Senior leaders, Soldiers Honor the Fallen
December 10, 2007
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - "Although there will be separate services and ceremonies at home stations ... this ceremony is unique and especially poignant," said Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commanding general of Multi-National Division - Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division, speaking to a packed Division Chapel during a memorial service here, Dec. 7. "It commemorates all of the Soldiers who have laid down their lives, not only in the 1st Cavalry Division, but in Multi-National Division - Baghdad."
The memorial service honored 466 fallen Soldiers who died serving with MND-B during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. Fil and Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Johndrow, the MND-B and 1st Cav. Div. senior noncommissioned officer, unveiled a memorial plaque with the names of every Soldier who have given their lives while fighting for their country in Baghdad since the 1st Cav. Div. took the reins of MND-B in November 2006.
"We gather to pay tribute to their courage, to honor their sacrifice, to sanctify their memory," said Fil. All of the heroic warriors memorialized at the ceremony, knowingly and willingly, went into battle fully prepared to sacrifice their lives on the altar of freedom, said Fil, a native of Portola Valley, Calif.
"Thanks to the sacrifice of these brave men and women, sectarian violence has been reduced, and the citizens of Iraq enjoy greater peace," said Johndrow, a native of Townsend, Mont. "Thanks to them the flame of freedom burns more brightly, lighting a path for all freedom-seeking people."
Hundreds crowded into the chapel to pay their respects to the sacrifices of Soldiers who fought beside them.
"It put things in perspective," said Staff Sgt. Hal Spiller, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the division's honor guard and a native of Rockhill, S.C. "Life is short. No matter what we serve for, when we lay down our lives, it proves we are special people. No matter what people say about us, Soldiers are some of the greatest people on earth."
Spiller, who has been in the Army, and the First Team, for six years said he recognized one name on the plaque, a friend he served with in his old battalion.
"He was a fueler," Spiller said.
Seeing a standing-room-only crowd packed into the chapel for this memorial meant a lot to the young NCO.
"To me it meant that there was love for the fallen Soldier," he said. "There was love and respect for those who gave their lives."
"For those of us here tonight," Fil said, "we must carry the spirit of these fallen warriors with us, remembering their service as we honor their commitment and have their memory strengthen us to continue the mission they gave their lives to achieve."