Lejeune memorial honors Marines slain in Afghanistan
Posted April 30, 2010 11:32 a.m. EDT
Updated May 1, 2010 8:45 a.m. EDT
Camp Lejeune, N.C. — Camp Lejeune held a memorial service Friday morning to honor 90 Marines and sailors who died while spearheading the first wave of troops sent to Afghanistan by President Barack Obama.
The memorial brought together families of the fallen members of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from across the country. The unit, which is headquartered at Camp Lejeune, returned home in early April after a yearlong deployment.
"War is not cheap. War is expensive," their commander, Brigadier Gen. Larry Nicholson, said.
An officer called the name of each fallen service member and their date of death as another Marine dropped the deceased's dog tags onto a standing rifle. Pictures of the fallen and empty boots stood next to the rifles, and camouflaged helmets hung from them.
Afterward, families of the fallen gathered the dog tags and pictures.
"These are real lives. These are real Marines and sailors. These are real young men and women that have paid the ultimate sacrifice," Nicholson said.
Lt. Rob Johnson said it was tough remembering those who didn't make it home safely as he did.
"As I got ready this morning, I had to prepare myself mentally and spiritually to deal with the stress of being here and think it through," Johnson said.
The unit's 10,000 members were part of the first wave of 17,000 additional troops that Obama ordered to Afghanistan last spring. They served in the Helmand Province, which also saw intense fighting as the president ordered a second, larger wave of troops to fight the Taliban last fall.
Military officials said that the Marines partnered with Afghani and NATO forces in "a highly successful campaign" against the Taliban and other insurgents.
"These Marines did not die in vain," Nicholson said. "They died for something greater than themselves. They died for something that generations will remember."