JOMTIEN, Thailand — Several hundred servicemembers working in Thailand in support of Operation Unified Assistance walked to the edge of the sea in Thailand on Wednesday to cast off a memorial wreath in memory of the hundreds of thousands killed exactly a month earlier by the same waters a few hundred kilometers away.

Five U.S. chaplains and military liaison chaplains from Thailand, Australia, India and Indonesia helped honor those killed and missing, those grieving their losses and those helping in the relief effort.

Servicemembers closed the memorial by tossing white roses into the surf.

“We have showed that people do care,” said Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman Jr., the commander of Combined Support Force 536. “We demonstrate to them that we’re really here for people in need.”

As many as 15,000 servicemembers from the five services came to the region to help minimize the loss of life and mitigate human suffering after a string of tsunamis tore through coastal communities in a dozen countries.

They carried food, drinking water and medical aid to remote locations, removed debris and helped to identify remains of people lost in the disaster.

“It is hard to believe or even imagine the magnitude of sadness” felt by the grieving, Tom Frey, from the U.S. Agency for International Development, said at the memorial.

Even one month later, we still cannot fully appreciate the immensity of the devastation, said Gerhard Putnam-Cramer with the United Nations.

He added that the cooperation forged between military and civilian organizations for the operation is “proof of our ability to jointly make a difference.”

Blackman closed by telling the gathered servicemembers that their military functions also serve an important humanitarian role.

“Ours is far beyond military duties” he said. “Ours is really a sacred duty, and that is bringing hope.”

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