News: Fallen Peshmerga warriors honored during memorial service
Story by Spc. Cassandra Monroe
CAMP ZAYTUN, Iraq – Task Force Marne Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, posthumously awarded two Iraqi Peshmerga the U.S. Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device, July 18, at Camp Zaytun, Erbil, Iraq. The awards were presented to the families of the fallen Kurdish fighting forces.
On behalf of all American forces, it is a distinct honor to be here today and to thank the families for the sacrifice of your loved ones, said Maj. Gen. Cucolo. This sacrifice sends a message to Iraqi and American partners at combined check points that they are in this together, he continued. To the terrorists and enemies of Iraq, it sends another message: if the enemies challenge [the combined security forces], the combined security forces will fight as one, he added.
The two Peshmerga, Sgt. Qaes Ali Mohammed and Cpl. Faroq Rashed Ahmad, both with 2nd Battalion, 12th Brigade, Peshmerga Army, were honored because of their heroic efforts and sacrifices May 10, when a terrorist entered Combined Checkpoint 4, a checkpoint where Americans join Iraqi, Peshmerga and Kurdish security forces to provide security in the local area. The terrorist aggressively drove a vehicle packed full of explosives into the checkpoint, prompting warning shots from the two Peshmerga on guard. They fired subsequent shots to stop the driver, ensuring that the vehicle could not enter the Life Support Area.
After the driver was disabled, he crashed into a series of barriers, setting off the vehicle bomb and killing the two Peshmerga.
During the ceremony, there was a moment of silence held as members of the ceremony and guests lit 14 candles to remember the fallen. Cucolo awarded the family members with the U.S. Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device and expressed deep gratitude for their loved ones’ sacrifices.
“It is within my power to present this medal, which has a special letter on it, ‘V,’ for valor,” he said, prior to awarding the families. “It is military tradition to honor this medal for great courage and sacrifice. It is also tradition to present this medal to the family during a loss of life.”
For one of the fallen’s family members, this ceremony represented a lifelong path of securing and working toward freedom.
“To me this is normal, because we have sacrificed our lives since 1961,” said Unice Mohammed Ali Abdullah, an uncle of one of the fallen. “[My nephew] was murdered working for his freedom, for his people’s freedom.”
After awarding the medals to the family members, Cucolo visited with the children of the families, giving them 3rd Infantry Division Marne pendants.