CAMP LEATHERNECK, AfghanistanÂ â€” As the blistering sun sets, disappearing in the horizon, a solemn wind of silence breezes through the dusky sky along with the first hints of cool evening air here at this remotely located operating base in Helmand province at precisely 7:12 p.m., May 28, 2012.
Flanked by a bugler, who plays the ceremonial hymn, Retreat, three formations of U.S. Marines and Sailors, British service members, along with Afghan National Army soldiers stand in orderly fashion at center stage of the Task Force Leatherneck compound here, to witness the lowering of the colors and to reflect on those who have perished during generations of war in service to America.
Prior to the lowering of the colors, and in observance of Memorial Day, Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, commanding general of 1st Marine Division (Forward), and TFL, the ground combat element of Regional Command Southwest, which covers Helmand and Nimroz provinces, led the TFL formation to pay tribute to fallen warriors from all conflicts.
During his remarks Berger said that Memorial Day should remind everyone of the sacrifice of U.S. service members who have died here in Afghanistan. Also, people should remember the sacrifice of the wounded, the family members who bear the burden of long and numerous deployments, and those who have died defending the nation in other conflicts.
â€œThe sacrifice of those whose plain white markers stand proudly in those cemeteries,â€ said Berger, â€œin long rows, all perfectly aligned is a solemn reminder that the cost of freedom is high and the greatest strength of our nation is her people.â€
In the often volatile Afghanistan provinces of Helmand and Nimroz alone, 49 Marines have died since Jan. 1, 2012 to today.
This Memorial Day had greater importance to Sgt. Camilo R. Osuna, company police sergeant for Headquarters Battalion (Fwd), 1st MarDiv (Fwd). Today was Osunaâ€™s fatherâ€™s birthday: a former Marine, and a fallen Marine.
â€œToday is my dadâ€™s birthday,â€ said Osuna, whose father passed away at 25. â€œHe was a Marine and he died in 1991 during (Operation) Desert Storm. His birthday just happened to line up with Memorial Day and I got to raise the flag in the morning and lower it in the evening on his birthday.â€
Osuna, a native of Calexico, Calif., is more than a company police sergeant. He is a military musician, the chief Martial Arts Instructor Trainer here, and the color sergeant. â€œToday, I felt so much more pride raising and lowering the flag.â€
HISTORIC REUNION A NEAR CENTURY LATER
Task Force Leatherneck is led by 1st MarDiv (Fwd) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. Regimental Combat Teams 5 and 6 currently fall under TFLâ€™s command.
During the onward stages of this yearâ€™s fighting season, which typically occur during the spring and summer months, Regimental Combat Teams 5 and 6 are deeply engaged in combat. Regimental Combat Team 5 has an area of responsibility in the southern region of RC(SW), while RCT 6 patrols the north.