MIDDLE EAST -- Marines and sailors from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit gathered for a Memorial Day remembrance service, here, May 28, to pay tribute to fallen heroes past and present.
As the unit wrapped up a vigorous, week-long exercise, they were afforded an opportunity to properly observe a holiday dedicated to remembering the sacrifices of American servicemembers, said Sgt. Maj. Andrew L. Yagle, 26th MEU sergeant major.
“The intent was to ensure that the day did not come and go without us taking the time to remember our fallen comrades,” stated the Miami native.
After Lt. Cmdr. Ted L. Crandall, MEU command chaplain, delivered an opening prayer and the national anthem was played, Col. Gregg A. Sturdevant, the MEU commander, offered remarks to help put the occasion in a modern perspective.
During his address he described how the veterans of World War II are said to be “the greatest generation.”
He continued, saying that he believed the troops fighting the battles of the Global War on Terrorism are even now forging a legacy that will be just as historically significant.
The service reached its solemn climax as Yagle read the names of 27 Marines and one sailor who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
These names were of special significance to the gathered troops, as each represented a comrade who had lived, laughed, fought and died alongside the assembled Marines during previous deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“They were the most excellent of people,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan J. Lamke, an assaultman from Company G, Battalion Landing Team 2/2. “They died how they lived: honorably.”
He added that the service was significant not just to veterans like himself, but also for Marines from the MEU’s elements who had yet to deploy to a combat zone.
“For the guys who have been there and lost friends and comrades, it is important for us never to forget their faces,” explained the Fairfax, Va., native. “Just hearing their names is enough to remind us of who we miss. For the Marines who have never been over there, it is an ever present reminder of the seriousness our job requires.”
After the last name was voiced, every dirt-streaked right hand reached for the brim of every sweat-stained cover to render hand salutes during the playing of Taps, the timeless military honor for those who have paid the last full measure.
When the final trumpet note had faded into the deepening twilight, Crandall offered a benediction, and the gathered troops dispersed.
The 26th MEU is currently in the fifth month of a routine, scheduled deployment that began Jan. 6 as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group.
In addition to BLT 2/2, the MEU is composed of its Command Element; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 (Reinforced); and Combat Logisitcs Battalion 26.
For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.