22 June 2006

Two More Farewells

I mentioned recently that two of our own had been killed in action by an IED. Today was their memorial service.

SGT Reyes “Rey” Ramirez was born in Mexico and raised in Texas. He was on his second Iraq tour, and was a team leader in 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon, C Company, 40th Engineer Battalion. He was married to another Soldier, SGT Sy Bulaong-Ramirez, who is in Germany because she is pregnant with his daughter. She will be born this summer. He was described as a true Non-Commissioned Officer, concerned for his Soldiers and who led by example.

SPC Robert “Bobby” Leon Jones, from Oregon, was also on his second Iraq tour. He was SGT Ramirez’s driver. He was described as the unit jokester. I think every company has one irrepressible spirit who can find humor in any situation and will go to great lengths to get a smile. SPC Jones was that spirit for C/40th.

I didn’t know either of these two Soldiers personally. C/40th Engineers has been attached to our battalion for a month now, having been called up from Theater Reserve in Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. So they were part of Task Force Catamount, our extended family here in Ramadi. I attended to honor them and their sacrifice.

There is nothing quite like a military memorial service. We have gotten good at them, having conducted memorial services for 231 years, on every continent, and under every circumstance imaginable. Much as a Soldier’s funeral is intended to bring closure to his family, the memorial is the final goodbye for his other family, the one he died with. His First Sergeant calls the roll, with no answer to the three calls for SGT Ramirez and SPC Jones, then the firing party fires their three volleys. They are gone. Grown men, hardened warriors, weep, then stand in front of two pairs of boots, two rifles, and two helmets, and render their last honors. Each man present salutes them, the traditional greeting from one Soldier to another, then prays, kneels, crosses himself, or whatever his beliefs impel him to do, and moves on.

It is a time of great pain for C/40th, and especially for 2nd Platoon. The grief of those who served alongside these Soldiers was obvious. What would surprise civilians, but not any Soldier who ever lived, was the other major theme of the day.

Determination. Yes, we remember the fallen and honor them. But in their name, we carry on the work for which they gave their lives. We ‘drive on’ and ‘charlie mike’. His platoon will go out on the same type of missions in the same way, perhaps a little sharper, a little more ‘nervous in the service’. But they will not quit or fail, because to do that would be dishonor their brothers. It would be to say, “You were wrong to dedicate yourself to the mission and to your comrades, and your enemy was right to have slain you in a cowardly manner.” And if another of them should fall, they will fall facing the enemy, taking care of each other, and with their focus on the mission.

We are Soldiers. Death is bad, but failure is worse. Dishonor is worse. Until you understand that, you know nothing of our breed.


Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

To absent comrades.

6:19 PM  
Blogger AnokaRight said...


7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reyes was a childhood friend. I am just in disbelief that my "hide and seek" buddy grew up to be such an honorable man and to die such a hero.

8:45 PM  

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