Featured News

Marines place marker to honor ‘Son of Fallujah’

17 Aug 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

Marines ensured Fallujah’s former deputy chief of police will have a permanent place of honor in the city here.

A mural painted on a concrete barrier of the late Iraqi Police Brig. Gen. Khodeiri Obeid Abbas Al Janadi was placed in the heart of Fallujah for all its’ citizens to see Aug. 17.  The mural, painted by Maj. Alex J. Durr, was put into place by Marines of Regimental Combat Team 5 with assistance from Marines of Combat Logistics Battalion 5. 

“This is a small way to honor his service,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson, RCT-5’s commander, who commissioned the mural.  “The mural is a salute from us to him.  He is a man who made a difference.  Every day, people transiting the city can see one of their heroes.”

The 10,000-pound concrete mural was hauled into Fallujah in the middle of the night with the help of Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 5.  They lifted the barrier-mural by forklift into position where it now sits in the middle of one of Fallujah’s busiest thoroughfares.

Khodeiri was a “Son of Fallujah,” born and raised in the city.  He served 25 years in the Iraqi Army and fought three wars to protect Iraqi sovereignty.  He stepped forward after Operation Al Fajr, the Marine-led offensive into Fallujah nearly two years ago, to lead the emerging Iraqi Police force, serving as its’ second-in-command.

Khodeiri was gunned down by terrorists while standing in front of his friend’s home in Fallujah June 19. 

“He was never in fear of his life and ultimately, that was his undoing,” Nicholson explained.  “He couldn’t fathom a local Fallujan would want to kill him.”

Nicholson described Khodeiri as an Iraqi patriot, who loved his city and his country.  Nicholson worked closely with Khodeiri on security issues throughout the city and together they established initiatives such as manning the city’s entry control points with Marines, Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police.

Nicholson also described Khodeiri as a blunt, reserved man who worked well behind the scenes.  He argued for Iraqi and Fallujan ideals and answers to the city’s concerns.  He wasn’t necessarily pro-American, but was willing to work toward a solution for a time when U.S. forces would be able to leave Fallujah.

“We didn’t agree on everything,” Nicholson said.  “But we always parted ways with great respect.  We built a personal relationship.”

Lt. Col. Frank Charlonis, RCT-5’s police implementation officer, spent many long hours assisting Khodeiri in building and training his police force.  He said Khodeiri was a gruff, no-nonsense man who viewed his role in a very practical, business-like manner.

“He had a very dry sense of humor,” said the 40-year-old Charlonis, from Charlotte, N.C.  “It took me three months to know he had a sense of humor.  I enjoyed working with him.  You knew where you stood with the guy.”

The mural isn’t the first of its’ kind in Fallujah, though.  Just outside the city limits stands another mural painted on a concrete barrier depicting Iraqi National Guard Lt. Col. Suleiman Al-Murawi.  That mural was placed there before the Operation Al Fajr by 1st Marine Division to honor Suleiman after he was killed in the city. 

Suleiman was a commander of an Iraqi National Guard unit – a predecessor to the Iraqi Army today – when his unit’s headquarters came under attack by insurgents.  He rushed to the aid of his Iraqi soldiers by himself.  He was captured, tortured and murdered by terrorists.

Now, Khodeiri’s marker stands in the city he loved as a reminder of those Fallujans brave enough to stand up to terrorism, just like Suleiman. 

“The memory of a great man will always be there,” Charlonis said.  “He embodies what it means to be and Iraqi and from Fallujah.”

Navy Lt. Dean A Gayle, RCT-5’s information operations officer, said it was important for Marines to step forward and offer this gesture to the city’s residents.  He said the partnership between Marines and city leaders now is happening in large part to Khodeiri’s efforts.

“We embraced him as a friend,” said Gayle, a 38-year-old from Miami.  “We trusted him and he trusted us.  We had one common objective and that was to better the city of Fallujah.”

Gayle added the mural will serve as a constant reminder to Fallujans of how far they have come in their struggle against terrorism and remind them of those who lead that fight.

“It’s very important to have heroes,” Gayle said.  “The people are still here despite the murder and intimidation.  There are still people willing to stand up and make a difference.  Khodeiri took ownership of that.”

Nicholson added the presentation of the mural by Marines to Fallujah sends a strong signal of partnership.  It demonstrates the partnership between Marines and Fallujah leaders to bring peace and stability and respect for each other’s losses in that fight.

“This shows that relationships forged here under fire are real, not cosmetic,” Nicholson said.  “Some of these guys I’ll probably be in touch with for the rest of my life.  Khodeiri would have been one of those people.”