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From left, Staff Sgt. Charles Francis of San Antonio, Texas, Sgt. Christopher Nguyen of Orlando, Fla., and Spc. Habacuc Barrera of Mission Viejo, Calif., perform during the 1st Armored Division’s Memorial Day ceremony at Baghdad International Airport on Monday night.
From left, Staff Sgt. Charles Francis of San Antonio, Texas, Sgt. Christopher Nguyen of Orlando, Fla., and Spc. Habacuc Barrera of Mission Viejo, Calif., perform during the 1st Armored Division’s Memorial Day ceremony at Baghdad International Airport on Monday night. (Charlie Coon / S&S)
From left, Staff Sgt. Charles Francis of San Antonio, Texas, Sgt. Christopher Nguyen of Orlando, Fla., and Spc. Habacuc Barrera of Mission Viejo, Calif., perform during the 1st Armored Division’s Memorial Day ceremony at Baghdad International Airport on Monday night.
From left, Staff Sgt. Charles Francis of San Antonio, Texas, Sgt. Christopher Nguyen of Orlando, Fla., and Spc. Habacuc Barrera of Mission Viejo, Calif., perform during the 1st Armored Division’s Memorial Day ceremony at Baghdad International Airport on Monday night. (Charlie Coon / S&S)
Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Morse, commander of the 1st Armored Division Band, directs the group in “Summon the Heroes” during the ceremony.
Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Morse, commander of the 1st Armored Division Band, directs the group in “Summon the Heroes” during the ceremony. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

BAGHDAD — For many soldiers of the 1st Armored Division, Monday was their second Memorial Day spent in Iraq.

It was different from their first one. The rest will likely be different, too.

“Before it was just a party, a good four-day weekend to relax,” said Spc. Johnny Brown, a 22-year-old tank driver from Shawnee, Okla.

Now it’s personal. On Monday, a torchlight service at dusk with a drill team and the 1st AD band capped the day’s festivities — which included tossing horseshoes and eating grilled steak at its headquarters at Baghdad International Airport — for those who could make it. Some couldn’t. They were busy down south trying to cool hot spots such as Najaf and Karbala.

The torchlight service honored the 1st AD soldiers killed in the division since their boots hit the ground more than 365 days earlier. Its soldiers were told in April that they’d be serving for longer than the original one-year deployment.

But the service was no grim event. It featured 50 soldiers participating in a mass re-enlistment before about 1,500 witnesses.

“We wanted to come up with something to honor the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, who organized the event. “The mass re-enlistment was an excellent demonstration of our resolve and commitment to our values.”

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