Heads of State Honor NATO Military Personnel
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 4, 2009 President Barack Obama and heads of state representing the other 28 NATO member countries today honored NATO military personnel who died in service of the alliance’s mission.
CEREM0NY ON THE RHINE - NATO heads of state and government pay tribute to NATO military personnel for service in operational theatres of the alliance during an April 4, 2009, ceremony on the banks of the Rhine River between Strasbourg, France, and Keln, Germany. NATO photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
On the banks of the historic Rhine River in Strasbourg, France, the heads of state stood in solemn silence broken by a lone military bugler playing what appeared to be France’s equivalent of Taps.
“Today we honor in particular those who have given their lives on behalf of our alliance and we extend our deepest sympathies to their families and their loved ones,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said later at the start of the North Atlantic Council Summit meeting.
“We were able to take part in a ceremony on the banks of the Rhine River (to praise) NATO forces in various operations, and observed in silence and honored the extreme sacrifices of those who have died in the service of our alliance,” he said.
NATO has some 32,000 forces in Afghanistan, complemented by roughly 38,000 American troops with the deployment of additional forces to begin in late spring.
De Hoop Scheffer said NATO soldiers our sailors our airmen who frequently risk their lives “so that we can live in complete freedom in our countries and safe at home.” He added that the alliance also carries in their thoughts in prayers those injured in the course of the mutual efforts.
The secretary general welcomed military representatives from each of the 28 allies at the summit meeting this morning.
“Each one of you has experience in operations under NATO command and you are here to represent both your nations and your colleagues so that we can express to you, and through you to them, our most profound gratitude,” he said.
De Hoop Scheffer reiterated his gratitude to the military representatives and the contribution they embody.
“I thank all of our NATO soldiers again, and express our deepest gratitude to your colleagues for their remarkable service that you continue to make to peace to freedom and to democracy,” he said.