Memorial Day observances planned; FLW troops return Sunday from Iraq

Darrell Todd Maurina

Memorial Day observances planned; FLW troops return Sunday from Iraq

Flags fly for Memorial Day weekend over the Waynesville City Cemetery.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (May 23, 2009) — Numerous area observances will be held Monday to commemorate Memorial Day.

The two traditional observances will be held at 8:30 a.m. at the Fort Leonard Wood post cemetery and at 10:30 a.m. at Sunset Memorial Estates cemetery in West Waynesville, both sponsored by the Harry S. Truman Chamber 152 of National Sojourners. The events will include comments by Fort Leonard Wood officials and placement of wreaths by numerous community organizations.

Representatives of organizations wishing to participate in the wreath-laying portion of the ceremonies may contact Klaude A. “Tony” Miller at 855-4021 for more detailed additional information.

One day before Memorial Day, a unit of National Guard soldiers based at Fort Leonard Wood will be returning from a yearlong deployment in Iraq.

Missouri National Guard officials invite members of the public to come to the Kit Bond Aviation Facility at Fort Leonard Wood at 4 p.m. Sunday to greet 50 members of the the 1-106th Assault Helicopter Battalion, who were activated for duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in June of last year. According to National Guard officials, they were assigned to Task Force 449 Combat Aviation Brigade and moved from forward operating base to forward operating base throughout their deployment as mission dictated.

According to National Guard spokesman Matt Wilson, Company C operated out of Basrah, Tallil and Gary Owen Air Field in southeast Iraq, with a mission of conducting air movement operations, air assault, battlefield circulation, cargo transport, reconnaissance and medical evacuation in support of coalition and Iraqi Army forces. While in theater, the 1-106th executed more than 4,500 flight hours, moved more than 5,700 passengers, transported more than 183,000 pounds of cargo, conducted 20 air assault missions and more than 140 medical evacuations, as well as quick response force and helicopter emergency reconnaissance observer missions.

The unit’s commander is Capt. Nicholas Pianalto and its non-commissioned officer in charge is 1st Sgt. Kevin Findley, both of Jefferson City.

Another group of about 20 soldiers from the same unit will return to the same location about May 29, but the time has not yet been announced.

Outside the immediate area, a St. Louis-area soldier, Spc. Jamey Abercrombie of Company C of the 1/138th Infantry, has organized a “Fallen Soldiers’ March” in O’Fallon on Memorial Day and is inviting Fort Leonard Wood area servicemembers to participate.

According to information provided by the St. Louis USO branch, the seven-mile ruck march will run from 8 a.m. to around 11 a.m., beginning at the 9/11 Memorial at the intersection of Highway 40/64 and Winghaven Boulevard and ending at the Veteran’s Memorial Walk at Belleau Road. According to organizers, there is no cost to participate, but donations for the Fisher House at Jefferson Barracks will be accepted. The Fisher House is a Level 3 trauma center for Soldiers recovering from recent combat operations. The uniform for the march is ACUs, ruck, patrol cap, and canteen.

“I read an article in GX magazine about a first sergeant with the Tennessee National Guard who started a nine mile ruck march to remember 17 Tennessee Guard soldiers lost in recent combat. The next day I drove by the 9/11 Memorial and thought to myself there's my starting point now find my end point. Veterans Memorial Walk fit perfectly,” said Abercrombie.

According to the USO, the idea was well-received by local officials as well as fellow soldiers.

“I got into contact with the surrounding cities where I wanted to hold the march and got lots of support,” said Abercrombie. “The next drill weekend I talked about it with my fellow soldiers and it grew from there. It all started with that one first sergeant doing what all good NCO's do — leading by example.”

Abercrombie said he hopes the first-time event will become an annual event.

“As of right now it is only for soldiers, but maybe in the future it could be open to the public,” Abercrombie said. “This year we are soldiers remembering our own.”

Those who want more information may contact Abercrombie at (314) 568-3949 or via e-mail at

The course for the event is as follows:

• Start at 9-11 memorial on Winghaven and proceed north towards Hwy N.
• Cross Hwy N and proceed north to Feise
• Cross Feise and proceed north to Mexico Road
• Right turn onto Mexico Road and proceed eastbound
• Mexico Road to Hwy K and cross over Hwy K
• Mexico to Sonderen Road and turn left (north)
• Sonderen to Veteran's Memorial Parkway (VMP) and turn right
• VMP to Belleau Creek/TR Hughes and turn right
• Turn left into Memorial Walk

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