CAMP PENDLETON, Calif -- Friends, family and service members from various allied nations gathered to honor the men and women who were killed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom during the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) deployment in Helmand and Nimroz provinces in Southern Afghanistan.
The diverse group united in commemoration to show their support to their fallen friends and their families at Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 11.
Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, the commanding general of I MEF (Fwd) and Regional Command (Southwest), emphasized the importance of memorializing the service members’ sacrifice.
“Each one was a husband or a wife,” said Gurganus, “Each one was a father or a mother, a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, and each one had to leave their family behind. We’re here to honor the sacrifice of these men and women.”
The service members’ names were each read aloud at the memorial. Marines holding a dog tag bearing the name of one of the fallen service members approached the battle cross on display and draped the tag from the rifle as each name echoed across the parade deck.
The memorial also provided an opportunity to bring closure to the deployment, which was made successful by those willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
“The sacrifice represented by the memorial we see in front of us today has allowed the most extraordinary progress over the year of our deployment,” said Brigadier Stuart Skeates, the deputy commanding general of RC (SW) Afghanistan. “Our fallen will live on forever in our memory.”
The parade deck was opened to any who wished to pay their respects to the deceased service members at the memorial following the ceremony. Service members embraced family members, shaking their hands and thanking them for the opportunity to pay them tribute.
“The families here need to know that each one of these heroes and everyone else who has served in Afghanistan has made a difference,” Gurganus said. “We’ll keep the faith with you, and we’ll continue to keep you in our prayers. My promise to you is that we never will forget, we will remember.”
Jack Beauchamp, the father of Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Ross Beauchamp, who was killed while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan, described his feelings on how the memorial brought closure to their sacrifice.
“This lets us know that all of our fallen soldiers from whatever nation or branch are not forgotten,” Beauchamp said. “They went over there for a reason. They went over there to do a job. We’re going to keep remembering them for what they do.”