CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan --
As families across our great country gather this Memorial Day weekend, the men and women serving in Afghanistan will also pause to reflect on those who have gone before them. They will celebrate our heroes, past and present. These men and women serving in southwest Afghanistan are reminded daily that freedom and “justice for all” doesn’t exist everywhere, and that it comes at a cost.
Just a few nights ago I was reminded of why we fight today when a young Marine struck an improvised explosive device while on patrol in southern Helmand. Gravely injured, the team’s corpsman on scene stabilized him and called for a medical evacuation helicopter. Weather was a problem, however, and the evacuation helicopter could not reach the scene, though the pilots refused to stop trying. An adjacent unit was contacted and, without concern for themselves, a convoy of Light Armored Vehicles rushed to aid the young Marine. They made it their mission to get to a Marine in trouble. They pushed through driving wind and blowing sand to link up with fellow Marines. After link-up, they wound up stuck in the sand, now in desperate need to evacuate the wounded Marine.
Throughout their efforts the Army helicopter pilots were doing their best to help as well. Convinced they could get through the weather, they put the most experienced aviators in the cockpit. As Marines and Navy corpsmen on the ground continued to provide critical care, the helicopters launched again and a break in the weather allowed them to evacuate the wounded to safety.
This scenario encompassed more than five hours. With each passing moment the urgency to evacuate the wounded increased. Coordination at every level never stopped and there was never any thought of not being able to help. Fighting against the odds, these soldiers, sailors and Marines banded together to save one of their own. They refused to give up, and their efforts kept one of America’s sons alive.
So as we pause to celebrate this Memorial Day, we reflect on those who have gone before us. We reflect on their service and their sacrifice on behalf of our great nation. We should also remember those serving today who embody that same commitment of service and sacrifice. They are committed to something greater than themselves, and they muster the physical and moral courage to accomplish extraordinary feats in battle. They do it for one another and the country they love, asking little in return.
Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta
Task Force Leatherneck/2nd Marine Division (Forward)
Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan