A final tribute to fallen comrades
June 1, 2007
FRIEDBERG, Germany - Soldiers of the 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, known as the Ready First, paid a final tribute to their fallen comrades with a memorial ceremony held May 24 on the parade field of Friedberg's Ray Barracks.
Ready First commander Col. Sean B. MacFarland and Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Graham unveiled a plaque carrying 94 names of the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who died during the brigade's second deployment to Iraq.
"Whenever I attend a memorial service for one of our fallen warriors, I invariably think of the quote, 'and the Lord said who shall I send, and whom shall go for us' Then said I, here I am, send me.' No passage better expresses the valor of the young Americans who have served in Iraq," said MacFarland in his speech opening the ceremony.
"No one better describes the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines whom we honor today with this plaque," the colonel added. "They volunteered to serve in time of war, went willingly into battle and died a Soldier's death - with their faces towards the enemy surrounded by the very friends they fought for. "If there is any solace in these deaths it is in that. Because a Soldier's death is inherently meaningful. It implies sacrifice and nobility of purpose."
MacFarland recalled that he once heard a young trooper describe his battle buddy's death this way: his friend's life was not taken, it was given. "He was absolutely right," the colonel said of the quoted Solider, "these lives were given. And they were given for us."
MacFarland noted that because of the brave men and women willing to give their lives, members of the 1st Brigade - which inactivated April 20 - were able to accomplish their mission. Speaking from personal experience, the colonel told the audience: "Tal Afar, Hit and Ramadi are better places today, and Al Qaeda, who once hoped to claim Ramadi as the capital of their evil empire, has been driven out in one of the most decisive victories of the entire Iraq campaign."
"But battlefield victories alone can not and need not be the sole justification for our friends' deaths. That remains our task as long as we live," MacFarland said. "We must honor their memory by living honorably. Their deaths make a difference only to the extent that we make a difference with the rest of our lives.
"As the dying Ranger captain said to Private Ryan, we must 'earn' this sacrifice. If we, the survivors of our deployment together, falter, lose our way, or become complacent, then, and only then, will these brave Americans have died in vain."
"And today, even as we continue to fight, it is also a time to mourn," MacFarland concluded. "Because these Ready First Soldiers, Sailors and Marines gave their lives for us; they will always be connected to everything we will ever do. Their loss diminishes all of us. That is true of the fallen of the Ready First and for every one of the American warriors who make the ultimate sacrifice in this and any other war."
The plaques with the names of the fallen Soldiers of the Ready First will be forwarded to the National Museum in Washington, D.C., along with the brigade's colors and other historical items to remain there until the 1st Brigade reactivates at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Alexandra Williams is a member of the USAG Giessen Public Affairs Office)