CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Deployed Marines, sailors and soldiers gathered here to remember fallen comrades on Memorial Day, May 31, 2004.
The outdoor observance included remarks from Brig. Gen. Richard S. Kramlich, the 1st Force Service Support Group's commanding general.
The general said young people serving now are the "next great generation," drawing parallels to World War II veterans, who fought for nearly four years and suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties fighting their generation's war.
Today's youth, he said, are no different. The general explained that today's young people don't get the credit they deserve for sacrificing as much as they have in their own generation's war.
He added that we cannot lose this war because the freedom and democracy we enjoy as Americans must be protected.
"We know our cause," he said. "Our mission is righteous. We know what our country stands for and what our Constitution stands for."
"Men have died for that cause this year, last year and they will again next year," he said.
Following the general's speech, the names of 79 I Marine Expeditionary Force personnel, who have died since Marines assumed responsibility of Iraq's Al Anbar Province earlier this year, were read.
After the eulogy, Marine riflemen performed military honors for their fallen comrades by firing three rifle volleys toward the mid-morning sun. To bring the ceremony to a close, a small stereo quietly played "Taps."
The service moved Sgt. Ruben S. Valenzuela, a 29-year-old inspector with the Group.
"It touched me," said the National City, Calif., native after the ceremony. "A lot of people come here with the intention of just doing their time, but they don't realize the sacrifices they have to make."
The ceremony was not the first event held to recognize Memorial Day here.
Several hundred service members here ran five kilometers May 29, 2004, to honor the fallen troops.
More than 800 U.S. service men and women have been killed supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 19, 2003.