On Monday my dear friend Lynn picked me up at my hotel then we scooted over to the Mologne House at Walter Reed to pick up three of the 173rd, 2-503 Chosen Few. Our final destination was Arlington National Cemetery for a series of memorial events honoring the fallen from the 2-503 from Vietnam through OEF VIII.
We arrived at Arlington and made our way to the Welcome Center to secure a pass to drive in since we had Wounded Warriors with us. As we walked back to the parking lot to get in the vehicle to make our way to the 173rd Brigade Memorial marker I spotted a few older gentlemen standing around drinking coffee and unfurling Battalion colors. Suddenly one of them recognized the insignia of the Soldiers with us. It turns out these older gentlemen were from the 173rd Bravo Bulls. The bond and commaraderie were immediate. Lynn and I just stood back and watched. Nothing more of an honor than to be able to do so.
Around 10:45 we began to make our way to the Memorial site where we waited for the 82nd Airborne Color Guard and Buglar to arrive. From what I learned the 82nd Airborne Color Guard and Bugler travel to Arlington each year to participate in memorial services throughout Arlington beginning at the entrance and the Women's Memorial. As we waited for them to arrive there was more interaction between the Vietnam Bravo Bulls and the OEF VIII Chosen Few. So impressive and moving to see how the their is no gap in the generations when it comes to the military bond.
As we heard the bugler at a nearby memorial the men began to form up
The Color Guard arrived. They were so professional.
And joined with the 173rd Color Guard
One of the Bravo Bulls (I apologize for not writing his name down) read and made some very touching remarks about the Fallen Heroes
The LTC (R) Lombardo began reading names of the Fallen Heroes of "B" Company and the dates they were killed in action from the Vietnam War through OEF VIII.
As LTC Lombardo read the names those of us in the crowd were invited to place a flag in honor of the Fallen Warrior. It was a great honor to personally place the flags for SFC Matthew Blaskowski and SGT Joshua Brennan.
Taps was played by the bugler (photo courtesy of Lynn) as the Soldiers saluted and the civilians stood with their hands over their hearts. A very moving, memorable and poignant time.
After the Memorial Service a the 173rd Brigade Monument we (except for the 82nd Airborne) made our way to MG Ellis and Mrs Williamson's gravesite to have a memorial service and wreath laying there. I wrote about MG and Mrs. Williamson as well as LTC Lombardo after my return from Italy here. As we approached the Williamson's grave we noticed their daughter, Nan, standing nearby. It was a special honor to have her there. LTC Lombardo asked Nan to say a few words about her parents. Nan shared some very special memories of two great Americans who contributed so much to this nation and to our Army.
Then we all recited the Lord's prayer and said TAPS while the Soldiers saluted to show respect to the lives these two great people.
It was a such an honor to be a part of this remembrance.
From the Williamson's grave we continued our journey to that of SPC Sergio Abad. SPC Abad died in the Battle of Wanat. The three Soldiers who were with us Monday were all wounded in that battle. One of the Soldiers with us told us about SPC Abad - that he was incredibly smart, a great Soldier and a good man. I'm not going to lie, I was too emotional to remember everything that was said.
Then the three men of Chosen Company stepped forward together to lay a wreath in memory of SPC Abad.
We said a prayer for SPC Abad then had a moment of silence in memory and honor of the 8 other men who also gave their lives in service to this nation on 13 July 2008.
It was a Veteran's Day like none other I have ever experienced. To say that it was an honor to be a part of the day seems too insignificant. As we made our way through Arlington and held each memorial service I couldn't help but think about so many families through so many generations and wars and hope that they all know how grateful I am as an American for all that had been given on my account and on account of EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN who lives in this great nation.
Rest in Peace Great Warriors. You ARE the true and ONLY Heroes to me.