News: ‘Ready First’ honors 9/11 victims, OIF fallen servicemembers
Story by Spc. Jessica Luhrs-Stabile
KIRKUK, Iraq - A black wall made of 22 force protection barriers, spanning about 280 feet, with the names of more than 4,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in yellow writing, was officially dedicated during a memorial dedication and remembrance ceremony on Contingency Operating Site Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, Sept. 11.
During the ceremony a moment of silence was observed in honor of more than 3,000 citizens of the U.S. who lost their lives on 9/11 at the exact time of the attacks nine years ago.
“Today, we honor the lives lost during a tragedy that paved the way for Americans to bond together in support of the greatest goal – freedom and democracy for all,” said Col. Larry Swift, commander of 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas, during the ceremony.
In addition to remembering those who lost their lives on 9/11, 1/1 AATF also added 72 names to the OIF memorial wall.
“These 72 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, young and old, men and women, answered to the call of a noble mission; defending Iraqi citizens, and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Swift.
“So today we will give them the honors that they earned, a small show of gratitude on our part for the larger sacrifice that they have made,” he continued. “We will render those honors and remember them always.”
The OIF Memorial Wall began as a joint project between the Army, Air Force and civilians on COS Warrior in 2009, as a way to remember service members who gave their lives.
Now that the U.S. forces have officially entered into Operation New Dawn the Soldiers of 1/1 AATF ensured that the final 72 names were added to the memorial marking the end of OIF.
Staff Sgt. Ruben McDowell, the noncommissioned officer who oversaw the painting of the memorial wall, said it was an honor to be able to be a part of the memorial.
“These men and women made the ultimate sacrifice. It was an honor to do something to remember them,” said Staff Sgt. McDowell, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-1 AATF.
He added that this wall holds very special meaning to all service members.
“There are not too many people here who do not know someone on that wall so it really hits home for all of us,” he said.