By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 10, 2009 - Vice President Joe Biden delivered condolences today at a memorial ceremony honoring seven soldiers killed in an attack in southern Afghanistan last month. The soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, were in a Stryker vehicle struck by a 1,000-pound roadside bomb in northwest Kandahar province Oct. 27.
"On behalf of the president of the United States, I am here to express my condolences to all those we honor today," Biden said at a ceremony on Fort Lewis, Washington, the squadron's home base.
Biden said the undaunted courage and purpose exemplified by Meriwether Lewis -- the namesake of the Army facility -- is imbued in those serving at the base. He said that it will be eternally embodied by the service and sacrifice of those killed in the attack. They are:
-- Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.;
-- Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.;
-- Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.;
-- Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.;
-- Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.;
-- Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.; and
-- Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.
Biden said he was amazed by the courage and resilience of the Gold Star families he met before attending the memorial service. A Gold Star family is one that has suffered the loss of a loved one fighting on behalf of U.S. operations, while Blue Star families refer to those with a family member deployed.
"Like every Blue Star family member, as my wife and I are, we realize that but for the grace of God we could be a member of that organization, Gold Star parents," said Biden, whose son Capt. Beau Biden returned in October after a year-long deployment in Iraq with the Delaware Air National Guard's 261st Signal Brigade.
"In a sense, those of us who've had children, husbands and wives, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said, "I guess we all share a sense of relief and a sense of guilt that we're here having our loved ones back."
In his remarks, Biden alluded to the grief he experienced after his wife and 1-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident in Delaware around Christmas time in 1972. He said he has had the unfortunate occasion to attend memorial services, both as a vice president and as a grieving father and husband.
"As vice president, I'm here to praise and honor your sons, your husbands, your fathers, your brothers, and let you know that the president and all the United States of America honors the sacrifice they've made and that you made," he said.
"But as a father and a husband, I'm here to share with you the pain and to grieve with you, for I know there is nothing that any of us can say, clearly nothing I can say, that is likely to heal you today," he said. "No solace I can offer to numb the grief consuming the wives and children and parents of those who are left behind; that void you feel in your chest, that deep, black hole that feels like it's sucking you in."
The vice president said that as the slain soldiers take their place on the rolls of the greatest American heroes, the rest of the country should remind itself of its duty.
"The only sacred responsibility we have as a nation is to give all those we send all they need, and care for them and their families when they come home," he said. "That's the only truly sacred obligation our government has.
"Not today but someday, God willing, there will be some consolation you'll find in the knowledge that your son, your husband, your brother, your father gave his life in the pursuit of the noblest of all earthly goals: defending his family, defending his country, defending and fighting for what he believed in," he said. "That pursuit defined each of the warriors we honor today; each of the fallen angels that we brought home. And it will define them, and has defined them, until the very end."