April 12, 2012

The writing on the “Walls”

Airman 1st Class Saphfire Cook
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The “Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona” open house will feature many showcases, mostly centered on aerial displays. But one exhibit takes us from the skies to the ground and across thousands of miles to the sands of Iraq, where the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group sparked a movement that would come to be known as the ‘Walls of Balad’.

The ‘Walls of Balad’ are literally the recreation room walls of the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Joint Base Balad in Iraq. Patients, whether civilian or servicemembers, were encouraged to write their prayers, thoughts and feelings on the walls while they awaited transport to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The walls are filled with the names of fallen comrades, squadron slogans, and words of thanks to the treatment center staff.

When the hospital closed, the walls were cut into segments and shipped to the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group here.

“These walls that comforted so many clearly wear the scars of battle,” said Col. Patrick Kumashiro, 309th AMARG commander. “They are poignant memorials to our military members that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and to our medical professionals that assisted our wounded warriors in their recovery.”

S. Ward Casscells M.D., former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Affairs, visited Balad during his time in office. Amid the names, dates and pictures, he added his own message.

“Bless you patriots,” he wrote. “America is so proud of you.”

The 309th AMARG will assemble three of the six walls and two doors as part of the open house exhibit. Attendees of the 2012 open house will be able to view the walls and look into the hearts and minds of individuals who were fighting for the freedom of a country in a foreign land.

“It’s a privileged opportunity for the Air Force to share the Balad Walls legacy with Tucson,” Kumashiro said.


Air Force photograph by Kenji Thuloweit

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