By Chaplain Lt. Col. Charles Purinton – Task Force 1-172 Armor Battalion
Nature’s reverential silence inspired the hearts of comrades gathered for the dedication of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2BCT) Fallen Warriors Memorial on April 16th at Camp Ramadi. 57 names grace the new plaque, and 57 dogtags hang within the obelisk, above the 21st century “Bloody Bucket” of the 28th Infantry Division.
After a welcome by Lt. Col. Chris Yeakle, 2 BCT Commander COL John Gronski delivered the first words of the Code of Conduct of the U.S. Military, “I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” He recounted the honor, courage, commitment, and respect with which our heroes performed their duty, concluding “I will strive not to be saddened by their death, but rather to be inspired by the way they chose to live.”
Designers, 2nd Lt. Colleen McGarry and Spc. Raul Gomez of Company C (Med) 228th Forward Support Battalion made this memorial a creation of their hearts, “built from the heart to be used by the heart.” 2nd Lt. McGarry asks us to “Use the memorial to remember, to grieve, and to heal…Allow it to change your heart when you visit.” The memorial is built of steel blasted by weapons, stone, and shattered glass, each element and shape representing part of our remembrance. 2nd Lt. McGarry continued, “It stands tall as a testament to the unique battle the living fight and the fallen have left.” As one stands before it, this open structure allows the Spirit within us to mingle with the Spirit around us, uniting memories and hopes among comrades, friends, and families.
Further leading us in thankfulness and honor for these lives, Sgt. Irving Addison of the 779th Engineers sang “Amazing Grace,” 1st Lt. Rose Forrest of the Headquarters Company read the roll of names, and 1st Lt. Burke Sorenson of the 2-222nd Field Artillery played “Taps” with his bugle from the roof of the Brigade Tactical Operations Center.
I hope you will visit the Fallen Warriors Memorial in Pennsylvania. I will. As 2nd Lt. McGarry said, “It is you and your heart that will find in it what you seek.” I experienced this event when I visited that evening. Lighted, the colors of the inner steel look afire. By the firelight, there is romance between partners in remembrance, between time in combat by the fallen, and time at home by the family, now united. Even the shapes of blasted holes in the steel, indiscriminate in battle and by day, seem like recognizable figures by night. By this memorial, the mind and heart bring order and creation out of chaos, creating meaning and new life for us survivors.
Also, use your physical senses with your memorial. See it closely and hear the dogtags rustle in the breeze like whispering conversations. Touch the hard metal and feel the power of courage and commitment, honor, duty, and respect. Smell the life of Nature around it, breathe deeply, and taste the tears of grief, lightly yet bravely shed in the renewal of your own dedication.