Camp Caldwell, Iraq
The primary goal in training Iraqi forces is that they can resume control of a more stable Iraq, freeing Coalition forces to go home. Every day we move closer to that goal. Some days we pay a high price for progress.
Earlier this week, a small element of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, along with US Special Forces, accompanied Iraqi Army soldiers on a routine operation in Diyala Province.
The patrol drove into a well-planned enemy ambush. When an Iraqi soldier fell mortally wounded, Stephen Kennedy of the 278th moved into heavy enemy fire to rescue a man he did not know. Stephen Kennedy died on the battlefield.
There were close to four hundred soldiers at Stephen Kennedy’s memorial at Camp Caldwell, not far from battlefield where their comrade fell. The Special Forces team was present, along with a Special Forces soldier who was with Stephen during his final moments. The Special Forces soldier spoke passionately of Stephen’s attempt to save his Iraqi counterpart. It was clear to us all that Stephen Kennedy’s actions left an impression upon those who witnessed his final moments that will endure throughout their lives.
America lost two soldiers on the battlefield that day. Iraq lost two of its own. During the intense firefight that lasted into the night, at least 17 enemy soldiers were killed.
When the children of Iraq become adults in a democratic country, they likely will never understand why Stephen Kennedy left his blood on their soil. But for the Coalition soldiers who gathered to honor his memory at Camp Caldwell, the spirit of Stephen Kennedy will never die.