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Nightfall 5K Run, Vigil to Set Grounded Memorial Day Observance at USO Camp Buehring

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

For many Americans, Memorial Day revolves around barbecues, pools and picnics. For Camp Buehring, Kuwait, the USO and troops wanted to bring the holiday back to its true meaning.

“We said instead of it being a more active day, to do a more solemn event because it seems that more often in the States and bases, that it isn’t celebrated with the gravity and the heaviness that it deserves,” USO Camp Buehring Center Manager Tiffany Banks said. “It’s a day to commemorate the loss and the missing.”

Anchoring the event are 36 large banners positioned on barriers that mirror The Washington Post’s moving “Faces of the Fallen” online feature that honor those troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We light the barriers each evening at nightfall and since we are strategically placed near the chow hall, [troops] stop and many have seen photos of their comrades,” Banks said. “It’s intended to add a face, not just a name, to the fallen. To see a smile or a look and many have responded positively to it.”

(An interesting side note: The banners were made possible through cooperation with Esigns.com. The company produced two sizes of the 18 banners for the camp and when they heard about the project, where it was headed and whom it was for, Esigns produced and shipped them for free, saving the USO over $4,000.)

For the event on May 28, the USO will be conducting a Blackout 5K run after sunset  to memorialize the 6,433 troops who have died since the war on terror began in 2001. The route will be lit by various military vehicles and as the last runners make their way to the finish, the vehicles will convoy to the vigil area. Following the vigil, 6,433 luminaries will be lit and a 21-gun salute will bring the event to a close.

A generous donation from USO worldwide strategic partner BAE Systems allowed the USO and base to plan the event and the 21-gun salute will include seven soldiers, seven armored Humvees, seven Caimans, seven Bradley fighting vehicles and seven Apache helicopters hovering behind all of the aforementioned in a symbol of military strength and the support of BAE Systems, constructors of those vehicles.

Banks crystallized who will be in the thoughts, prayers and hearts of the thousands expected to participate and attend.

“[It’s] for the 6,400+ service members who have passed before, the veterans who are trying to find peace, for the wounded who are scarred -- seen or unseen -- and to those presently deployed, who are making livings for their families but possibly also sacrificing their lives. To use it to acknowledge the families who have lost those who have fallen.”

Fallen, but never forgotten.

Update (6/5/12): Check out the moving images from the event on our Flickr page.

* * *

* Learn more about the USO's Honor, Salute and Celebrate campaign.

* Help the USO remember those who served and sacrificed by supporting our troops and their families with a tax-deductible donation. Donate today. 

Photo caption: A troop reflects during the Memorial Day activities at Camp Buehring. (Photo credit: Eric Raum) 

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