FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq — Soldiers from 3rd "Greywolf" Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division filed into the Forward Operating Base Marez dining facility VIP room, with trays of food in hand, and found a seat next to their fellow brethren to break bread and celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
The luncheon offered a moment of remembrance and reflection on their accomplishments and losses during their year-long deployment to Mosul, Iraq which began in December 2008 as well as honor those U.S. veterans that served before them.
"As you go through your day, never forget [our fallen]," said Command Sgt. Maj. James Pippin, the brigade command sergeant major for 3rd HBCT, "and as you go through your day today, I ask that you stop and pat yourselves on the back. You've earned it."
The Soldiers filed in and socialized before the official start of the ceremony, which began with a moment of silence in honor of U.S. veterans and the singing of the National Anthem.
Every Soldier listened intently as Chaplain (Capt.) John Hubbs spoke about the history of Veterans Day and its significance to the veterans in the room.
He said that Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day, in order to recognize veterans of World War I. In 1953, a shoe store owner in Emporia, Ks., felt that the holiday should be expanded to honor all veterans that have served and with the aid of U.S.
Representative Ed Rees, a bill was pushed through Congress and officially signed into law on May 26, 1954.
Chaplain (Maj.) Brian Chepey then took the stage with his guitar and sang a special song that he had written in honor of the Soldiers he had served with over the course of the deployment and in remembrance of the veterans who had served before him.
At the completion of the song, named "A Soldier's Welcome," the room fell completely silent in reverence of the message that was conveyed through its words.
When Command Sgt. Maj. Pippin stood up to speak to the Soldiers, he said that when the song was complete he wasn't sure whether it was appropriate to give applause at that moment, but asked that the entire room offer the chaplain an applause in thanks for his moving lyrics.
After the applause Command Sgt. Maj. Pippin spoke to the attendees about how he observes Veterans Day and what it means to him.
"I take the time to remember the wars that our veterans have fought in and try to visualize the stresses that they all must have felt," said Command Sgt. Maj. Pippin. "I thank them silently. I now say 'thank you' to you, my comrades."
The command sergeant major gave the floor to 3rd HBCT's commander, Col. Gary Volesky, who began by saying that in order for the Soldiers to understand what Veteran's Day means to him, he would have to explain why he chooses to serve in the U.S. Army.
"I was ready to get out of the Army as a young lieutenant but I looked at all of those [Soldiers] that I serve with," said Volesky. "I've stayed in the Army because of our Soldiers and our nation and a loyalty to our Soldiers and our nation."
He said that to serve is to be a member of a team that is larger than himself and to remember those who have served before him.
Volesky left the Soldiers with one final thought.
"There is something that the honorary colonel of the [75th] Ranger Regiment, Ralph Puckett, used to say all the time," said Volesky. "When America ceases to be the home of the brave, it will cease to be the land of the free."
Afterwards, a benediction was offered and the Soldiers who attended were left with a sense of honor and reverence for the day that is dedicated not only to the memory of those who have served in the U.S. armed forces but those who are currently serving.
This work, Greywolf Brigade celebrates Veterans Day in Iraq, by SGT Christopher Kozloski, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.