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Memorial Day service returns to G.G. Sweet Veterans Memorial Park

The numerous vehicles parked along Gamebird Road near Money Street meant only one thing this past weekend.

Memorial Day observances have returned to the Pahrump Valley once again.

Upward of sixty residents, consisting of veterans and their families, converged on G.G. Sweet Memorial Park, where guest speakers, prayers and a benediction from Pastor John Biggs from Saved By Grace Lutheran Church highlighted the late morning ceremony.

During the service, a eulogy and committal ceremony was conducted for the surviving family members of USMC Sgt. Joe Moreno Jr., USMC Cpl. Robert Hunn and USAF Airman Donald Walsh, followed by a rifle salute and the playing of taps.

Following retired USMC Major Roger Chaput’s welcome remarks, retired USMC Major Tim Callahan spoke about his time serving in the Middle East, where in the fall of 2002, he and 60 Marines under his command, were deployed to Kuwait as an advance party.

“We established and built Camp Commando from scratch,” he said. “This camp became the footprint 1 Marine Expeditionary Force. The numbers swelled to around 10,000, which included British forces.”

During that time, Callahan said he was eventually responsible for and led 165 Marines and sailors, which included a Motor Transport Platoon, where he received brand new seven-ton trucks.

Two of those trucks served as a backdrop during the Memorial Day service on Monday.

Callahan said he and his platoon stood fast in northern Kuwait as they awaited the start of their operation.

The convoy consisted of more than 50 vehicles, including last-minute attachments from the U.S. Navy Seals and additional governmental organizations.

In early 2004, Callahan was operating out of the Green Zone in Baghdad where he led private security contractors.

In March of 2004, Iraqi insurgents attacked a convoy containing four American contractors from the private military company Blackwater USA, who were conducting a delivery for food caterers.

The four armed contractors were killed and dragged from their vehicles through the city streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates River.

Callahan said the Blackwater incident in Fallujah necessitated a Regional Operations Center, which enabled coordination between coalition forces and the private security companies.

The first successful coordination occurred in the Anbar province with the 1st Marine Division.

Shortly thereafter, his convoy came under fire by the enemy.

“Insurgents attacked my convoy and we executed immediate counter-ambush,” he said. “Insurgents were observed moving into a compound and unlike before, I was able to call in close air support and lead a counter-attack. The assistance and aggressive response, represented a change in the way things were done.”

The methods, Callahan said were replicated in many other areas, as insurgent activities became better documented.

Even still, Callahan said things went from bad to worse as the level of insurgent attacks increased.

“In the Haditha Dam area, one convoy was completely destroyed with no survivors,” he said. “With my convoys, 40 percent of the time, an attack occurred. From 2004 to 2007, the regional operations center reported 132 security contractors and drivers had been killed, with 416 wounded, two missing and 208 vehicles destroyed, which included two from my convoys. Like so many other U.S. military personnel, my deployment had been a dangerous year for me.”

Following Callahan’s remarks, retired Army Lt. Col. Patrick Nary spoke about the lives lost during conflicts and wars dating back to the Revolutionary War, where shoeless and starving soldiers refused to abandon their posts.

“In that eight-year war, we lost 25,000,” he said. “During the Civil War, in the four years of brother against brother, we lost 625,000 soldiers. That’s 156,250 a year, 428 a day and 17.8 lives an hour. In our first 100 years of existence as a nation, the Civil War accounts for 91.2 percent of lives lost in battle.”

Nary went on to point out that 116,516 lives were lost during the First World War, while WWII saw more than 405,000 casualities, where a soldier died every six minutes of the war.

During the Vietnam conflict 58,220 died in the line of duty.

“These are numbers that many will never know, never understand or never think about as they celebrate this day with barbecues and parties,” he said. “Over 1.3 million men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers have lost their lives defending the freedoms we so love and enjoy today.”

After recounting sage quotes from Greek General and Statesman Pericles, and President Abraham Lincoln, Nary closed his remarks, in part, with the following words:

“May the pain felt today ease over time and may their memories always bring a smile to your heart,” he said. “God bless those that have died in conflict and defending our freedoms, and God bless America.”

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