At FOB Summerall, the fallen live on through tributes
Stars and Stripes December 1, 2004
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SUMMERALL, Iraq — Step onto Camp Summerall, and it doesn’t take long to determine who are the fallen brothers.
Their names and pictures are everywhere: at the Sgt. Peter Enos memorial aid station; the Spc. Nicholas Zangara MWR facility; the Spc. Joshua Henry memorial gym; and the Spc. Morgen Jacobs airfield. At least one facility is named after each of the nine Summerall soldiers who died in Iraq: eight from the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery; and one from the 1st Battalion, 33rd Field Artillery.
On the wall of the 1-7 Field Artillery’s headquarters building (an old airport control tower named Firebase Laramore-Matthews, after two more lost comrades) are photos of each dedication ceremony, along with a wooden plaque listing the names and dates of each of the unit’s eight deaths and 19 injuries.
The latest addition is a giant 20-foot-by-60-foot memorial wall inside the Jones-Mallet Memorial Hall. Below the division and unit crests hang large photos of each man. The unit dedicated the wall on Veterans Day.
Their youthful faces smile down from framed portraits: Zangara’s distorted, goofy mug with an eerie halo around his head; the beefy, bald-headed Enos in a brown Army T-shirt, hands on hips with his head-cocked to one side; Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Jones, grinning widely beneath a shock of thick black hair, wearing a stunningly blue University of Florida Gators T-shirt.
The many memorials were the idea of Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne Sanders, 42, of Hedrick, Iowa, the 1-7 Field Artillery’s senior enlisted soldier.
“It shows the guys how much we care about our fallen comrades,” Sanders said. “The death of a friend is something you just don’t erase.”
He enlisted the unit’s two carpenters, Spc. Paul Diaz, 30, of Los Angeles, and Spc. Nathan Gintz, 22, of Dundee, Ohio, to create the monuments and signs in addition to their work of building furniture for the task force.
“The [memorial] wall was real significant,” said Gintz, who served in Battery A with both Enos and Henry. “A couple of my best friends are on that wall.”
Diaz and Gintz said the unit didn’t know about the project until they were almost finished. As it neared completion, they focused lights on it in the otherwise darkened aircraft hangar. About 50 soldiers gathered around to see it.
“At first, they had no idea what it was,” Diaz said. “Then they came and stood around it.”
The memorials have made an impression on the troops at Summerall.
“Some people think it’s nice, and some people think it’s kind of odd,” said Staff Sgt. Dan Sowell, 30, of Vidalia, Ga., who was in the convoy with Henry when he was killed by small-arms fire Sept. 20. “But I like it.
“If you don’t [memorialize] them, nobody will remember OIF2 (Operation Iraqi Freedom 2). … People came out here and gave their lives.”
Sanders said the unit will take the pictures and plaques that now hang in the headquarters buildings home to the 1-7 Field Artillery’s headquarters in Schweinfurt, Germany, when it heads back this spring.
He has talked to the sergeant major of the incoming unit, who has agreed to keep the names of the various facilities, replacing them only if the unit loses soldiers of its own.
“That way, it stays pure,” Sanders said. “It’s a name, and it’s an honor.”
The memorial wall will stay as it is. The faces on the wall, he said, will remind future soldiers that war isn’t just about glory. It’s about loss.
“It’s real,” Sanders said. “And this is a reminder that it’s real.”