MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Marines and sailors gathered at the base theater aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., November 29, to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during Regimental Combat Team 6’s 10-month deployment to Afghanistan.
The ceremony gave the service members an opportunity to pay their respects to the 31 U.S. Marines and sailors and Republic of Georgia soldiers who died while serving under RCT-6.
“We are gathered here today to remember our fallen brothers,” said Col. John Shafer, commanding officer, Sixth Marine Regiment. “Our fellow Marines, sailors and Georgian soldiers who fell on the field of battle.”
During a speech at the remembrance service, Shafer spoke about the sacrifices those 31 made for freedom.
“Service to one’s nation always requires sacrifice,” he said. “We were reminded that the price of freedom is high – the first time during our deployment – after the loss of Cpl. Jonluke Bateman, from Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, on the 15th of January.
“We were reminded an additional 30 times of that cost. The last time was on the 11th of October, two weeks before the end of our deployment, when Cpl. Mindia Abashidze of the Georgian 32nd Light Infantry Battalion was killed in action,” he said.
Shafer also spoke about what the sacrifices the 31 service members made and what it meant for the mission in Afghanistan.
“Thirty-one of us did not return,” he said. “And as the commander I have repeatedly asked myself if such a cost is worth it.”
He said that the answer came straight from the young men and women from units that had just recently lost a service member.
“Each and every one of them told me that whenever they lost a comrade, they rededicated themselves to the mission and to the unit and that they would be sure to honor their fallen brother on the battle field.
“It’s this attitude that will ensure ultimate strategic success in the OEF Campaign,” he continued. “That the future of Helmand province has changed for the better, and that the west need not fear extremist attacks launched again, from Afghanistan towards us.”
After Shafer’s remarks, the service continued with a few words from the 6th Marine Regiment chaplain, the Marine’s prayer, roll call and the playing of taps.
At the end of the service, those in attendance were invited to walk through the 31 fallen heroes’ battle crosses. Some Marines went down on a knee to say a prayer or have a moment of silence for their friend.
The battle cross is a traditional memorial consisting of an upside-down rifle with an attached bayonet driven into the ground. A helmet is placed on top and the Marines’ identification tags are hung on the rifle. Boots are placed at the bottom near the bayonet.