Troops in Haiti remember fallen
February 17, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Feb. 17, 2010) -- Exactly 30 days after the devastating earthquake that rocked this country, both the Republic of Haiti and the United States of America paused Friday to remember those who perished in the disaster.
At Logistic Support Area Dragon, next to the American embassy, servicemembers from six of the uniformed services, along with officers from allied nations and Department of Defense civilian personnel, joined together to remember one of their own.
Air Force Lt. Col. Ken Bourland, 37, of Birmingham, Ala., was the Caribbean desk officer for the U.S. Southern Command, visiting Haiti Jan. 12 for an official meeting with Haitian defense and security counterparts.
Bourland was in his room at the Hotel Montana when the earthquake struck at 4:52 p.m. Jan. 12. His remains were found at the Hotel Montana Feb. 7, after more than three weeks of search and rescue efforts.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of SOUTHCOM and commanding general of the Joint Task Force - Haiti, led a group of his peers and comrades in a memorial service, paying tribute to the fallen airman.
"Ken Bourland was an airman, a pilot, and a professional in every way," said Keen. "On the day of 12 January he was fulfilling his duties as a foreign area officer, doing something that he loved."
Bourland's wife Peggy visited the site of the Hotel Montana, met with Keen and asked him to not return home without her husband, Keen said.
"We have fulfilled that promise," said Keen. "She also asked in the same breath, that we dedicate everyday to helping the people of Haiti and complete this mission that he was here on - and that is what we do every day."
"We look at the children here and we see their smiles, even though they have no food, no water, and no roof over their head, but somehow they find it within themselves to smile at us and say 'thank you,'" said Keen.
He continued, "we see it in the women who come through the distribution lines, as our paratroopers, Marines and airmen lift, what to some would be the weight of the world, 100 pounds of rice on their shoulders, they smile and say 'thank you' - they don't ask a lot."
"I ask every single one of us to dedicate ourselves as we go about our duties here, in the embassy, or out there in the cities delivering aid," said Keen, "and remember those who have served and keep in mind the price that some have paid."
The nation asks a lot of servicemembers and even more of their families, said Keen.
Before the shrine of a fallen warrior: the tags that identify the fallen, the combat boots which signify the final march of the final battle, along with the inverted rifle and bayonet both symbolizing a time to cease the battle and pause to remember a comrade, Marine Sgt. Maj. Louis M. Espinal, the command senior enlisted advisor for JTF-H and SOUTHCOM, stood before the formation, called them to attention and sounded role call.
When Espinal got to Bourland's name there was no answer.
Again, his name was called.
And the third time, Bourland still did not respond.
The hot, dusty air was filled with the sound of a bugle playing taps and like Bourland would have wished, the mission continued.