By Master Sgt. Tim Volkert
United States Forces-Iraq
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - As the color guard marched across the Al Faw Palace rotunda floor, the only noise heard was that of their boots as they marched in unison to post the U.S. flag and the colors from each service.
About 400 people attended the Memorial Day ceremony to remember the nation's fallen service members Monday at the United States Forces-Iraq headquarters.
After the colors were presented, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, United Staets Forces-Iraq deputy commanding general for operations and III Corps commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Coleman, Jr., his senior enlisted adviser, placed a wreath in honor of our nation's fallen military members as the 1st Armored Division Band played "Amazing Grace."
Everyone lowered their heads as Staff Sgt. Stefan Muldez played Taps.
Cone then spoke to the crowd, drawing on the memories of those who have fallen throughout history, focusing on those who have died during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Since Sept. 11, 2001, America has paid a heavy price," he said. "We have lost nearly 4,400 service members here in Iraq and over 1,000 in Afghanistan. It is a stark reminder that the cost of freedom is high."
Cone also said this is significant because many of those in attendance personally knew someone who gave their life for their country.
"In this time of war, we cannot escape the fact that of those we remember today, many we knew personally," Cone said. "As fellow service members, their loss is a loss like that of a brother or sister. Little compares to the loss of a brother in arms. Our memories of them, and the bonds we formed with them, will never fade."
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Knox with Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion, III Corps, is on his fourth deployment and has lost friends in the war. He said that observing Memorial Day in a war zone adds more emotion to the event.
"Being over here (and observing Memorial Day) has a definite impact; what we're doing. It hits here a little harder and brings out deeper emotions," said Knox, who carried the American flag as a member of the color guard.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Broman, a rifleman in the color guard, added that being part of the ceremony made it more meaningful.
"The importance of what today stands for, it's truly an honor," said Broman, who is assigned to Alpha Company, Special Troops Battalion, III Corps. "It meant a little more because I was selected to be a part of the color guard."
Whether a part of the ceremony or a member of the audience, Cone said that everyone should remember the sacrifices and ensure they remain focused and accomplish the mission for which many have sacrificed.
"As we move on from this day, our task is clear. We each must make a sacred commitment - a commitment to accomplish our mission in Iraq with honor and success," Cone said. "Those we remember today deserve nothing less."