News: Lest we forget: remembrance service honors Garmsir fallen
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELHI, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Since 2006, coalition forces have fought to bring security and stability to the once insurgent-heavy Garmsir district. Five years later, coalition forces are near transitioning control of the district to the local government.
Amidst this progress, the sacrifice of coalition forces that lost their lives here remains etched into Garmsir’s history. Members of the Afghan National Security Forces joined Marines with 1st and 3rd Battalions, 3rd Marine Regiment, and British forces to honor the fallen during a remembrance service here, Nov. 11.
“These lives are important for us to remember together today,” said Maj. Andrew Green, the commanding officer of 512 Specialist Team, Royal Engineers, British Army. “We support each other in our joint mission, so remembering together shows respect for those we’ve lost.”
Held in front of the FOB Delhi Memorial, the service commemorated Veterans Day and the British Remembrance Day. It marked the first time Afghan forces joined in remembering Garmsir’s fallen since British forces began combat operations here in 2006.
Forty Marines and 15 British forces have been killed in Garmsir since then. In the last year and a half, twelve members of Afghan forces have lost their lives here.
“We count these casualties as sacrifice and respect this day for those who lost their lives for our country,” said Afghan National Army Sgt. Maj. Mohammad Khalid, the sergeant major of 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215 Corps, from Lugar province. “Commemorating this day together is important for us because it helps our soldiers see other people care about their development.”
British forces built the memorial in 2008 to honor their fallen, but Green recently led a reconstruction project to include fallen U.S. and Afghan forces. Placed beneath the three nations’ flags, the simple memorial is adorned with a wooden cross and poppy wreaths, signifying the blood shed by British forces in poppy fields during World War I. Surrounding the memorial are white rocks symbolizing the relative peace now found in Garmsir, and scattered among them are 40 red rocks, one for each Marine who lost his life fighting to secure the district.
Navy Cmdr. Mark Winward, Regimental Combat Team 5 chaplain and a native of East Hartford, Ct., led the service. He spoke about deep roots between British and U.S. forces dating back to World War I. Winward said remembering those sacrifices was vital to staying focused on today’s shared mission — enabling the Afghan National Security Forces to stand up on their own.
As the ANSF interact with their 3/3 mentors and develop alongside them, Khalid was optimistic about his country’s future. While the past five years of fighting have been costly, Garmsir’s security has increased, he said.
“Now that our security is good, we can celebrate these days,” Khalid said. “We can’t do everything on our own right now, but if we listen to each other and have discussions with the Marines, our security will continue to progress.”
Editor’s note: 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghanistan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.