End-of-Tour Ceremony Honors Casualties
By Sgt. Laura M. Bigenho, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Feb. 3, 2008 Civilians and servicemembers gathered at Al Faw Palace here Feb. 1 to reflect on the cost of war and pay their last respects to fallen warriors during a Multinational Corps Iraq end-of-tour memorial ceremony.
Multinational Corps Iraq Commander Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno speaks at the end-of-tour memorial ceremony at Al Faw Palace, in Baghdad, Feb. 1, 2008. The ceremony honored the 1,027 killed and 7,152 wounded servicemembers who have fallen in Iraq during 3rd Corps’ tour from December 2006 to February 2008. Photo by Sgt. D.A. Dickinson, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The ceremony honored those killed and wounded while the U.S. Army’s 3rd Corps was the maneuver command element from December 2006 to February 2008.
Multinational Corps Iraq Commander Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said the ceremony was a time to reflect on the bravery and selfless service of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. “These individuals are no ordinary people,” Odierno said. “They had strong convictions, strength of character and compassion.”
The general said those who died were unified by the willingness to sacrifice their life for their comrades and mission. “Their sacrifice and volunteerism allowed us to achieve progress in Iraq that many thought impossible just a few months ago,” he said. “We are here to honor their memory and never forget their sacrifices.”
The ceremony opened with a video excerpt from Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s 1962 farewell speech to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. “Duty, honor, country,” MacArthur said. “Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be and what you will be.”
Multinational Corps Iraq’s senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, spoke about the commitment of troops currently serving in Iraq and the commitment of those who fell doing their duty. “The men and women we honor here this night have done their job,” he said. “They have committed themselves on countless occasions simply because it was their job.”
Ciotola said what set that what set those troops apart was the price they paid in doing so. “They have sacrificed the best years of their lives and ultimately the rest of their lives,” he said. “They gave their word, they kept their word, and ultimately they gave their lives.”
Col. Michael Tarvin, the Multinational Corps Iraq chaplain, said each servicemember left behind a legacy that others should emulate. “Part of their legacy is the embracing of life and their willingness and commitment in serving others,” he said. “The legacy of courage, selflessness, loyalty, sacrifice and honor demonstrated by them were traits that run through the stories of all these men and women.”
During the ceremony, a video calendar displayed the number of troops wounded and killed each month. The video paused briefly to show the faces of each fatality and the date they were killed. Images and video clips taken from Operation Iraqi Freedom depicting both the gentle and harsh sides of the war filled the space between each month. As the video homage came to an end, a collage of fallen heroes’ faces gradually disappeared to reveal the rotation’s total cost to date: 1,027 killed and 7,152 wounded.
The video ended with the image of a silhouette saluting a memorial display, accompanied by spoken words from Odierno.
“We will never forget those that gave their lives fighting for the ideals of freedom, nor the loved ones they left behind,” he said. “Their sacrifices are not in vain, and it’s because of them that we enjoy justice and liberty.”
(Army Sgt. Laura M. Bigenho is assigned to the Public Affairs Office of Multinational Corps Iraq.)