MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Veterans from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment honored the fallen Marines of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom from the 2010 and 2007 deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, during a memorial service held at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 9.
The ceremony also acted as a reunion for the Marines and was held at the battalion’s headquarters building.
“We’ve lost close to twenty Marines from the battalion to suicide after the deployment, so we thought it was long overdue to get together to reach out to each other and put a lifeline out to all of us to say, ‘hey you’re not forgotten. There’s always somebody here that you can reach out to,’” said Col. Michael A. Manning, former commanding officer of 1st Bn., 2nd Marines.
Approximately 80 Marines attended the memorial service and a dinner that was held afterward at the Camp Lejeune Officer’s Club. For most of the Marines, it had been years since seeing their brothers.
“Looking at the crowd, there are people shedding tears. There’re also people who are happy to see their brothers to reach out to see some old faces that many haven’t seen in six years,” Manning said.
“Once they started planning the reunion there haven’t really been any more issues with suicides,” said Melanie Piedra, a military and veteran program coordinator for Hope for the Warriors.
Hope for the Warriors, a non-profit organization, planned the event.
“Being here on Camp Lejeune was the perfect opportunity to just step in, take over the planning process, provide liaison in the area, and coordinate with the families to get them here,” Piedra said. “As a non-profit, we also have a lot of connections with other non-profits. We were able to reach out and see who would be able to offer support for these families and the service members coming in.”
The Helmand Conference room at 1/2 was dedicated in honor of the 2010 and 2014 deployments to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. George Eberdt, Sgt. Jordan Malone and Cpl. Christopher Pineault worked to put together the rooms in time for the event.
“I’ve been here since 2009. I believe I was tasked with it; I knew everybody in the pictures,” said Malone. “It’s something that I think is very important.”
The veterans toured the room after the ceremony to look back on their deployment and remember those who have fallen.
“One of the biggest things to me is your senior leadership. If something that I teach doesn’t get taught, it dies there. I think it’s the same thing with history. If no one is aware of the Iraq deployment, the 2010 deployment or any of our deployments that history just ends there. I thought having a room dedicated to those warfighters is something that’s going to go in the record books,” Malone said.
For the Marines, it was a day of remembrance, hope for old wounds to heal and new connections to be made.
“For Marines who are physically wounded, it’s very hard to see the emotional scars that every one of us carries,” Manning said. “When we’re in a group that we know, that we served together, it’s much easier to open up. It’s easier to talk.”