MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The title, "Fighting Fifth" is not something you earn while sitting idly by; it's a title earned through fierce combat and at times requires the ultimate sacrifice.
Marines and Sailors with the 5th Marine Regiment gathered to remember their brothers-in-arms who fell while serving with Regimental Combat Team 5 in Iraq in a dedication ceremony at the 5th Marine Regiment Memorial Park Dec 7.
"Today is not a day of mourning. Today is a day of celebration because we get to honor the lives and great sacrifices of the people on the wall," said Brig. Gen. Larry D. Nicholson, who commanded RCT-5 during its previous deployment to the greater Fallujah area.
The memorial is a Texas barrier, which is used for force protection throughout Iraq. The wall displays on one side 100 names of 5th Marines' fallen and on the other side the names of 121 other service members from battalions that had served under RCT-5.
"The memorial is beautiful. It shows the Marines what sacrifices are being made," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Lonnie R. Peterson, a medical chief with 1st Battalion, 25th Marines. "It's also a place where the families can come, and continue with the grief process."
The Texas barrier and a bronze boot display were purchased by the RCT-5 Memorial Fund, a civilian organization staffed by 5th Marine Regiment alumni.
The fund raised approximately $72,000 in donations for 5th Marines' service members and their families to have these memorials.
"A number of us here at the 5th Marines Memorial Fund wanted to do something that was long term in tribute to the fallen service members," said Pete Hammer, the finance chairman of the memorial fund. "We're trying to make a vision a reality."
This vision started out as a simple design on the back of a napkin, Nicholson said. They set out to make RCT-5's great sacrifices always known.
Colonel Patrick J. Malay, the regiment's commanding officer, spoke on what the memorial means to everyone.
"What you see here is a manifestation of young men who went to fight for (America) and the idea of freedom," said Malay. "Fine young men lost their lives and left us way too early, but today we need to focus on the victory."
The Marines patrolling the streets today have much to be thankful for, due to the great sacrifices that have been made in the past, Nicholson added.
Almost from their activation in 1917, the regiment has worn the French Fourragere which was awarded by the French Government for exceptional service in actions during World War I.
Also, the regiment has played important roles in many historic battles including the Inchon Landing, the battle of Chosin Reservoir, Da Nang and Hue City.
"They are warriors, no questions are asked that they are," said Peterson from Bristol Conn.
"I have been deeply honored and privileged to have served with these 221 heroes," Nicholson said. "God bless the United States Marine Corps and the Fighting Fifth Marines."