Featured News

Regimental Combat Team 7 honors fallen on Memorial Day

31 May 2004 | Sgt. Jose L. Garcia

They stood with heads bowed. 

More than 500 Marines from Regimental Combat Team 7 paused operations in western Iraq to honor their war dead in a simple, quiet and solemn ceremony May 31.

The fallen were fathers, sons, friends and next-door neighbors.  They were Marines who paid the ultimate price for freedom.  The names of 23 Marines who died fighting for this regiment were called out.

"This holiday plays a big role because the (operational) tempo has not allowed enough time to honor and commemorate our fallen comrades," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Jose L. Garcia, 44, from El Paso, Texas and the operations chief for Regional Combat Team 7. "We have to take time to have this holiday for its intended purpose, not to have hot dogs or beer in our backyards."

Garcia said the ceremony was for intended purpose. He stood among his fellow Marines to honor the lives and sacrifices for real people he actually knew.

"We honor these warriors that have fallen next to us and pay our respects," Garcia said.  "If you have a friend who dies out here, it has a different meaning."

Marines said this Memorial Day strikes a more solemn tone.  They've seen Marines and sailors fall fighting for each other, living up to their Corps' motto of "Semper Fidelis," always faithful.

"It has more of an impact out here because of the guys we lost," said Cpl. Matthew S. Heald, of Tallahassee, Fla., and infantryman with RCT-7.  "People back home remember names.  Here we remember our friends."

The 1st Marine Division's senior enlisted Marine said that this Memorial Day has a renewed sense of awe and sobering reality. 

"This definitely hits home and defines the true meaning of Memorial Day," said Sgt. Maj. Wayne R. Bell, a 47-year-old Bostonian.  "Our brothers in arms have paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Cpl. David E. Allen, 30, of Watervalley, Mo., and an engineer assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion knew four of the Marines honored during roll call.  He said Memorial Day would forever be different. 

"When you have a friend lose his life it becomes more of a personal note," Allen explained.  "The difference is personalization. This is a time to pay our respects and put some closure.  We still have a fight in front of us."