Unit in Afghanistan Honors Americans Who Made Ultimate Sacrifice
By Staff Sgt. Robert R. Ramon, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 28, 2006 Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines stationed here remembered their fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our nation, during a Memorial Day weekend ceremony today.
Army Staff Sgt. Wayne A. White plays taps during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, May 28. White is a native of Park Hills, Mo., assigned to the 10th Mountain Division Band, based in Fort Drum, N.Y. Photo by Staff Sgt. Robert R. Ramon, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
"For the past 138 years, our nation has paused at this time of year to commemorate Memorial Day, a day that we set aside to remember those who have died in our nation's service," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, Combined Joint Task Force 76 commander.
Standing near the flag-draped, open hull of a Hercules C-130 on the flight line here, where some of the earliest battles of the global war on terror were fought, Freakley's words served as a reminder of the meaning of Memorial Day.
"What does this day mean to us as we stand here at Bagram, Afghanistan, fighting in the global war on terror?" Freakley asked the hundreds of servicemembers in attendance.
It is important, he said, for military members to pause and remember those who went before. "We stand on the shoulders of giants," he added. "From those who fought in the earliest days in the American military, to those who fell in Vietnam, in operations in the 90s in Panama, Grenada and Operation Desert Storm, to those who have fallen in the global war on terrorism, beginning with those members of our nation who fought right here in the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as those who have recently fallen on our watch as CJTF 76."
After the 10th Mountain Division Band played renditions of the Afghan and American national anthems, Freakley said the sacrifices made by Americans on the battlefield were made not only for the citizens of the United States, but for the citizens of other nations as well.
"Simply put, their lives meant sacrifice and dedication to something greater than themselves -- their nation, their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and dedication to a cause -- freedom," Freakley said.
"Not only freedom for the American people, but freedom for over 55 million Iraqis and Afghans who have had oppression and tyranny lifted from their shoulders and given the opportunity to form their nations to stand tall and live life in freedom and peace," he added.
Freakley said it is because of those who made the ultimate sacrifice that Americans back home are able to live tranquil lives.
"Those who have died have also guaranteed our own freedoms in the United States of America," he said. "Thankfully, since September the 11th, 2001, America has not been attacked. Some people could say, 'Well, we're just lucky.' I don't believe in that.
"I believe that we have taken the fight to the enemy worldwide, focused in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have prevented the enemy from returning to our shores, thereby ensuring our businessmen and women can go to work in buildings without fear that an airplane will crash into it; our children can go to school and not be concerned about being killed; our citizens can go to baseball games, cookouts, and picnics and have fun this Memorial Day weekend because it has been delivered to them by those who fell and those who stand in the ranks today."
To those attending the ceremony today, Freakley's message was clear.
"Today we dedicate ourselves, as we did before we deployed, to continuing the fight in the global war on terror and guaranteeing the American people freedom as well as the people in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "Remember those who gave their all to our nation. They did not die in vain, for they have given us a better world, a better Afghanistan, a better Iraq, a better United States of America."
(Army Staff Sgt. Robert R. Ramon is assigned to the 345th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)