to see it torn down,” Clair said.
He said he understands that the American presence in Balad will end soon. Workers will arrive one day and they will bring with them the tools of their trade and tear down the wall.
The script on the wall will vanish. The names will be discarded easily. Like turning a page from a history book and then closing it.
Until the workers arrive, until the plywood is pulled down, Clair and anyone else who ventures into his supply room can stop and look up and see the different names from diverse sections of the country, spilling out a short, concise story.
Article and photo by Army SSgt. Patrick Caldwell
77th Sustainment Brigade
Provided through DVIDS
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