By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
June 12, 2009 - NATO officials dedicated a monument here today to personnel killed during alliance operations. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the stone marker outside the front door of the alliance's headquarters will serve as a reminder of the weight of the decisions made in the facility.
Danish Defense Minister Soren Gade suggested the memorial during a NATO defense ministers conference in Krakow, Poland, last year. Denmark donated the stone.
"This stone is a tribute to the men and women who have died for freedom and peace," Gade said during the dedication ceremony. "In our minds, they have not died completely. Their legacy of hope and sacrifice is still alive with us."
The defense ministers of the 28 NATO nations attended the dedication ceremony. "The commitment, courage and determination of our soldiers is what ultimately keeps us safe," Gade said. "And their unselfish efforts enable us to project freedom, peace and security and stability to regions around the world."
Italian Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, also spoke during the dedication. The admiral said all who enter NATO must remember that the decisions made by the alliance in the building have consequences for young men and women.
"Every time we walk past this monument, let us think of two things: first, the brave men and women who have now taken their place in history, and secondly, that we are the first step on the path to the front line," he said.
De Hoop Scheffer said the sacrifice of fallen NATO servicemembers must never be forgotten.
"They have left behind families and loved ones who will forever remember them," he said. "But given their role and the sacrifices they have made under a NATO flag, it is right that we, too, shall forever remember them and their selfless dedication to the cause of peace and freedom."
At the end of the service, a U.S. Army bugler played "Taps," and then defense ministers and military officers paid their respects.