MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., -- A memorial to honor the Marines and sailors who fought and died in Afghanistan neared its final destination here, May 20.
As the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle club known for welcoming service members home from deployment, finished their 10-day journey escorting the 5th Marine Regiment's Operation Enduring Freedom Memorial from Barre, Vt., to Camp Pendleton, they witnessed an emotional display of Marine Corps tradition.
Nearly 300 Marines, all serving with battalions under 5th Marine Regiment, lined San Mateo Road from the base's Christranitos Gate to the Memorial Garden on Camp San Mateo.
The Marines snapped to the position of attention, and saluted the memorial as the truck it was carried in drove by, showing their respect for their fallen brothers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
"We have a lot of personal pride in everything we do, and we will never let the memories of our fallen brothers slip away," said Cpl. Anthony Szekely, an anti-tank missileman serving with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Fifth Marines returned from their last deployment to Afghanistan in support of OEF during August 2012. As U.S. forces begin to transition out of Afghanistan, the regiment has begun memorializing their warriors who gave their lives while serving with the Fighting Fifth.
"The memorial looks beautiful," said Col Tim Bairstow, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. "I'm proud that we can dedicate this monument to the Marines who fought and fell in Afghanistan."
Marines gathered at the memorial garden for a chance to see the names of their friends engraved in the 7-ton, Barre granite memorial before it was concealed until the official dedication ceremony, which is slated to take place June 6.
At the base of the memorial the words "FALLEN BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN" are engraved as a reminder of how highly the Fighting Fifth holds their fallen brothers.
"The legacy of the Marines who gave their lives will always be remembered," said Szekely, 23, from Seguin, Texas.