MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- A memorial service was held at the Catholic Chapel Nov. 1 in honor of fallen Combat Center heroes who died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The annual memorial, which takes place during November every year, honored 119 fallen Marines and sailors from Combat Center units. Each fallen brother’s name was read aloud by one of the eight chaplains attached to Combat Center units, followed by the ringing of a bell. There were at least 50 Marines and sailors at the memorial who specifically acted as representatives of the 50 deployed units.
A Catholic fraternal society called the Knights of Columbus also attended the memorial. The K of C society, which has more than 1.7 million members, is well known for its charitable assistance, war relief and educational and social welfare efforts. The men of the K of C, dressed in their fine uniforms and standing tall near the back of the chapel, paid their respects by occasionally lifting their feather-covered hats in sync.
The memorial was combined with the Catholic celebration of the Feast of All Saints. Father Thomas P. Hall, the organizer of the memorial service, said he wanted to have the memorial on the same day as the Feast of All Saints, because that meant more people would attend the service. The more people who attended, he said, meant more people to pray for the fallen troops. Hall referred to the fallen service members as saints of our modern age.
"Saints," he said, "are not these divine, perfect beings. Saints are just people in general."
Chaplain Diana Lantz, who served with Combat Logistics Battalion 7, lost eight Marines in her unit while deployed to Iraq from February to September. Lantz was one of the chaplains who read the names of the fallen troops during the memorial. When asked about her involvement in the ceremony, Lantz said "This is a great way to honor the fallen."
Cpl. Jarod R. DeVoogd assigned to 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Company C, agreed. He said the day was important, not only for the significance to the Catholic community, but also because it was about remembering troops from every unit. "I think it’s safe to say that everyone here at least knew of someone on that list," said DeVoogd. "It’s so important to not forget who these men were and what they did."
Judging from the size of the congregation, many felt the same way.
"I was very touched to see the number of Marines in uniform today," said Hall. "It was so touching because I know the Marines who died were in their uniforms, the same uniforms that these Marines are wearing today. That is my way of knowing the men who died."
Retired sergeant major, Ray V. Wilburn, attended the memorial to pay his respects to his fellow brothers in arms. He is actively involved in lectures and demonstrations involving Marines on base. "I’m very close to the men out here," said Wilburn. "I get invited to a lot of events like these. I really feel like a part of these men by being so close to them."
The memorial was a reminder that the men and women who serve for our country’s freedom are also dying for it every day, and those who know what it means to serve won’t let the fallen be forgotten.