Exercise Yudh Abhyas 22 began with fanfare and ceremony in a remote location in the Himalayas, and for some, strong emotions of grief and pride. Col. Jody Shouse, Commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 11th Airborne Division, and Lt. Col. (R) Preet Mahinder Singh met and shook hands as the bilateral exercise officially began, exchanging stories of their family members who are interred at Arlington National Cemetery about a half mile apart.
Lt. Col. Singh was invited to the opening ceremony as a dual guest of the Indian Army and U.S. Army. His son, Uday, was killed in action on Dec. 1, 2003 – nearly 20 years ago. He was in the lead Humvee of a three-vehicle patrol that was ambushed near Habbaniyah, Iraq, about 65 miles west of Baghdad, according to an article published in The New York Daily News. He is now interred in lot 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Singh was determined to be at Yudh Abhyas this year because of Uday’s service with the U.S. Army. “For me, anything that is done by the U.S. Army, because my son wore the same uniform, is special for me. I never miss an opportunity to talk to soldiers, because it means I get to talk about my son, which means he’s never gone,” said Singh.
Shouse’ father, Col. (R) Delbert F. Shouse was laid to rest in lot 76, not far from Uday. “Arlington National Cemetery is a very special place to me. It is the most hallowed ground in America,” said Shouse. His father received the Silver Star for actions during Operation Attleboro in one of his tours in Vietnam. He passed away due to lung cancer on July 28, 2018.
In addition to his family connection with Arlington, Col. Shouse has held command twice with the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard” – once commanding Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (2007-2008) and once commanding the 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (2016-2018). The Old Guard is the oldest active-duty infantry unit with the U.S. Army, serving since 1784. They are the Army’s official ceremonial unit and escort to the President of the United States, additionally responsible for performing the final honors for U.S. Army service members interred at ANC.
Singh and Shouse shared memories of their loved ones and talked for quite a while. They have plans to visit ANC separately but exchanged promises to visit the grave site of each other’s loved one and send photos.
“Uday is both a hero here in India and an American hero. Uday’s sacrifice will never go in vain and he will always be remembered. Rest assured, LTC Singh, that your son fought valiantly and is now interred at the most hallowed ground in the United States where many of our nation’s heroes are buried. Thank you for blessing us with your presence; it was a true honor to dine with you and hear stories of your son, Uday, and your daughter,” said Shouse.