Tuesday, June 01, 2004


The 1AD observes Memorial Day.
Hundreds of soldiers in the 1st Armored Division gathered at dusk yesterday inside an open hangar not far from the battlefield where four of its members had died in just the past 24 hours. The drums beat in rhythm with the patriotic sounds of the trumpets and clarinets, while soldiers with cigarette lighters rushed to keep a ring of torches burning as the sun set.

The drill team clicked and clapped and stomped their feet and guns a methodical waltz between human and machine. Members of the honor guard took their positions, flags hoisted against the backdrop of the airfield and a bombed-out hangar whose twisted metal looked more sinister as darkness set in.

Only their families were missing from the ceremony. And the smell of barbecue. In their place was this realization: The taps that echoed in the stillness of the heavy heat could easily have been for one of them. No soldier forgets that on Memorial Day in a combat zone...

In a speech to the soldiers, Maj. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the commander of the 1st Armored Division, said the holiday would never be the same again for the soldiers.

"Many things won't be the same in our lives after this experience," he said. "Memorial Day is one of them." The difference, he said, would be "so profound that we won't really understand it until we get away from this experience."

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