It appears as though Fort Lewis is going to stop holding individual memorial ceremonies for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a memo by acting post commander Brig. Gen. William Troy that is posted on the United for Peace of Pierce County web site. Instead the post will hold one ceremony each month for all the soldiers lost in that time.
Troy, according to the UFPPC site, in a May 22 memo wrote:
As much as we would like to think otherwise, I am afraid that with the number of Soldiers we now have in harm’s way, our losses will preclude us from continuing to do individual memorial ceremonies.
I see this as a way of sharing the heavy burdens our spouses and Rear Detachments bear, while giving our fallen warriors the respect they deserve. It will also give the families of the fallen the opportunity to bond with one another, as they see others who share their grief.
Up until now Fort Lewis has always held memorial ceremonies for soldiers one at a time, or, in cases where a number of soldiers have been killed in the same incident, the post has held ceremonies for that group of soldiers.
The post has more soldiers in Iraq now – about 10,000 – than at any time in the war.
In reporting my story for Memorial Day about how reporting and memorializing the fallen is different now than in past wars, I learned that policies can vary from post to post, and that at some, they consolidate the memorial ceremonies. A friend who covers Fort Carson, for example, told me they once had a ceremony for 14 soldiers at one time.
When I interviewed the Fort Lewis chaplain, Col. Jack Van Dyken, on Wednesday, I asked him about other posts consolidating their ceremonies. He said it was still Fort Lewis policy to hold individual ceremonies, but said there were “some advantages to holding consolidated ceremonies.”
“After you have been to three a week for the past month,” Van Dyken said, “it really is trying on you. … It’s not a matter of cutting corners. It is understanding the toll it takes on the (Family Readiness Group), the chain of command, and just the tremendous amount of time associated with doing it right.
“You don’t want to cut corners when you’ve got to do three in the same week. But you have other jobs to do. If you consolidate, you have more time to do a good memorial ceremony as well as everything else.”
Troy’s memo says the new policy will begin in June. Officials at Fort Lewis said the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is sheduling a consolidated memorial the first week of June for the last four soldiers it has lost in its month in Iraq: Staff Sgts. David Kuehl and Kristopher Higdon, Pfc. Robert Worthington, and Spc. Mathew LaForest.