New Year's Eve, 2009
On this small base surrounded by a mixture of enemy and friendly territory, a memorial has been erected just next to the Chapel. Inside the tepee are 21 photos of 21 soldiers killed during the first months of a year-long tour of duty. The fallen will belong forever to the honor rolls of the 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and they will join the sacred list of names of those who have given their lives in service of the United States of America.
The symbol of the 2nd Infantry Division is the Indian Head. At night, soldiers of the “Indian Head Division” can be seen passing by the tepee, sometimes stopping to peer inside before walking into the darkness.
Sometimes the soldiers walk by carrying lights that are red or green, or sometimes white. Tonight, Cobra Battery was firing illumination rounds from the cannons, which boom from the darkness, arcing a round into the night, where miles away a canister unsheathes, and the parachute opens, and brightness floats silently, shimmering over the valley where these soldiers died.
The firing is not done in remembrance, but to support ongoing combat operations.
Inside the tepee are the 21 photos, and a Bible. The book is opened to Psalm 31.
In front of each photo, electric candles flicker through the night.
Mostly there is silence.
Soldiers put cigarettes in front of each photo, though they say that many of the fallen did not smoke.
…for thou art my strength.
Only during such times are strong men and women of greatest importance. At all other times we have Hollywood.
Today we need soldiers who never forget their brothers, while they carry forward with devotion and strength.