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Ceremony Honors Troops Killed in Persian Gulf War

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2007 – About 160 family members of U.S. troops killed during the Persian Gulf War gathered at an Army officers’ club at Fort Myer, Va., today as part of an annual observance to remember fallen loved ones.

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Marine 1st Sgt. Bobby Barnett accompanies Lujaine al-Habib, daughter of a Kuwaiti diplomat, as she places the U.S. Marine Corps’ flag onto a tablet of remembrance at the Fort Myers Officers Club, Fort Myers, Va., today as part of an annual observance ceremony honoring U.S. servicemembers who died during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. Defense Dept. photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The 16th annual remembrance ceremony to honor those killed in the Gulf War is sponsored by the White House Commission on Remembrance and the Embassy of the State of Kuwait.

The ceremony was to have been held at Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery, where many servicemembers killed in the Gulf War lay at rest. However, inclement winter weather caused the ceremony to be moved indoors to Fort Myers, located next to the cemetery.

The United States and more than 20 allied nations fought the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War to remove Iraqi military forces that had invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 by then-dictator Saddam Hussein’s order. More than 370 U.S. servicemembers died in the conflict.

Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was one of several senior U.S. and foreign government officials who addressed the families at the event. The admiral said it was an honor “to celebrate not only the service, but of course, the sacrifice of those who fought and died in defense of freedom in the Gulf War.”

Giambastiani said remembrance of the fallen is a long-standing American military tradition, and Arlington National Cemetery “is a physical remembrance and an expression of remembrance of service and sacrifice and loss that each of us, every single one of us in uniform carry as part of who we are and why we serve.”

Observances of the fallen also help families realize their “yearning and fervent desire to retain the spirit of these loved ones,” the four-star admiral said.

“One behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for your sacrifice – the greatest one can make,” Giambastiani told gathered family members. “I can assume you that we will continue to support and defend the nation for whom they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

The remembrance ceremony also illustrates the strong bond of friendship between the people of the United States and Kuwait, Gordon Gray, the U.S. State Department’s deputy assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, said.

Since liberation by U.S. and coalition forces at the end of February 1991, Kuwait continues as an appreciated and steadfast ally of the United States, Gordon said. Kuwait has instituted many democratic and economic reforms over recent years in a tumultuous region of the world, Gordon noted, including providing Kuwaiti women the right to vote and run for political office.

The U.S.-Kuwaiti partnership “is embodied by robust political, military and economic ties,” Gordon said, noting Kuwait has provided substantial assistance during Operation Iraqi Freedom, to include the provision of troops.

Sheik Salem Abdullah Al Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the United States, extended his government’s gratitude and that of its people to the United States’ military members who died to liberate his country during the Persian Gulf War. Kuwait, he said, has experienced a political and economic rebirth since the late Iraqi dictator’s forces were driven out 16 years ago.

“The victory of Operation Desert Storm will never, ever be forgotten,” the Kuwaiti ambassador said. “Nothing can make up for the pain you have suffered or bring back your loved ones.

“But, the brave sacrifices of your loved ones were not meaningless or made in vain,” he said. “It has meant so much to us Kuwaitis, and to other people in the [Middle East] region.”

About 30 families attended the event, said Carmella LaSpada, director of the White House Commission on Remembrance.

Lisa Spain, 42, widow of Army Staff Sgt. William T. Butts, a helicopter door gunner who died in Iraq sixteen years ago, said she was grateful to attend the observance ceremony, wherever it was held.

“It’s appreciated and hasn’t gone unnoticed,” said Spain, who has since remarried and lives in Atlanta. She attended this year’s observance with her three daughters, Shannon, 23, and Lindsey, 17, from her marriage to Butts, and 7-year-old Lexi from her present marriage.

Butts died on Feb. 27, 1991, Spain said, during an aerial mission to rescue an Air Force F-16 pilot whose jet had crashed in Iraq. Butts’ UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by Iraqi forces, she recalled, killing five of the Blackhawk’s eight-member crew.

Spain’s husband died four hours after a cease-fire had been agreed to by the Iraqi government, she said. His remains are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was one of several senior U.S. and foreign government officials who addressed families at the 16th annual observance ceremony today honoring U.S. servicemembers who died during the Persian Gulf War. Defense Dept. photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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