Tribute to fallen hero
Specialist James Saunders stands by the sign he built honoring his former squad leader, Staff Sgt. Sean D. Diamond.

AL SALAM, Iraq - On Feb. 15, as the Soldiers of the 571st Sapper Company moved to a new base to prepare for a large-scale company operation in Diyala Province, they were given some bad news: A fellow member of the 14th Engineer Battalion had been killed by an IED explosion in Al Salam, Iraq.

The Soldier was a veteran NCO of the 610th Engineer Support Company, Staff Sgt. Sean D. Diamond. Many of the 571st's Soldiers took the news hard. Some had served with Diamond as members of the 610th ESC. He was a father figure to many subordinates and peers, and a truly caring and hard-working sergeant.

Leaning on each other and sharing their memories of him, the Soldiers of the 571st kept Diamond and his family in their thoughts and prayers.

As Soldiers in combat do, they drove on with the mission, unsure of how long they would be in this new place.

After supporting operations in the south Balad Ruz area of Diyala Province for more than two weeks, the 571st was charged with a new aspect of the mission: build a forward patrol base to be used as a joint security station. This base was to play an important role in upcoming operations, providing American Soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts a place to stage equipment and take a break after combat missions.

The Soldiers of the 571st knew immediately what they wanted to call the new base.

Thinking of Diamond and his family, they raised the question to their chain of command. The decision was quickly made that naming the base after Diamond would be a fitting way to honor his memory. Approval from higher headquarters came just as swiftly.

Specialist James Saunders, the company radio operator, who served in the 610th with Diamond, volunteered to make the sign commemorating the base in memory of his former squad leader.

"I liked Staff Sgt. Diamond a lot, and he taught me quite a bit as a newly arrived Soldier. I felt like making a sign to honor him was the least I could do," Saunders said.

On March 17 Saunders placed the sign at the entrance to the base. As the Soldiers who helped erect the sign remembered their fallen comrade and observed a moment of silence, they mentioned that March 17 was also Diamond's birthday. He would have been 42 years old.

Somber, but pleased that this small corner of Iraq bore the name of a fallen hero close to their hearts, the Soldiers of the 571st packed up to leave JSS Diamond for the last time. They looked at the sign and remembered their comrade.

A true patriot, Diamond joined the Army shortly after the attacks of 9/11. He was the father of four children, and was known to everyone as extremely loyal and committed to his family. Though far away from them, his Army family and squad members universally regarded him as fatherly, caring and committed.

Southern Diyala Province is a desolate, war-ravaged portion of Iraq. After six years of fighting, a joint security station still offers the kind of necessary respite Soldiers require after long hours on the road.

In a similar manner, Diamond cared for Soldiers, and offered the type of mentorship and care that kept his subordinates safe, motivated and focused on their mission. He will forever be missed by those privileged to have served beside him, according to members of the unit.

As the Soldiers of 571st left their job site for the last time, the radio crackled in their ears and other units were heard announcing their arrival or departure from JSS Diamond. The new name sounded good, and although a small gesture as compared to his enormous sacrifice, the name Diamond will continue to be associated with the safety and welfare of Soldiers.

Capt. Lou Nemec is commander of 571st Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, from Fort Lewis, Wash.

Page last updated Thu March 26th, 2009 at 19:18