Mannheim memorial honors those lost in Iraq
Stars and Stripes October 28, 2004
MANNHEIM, Germany — Lt. Col. John Garrity remembers well the day Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin died.
When Garrity, commander of the 709th Military Police Battalion, arrived at the scene of the ambush on Oct. 20, 2003, a small surgical team already was working furiously to save the doomed soldier where he fell to an insurgent’s roadside bomb on the dirty streets of Baghdad.
Within minutes, another ambush was unleashed wounding an entire squad of Garrity’s MPs on the other side of town.
“It was a nightmare day,” said Garrity. It was the kind of day soldiers pray they never see, but refuse to forget.
Not that he needs the help, but Garrity — along with his command sergeant major — carries a ring of dog tags from all seven of the soldiers they’ve lost during the war in Iraq, each one representing a day — and a life — Garrity knows he will remember well to his own last breath.
On Wednesday, the Germany-based 18th Military Police Brigade unveiled a memorial honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. The brigade has had troops deployed to Iraq continuously since the war began.
On a humble, granite pillar — black with streaks of crimson rust — the names of all 13 soldiers who died during the first year of occupation in Iraq are inscribed under the twin battle axes of the brigade’s patch.
“Many of us grew up occasionally visiting monuments in our own country emblazoned with the names of heroes we never knew. Now we understand,” the brigade commander, Col. James Brown, told the gathering of troops assembled to quietly dedicate the memorial.
“The names on this monument represent soldiers we knew, loved and called friends. Their loss stabs out our hearts and steels our resolve to reap the harvest that they have planted through their service and sacrifice.”
Flanking the memorial, 13 plants will grow in a broken circle, representing the lives cut short.
“It’s never easy,” said Spc. Wayne Olson, who was fresh out of his Riverside, Calif., high school when he deployed to Iraq with the brigade, seeing more death than many do in an entire lifetime, “but I try to remember their accomplishments, rather than their passing away.”
While small, the new memorial will help others remember those accomplishments came with a price, said Olson.
“It’s something that’s really needed,” added Sgt. 1st Class David Gilchrist, a platoon sergeant in the brigade.
When Spc. Rachel Bosveld died on Oct. 26 from an insurgent’s mortar round, “it was my hardest day in Iraq. I have three daughters of my own and while I don’t know what it’s like to lose one of your own kids, on that day I think I came as close as you possibly can.”
It is a day, he said, that he will remember well. And one that, he hopes, others will remember.
“I think it’s important for the soldiers who come after us to remember those who have come before and paid the ultimate sacrifice. With this memorial, I know that Bosveld will not be forgotten.”