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Early Stryker Soldiers rally to remember

Weekend dedicated to Soldiers, families

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:58PM September 26th, 2013
Early Stryker  Soldiers rally to remember

Dean Siemon/Northwest Guardian

Norma Melo etches her husband’s name, “SSG Julian Melo,” from the 1st Bde, 25th Inf. Div. memorial after a ceremony Saturday at Memorial Park in Lewis Main.

There were walks, socials and memorials last weekend to celebrate 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division history. Fellow Lancers honored those who were lost and those who made it home for the first 1st Bde., 25th Inf. Div. reunion Sept. 20 to 22.

The brigade owns the distinction as the second Stryker brigade combat team to deploy to Iraq during the Global War on Terror.

For the veteran comrades and family members of the 57 Soldiers who lost their lives in Southwest Asia between October 2004 and September 2005, the act of reflecting on their memories meant they aren’t really gone.

“If we say their names, they don’t die,” said Norma Melo, who lost her husband, Staff Sgt. Julian Melo, in the Dec. 21, 2004 dining facility bombing on Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq that killed 22 people and wounded 66 others.

Signs and placards with names, photos and biographical information of 1st Bde., 25th Inf. Div. heroes lined a trail around Powderworks Park in DuPont Saturday morning for a memorial run done in conjunction with wear blue: run to remember’s weekly runs. Names were read aloud at Memorial Park on Lewis Main later in the afternoon. During the ceremony, the memorial displaying all 57 names was decorated with flower leis.

With a tour of the Lewis Army Museum and a casual luau at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, there were plenty of opportunities to keep the memories alive of those who passed.

“For them, it’s to continue to talk to heal,” said Victor Mercado, an event organizer and former command sergeant major of 1-25 Inf. Div.’s 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. “This is basically a healing process.”

Lieutenant General Robert Brown, commanding general of I Corps, the 1st Bde., 25 Inf. Div. commander who led the brigade to Iraq in 2004, said he remembers the “incredible bonds” he made with the Soldiers with whom he served. He said he has stayed in contact with many of their family members over the years. As he walked the trail at Powderworks Park, he spoke with Allen Hoe, the father of 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe of the 3rd Battalion, 21 Infantry Regiment.

“I was telling Allen I knew exactly where I was,” Brown said. “You never forget.”

Hoe had given his son the same American flag he had brought home from his service in the Vietnam War in 1966. Nainoa was shot by a sniper during a gun battle Jan. 22, 2005, in Mosul. That flag was brought to the memorial ceremony as Hoe shared his son’s story with others who lost loved ones in Iraq.

“It is important to continue his legacy and support the Soldiers who served with him,” Hoe said. “Having experienced combat and losses, I know how important it is for family members to support those service members.”

Melo said she has kept in touch with many of the other wives who lost their spouses in the dining facility bombing and the reunion gave her a chance to reach out to the other family members.

It was also about keeping in touch with the other Soldiers and making sure they were doing OK after the battles in the Middle East.

“They’re the ones who did it and survived,” Melo said. “(The reunion) is a way to honor them, too.”