War on Terrorism

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ceremony Honors Fallen Medical Servicemembers


By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

March 17, 2010 - Army Cpl. Adam J. Fargo, a medic, was killed by a homemade bomb while on patrol in Iraq more than three years ago. But his memory was strong for his sister yesterday, who wore his dog tags and a picture of him in uniform draped around her neck. "I love to honor him," said Sarah Fargo, whose father and two grandfathers stood by her side. "I love to see everyone honor him."

Fargo was one of the more than 300 people who gathered at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday for the Military Health System's 2010 Remembrance Ceremony dedicated to fallen military medical personnel. Set on a hill with a backdrop of white marble gravestones, the ceremony honored 244 medical servicemembers medics, corpsmen, nurses and doctors -- who died in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom from 2001 through Dec. 31, 2009.

More than 100 of those in attendance were family and friends who came from around the nation and overseas to honor their loved ones.

"Today we come with a united sense of purpose and a common bond in that purpose," said Dr. Charles L. Rice, who is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "We come together to remember and honor our fallen loved ones; we come together to renew our connection with the families and friends that share in this loss. And we say thank you for what you have given, and we say thank you for all of which your loved ones gave."

Countless people are alive, both in the United States and overseas, because of the courage and heroism of the servicemembers being honored at the ceremony, Rice said. "These great men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice to save their comrades and others," he added.

Their families also paid a monumental price, Rice said. "Our nation is indebted to you," he said. "We will honor your loved ones with tributes today so that they may never be forgotten."

Navy Rear Adm. (Dr.) David J. Smith, the Joint Staff surgeon, praised the nation's military medical personnel for their devotion to duty on the battlefield.

"In the anguish of combat, when all the good seems so distant, it's the corpsman's compassion that provides a warm light of solace, refusing to yield to the ever-pressing darkness," Smith said. "What can be said of a man or a woman who, when confronted with their own demise or injury, chooses to risk all to aid a fellow comrade? What greater act of love or devotion can one perform?

"Their legacy is one of selfless service and a legacy that lives on in each of us," he continued. "For those left to mourn and forever reflect on the loss of a loved one, I pray that you will take some measure of comfort in the fact that your family member was devoted to preserving life on the battlefield."

Martha Raddatz, chief White House correspondent for ABC News; Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) Adam M. Robinson, Navy surgeon general; and Army Maj. Gen. Deborah C. Wheeling, deputy surgeon general of the Army National Guard, also spoke at the ceremony.

Following remarks, Gold Star members an organization of those who have lost loved ones in combat -- helped to lay a ceremonial wreath in honor of the fallen servicemembers.

Stephanie Walters drove from Ohio to attend the ceremony with her 3-month-old daughter, Piper, and her 18-month-old daughter, Rachel. Her husband, Army Sgt. Richard Walters, a nurse, was killed in Iraq while she was five-months pregnant with Piper.

Walters sat through the ceremony clinging to her baby, her eyes lowered. The ceremony, she noted afterward, was a fitting tribute to his sacrifice.

"It really helps us feel the book is not closed on us," she said. "We're not an afterthought. I take personal solace from that."

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