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A memorial to Strike Force soldiers killed in action in Iraq stands inside the front gate at Camp Casey, South Korea. Though many Casey soldiers who knew and had grown close with the Strike Force troops have rotated out of South Korea, there was still a strong desire on the base to build a fitting memorial to their comrades’ sacrifices.

A memorial to Strike Force soldiers killed in action in Iraq stands inside the front gate at Camp Casey, South Korea. Though many Casey soldiers who knew and had grown close with the Strike Force troops have rotated out of South Korea, there was still a strong desire on the base to build a fitting memorial to their comrades’ sacrifices. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP CASEY, South Korea — 2nd Infantry Division soldiers in South Korea have erected a memorial to 68 comrades killed in action while deployed to Iraq with the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. The wood, paint and metal memorial was paid for out of soldiers’ own pockets.

The memorial, placed inside Camp Casey’s front gate, features the fallen soldiers’ names, ranks and units, along with an image of two soldiers comforting each other and the Strike Force patch.

And though it was constructed by soldiers who remained in South Korea, the brigade’s deployment had far-reaching consequences.

One of the soldiers who helped build the memorial, Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Mitchell, 38, of Headquarters Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Garrison Camp Casey, said nine of his friends had been killed while fighting with Strike Force.

The San Angelo, Texas, native said he watched for news of Strike Force casualties particularly closely because many soldiers from the unit he served with last year, the 2nd Engineer Battalion, transferred to Strike Force units before they deployed.

He checked Internet casualty lists daily and kept in touch with members of Strike Force’s Rear Detachment at Camp Casey to get the latest news, he said.

“When I read about another casualty I just hope it ain’t somebody I sent or somebody who I know. In February, they lost four who I knew so it struck a real hard nerve,” he said.

The memorial idea was hatched during a conversation among soldiers about their Strike Force buddies, he said.

“We were sitting around talking about how nobody talked about the 2nd Brigade soldiers who left anymore. You still see reminders around about the units. At the time they were still selling unit coins from the departed units, massively discounted, on post,” Mitchell said.

Despite 2nd ID’s high personnel turnover, many soldiers who knew the Strike Force soldiers still are in South Korea because they have extended their tours here, Mitchell said. In November, the division held a memorial service for the then-20 soldiers who had been killed on the deployment, but little else was done publicly.

Soldiers paid for the memorial with their own money and South Korean base workers built it in their free time, he said.

“It made more of a difference than I thought it was going to make. You don’t realize until you see all the names posted up there,” Mitchell said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars is planning to rebuild the memorial in stone, he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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