Engineer renders honors
Sgt. Oscar Lopez, a carpentry and masonry specialist from the 643rd Engineer Company, prepares for the rendering of honors for a former U.S. Soldier and his family in the Philippines. The 643rd Eng. Company was part of Balikatan, an exercise in the Philippines March 7th through April 15th, which allowed the engineers the opportunity to work "hand in hand" with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

LUZON, Philippines -- An ocean away from Hawaii, three 643rd Engineer Company Soldiers were called upon to help in remembering a fallen veteran. Soldiers were requested to participate in the flag presentation and memorial of Arturo H. Ebalo, from Candelaria, Zambales, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard. At the time the Soldiers were deployed to the Philippine Island of Luzon in support of the Balikatan exercise and had built a solid relationship with the community.

I was one of those Soldiers. Though we had never met Ebalo, and did not know him personally, we were there to bear witness to the things we knew were true of him, things that are true of all who serve their country. But most especially those men like Ebalo, who did not love America simply because he was born there, but came to love her later.

Ebalo was born in the Philippines, May 12th, 1936, and after joining the U.S. Coast Guard, he saw combat action during World War II defending the Philippines. Years later, Ebalo retired in Alameda, California, where he kept a small store. In time, he passed away on March 23, 2011. During his lifetime, he touched the lives of many people. I know, because they were there with us April 2, honoring him. He had sworn to protect the shores of the United States of America. So in that regard, he was our brother, and it was our honor to bear witness to his service.

Three of us were choosen: Sgt. Oscar Lopez, Spc. Francis Hickey and myself, Spc. Timothy Moodie, all carpentry and masonry specialists from the 643rd Eng. Company, 84th Eng. Battalion, rendered Arturo Ebalo the military honors he and his family had earned. He and his family were honored for their service and sacrifice. We did it for the grateful nation that Arturo had come to love.

Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder" in Tagalog exemplifies spirit of the exercise at its core; Ebalo embraced that spirit. Even though we were separated by years, he stood shoulder to shoulder with the three of us in service to our country. On April 2, we stood by him in return, and we counted it as one of our greatest honors to do so.

Balikatan is a annual exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and United States focusing on interoperability of forces, training, and humanitarian assistance operations.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16