On April 22, 2013, TR launched flood recovery operations in Marseilles, IL – the home of the Middle Eastern Conflicts Memorial Wall, an important site for many of our veteran volunteers. Unfortunately, the Wall was badly damaged during the floods.
Pam Gieselman, an Army veteran, and Matt Havniear, a Marine Corps veteran, both spent an afternoon helping to repair the memorial.
Matt: I arrived in Marseilles with little idea what to expect. I certainly did not expect to work on a damaged war memorial. Especially one that had the names of the brothers I served with in Afghanistan. Team Rubicon met that morning and we all got our orders. My orders were to help clean the wall up.
Pam: When I first got to the memorial I only had one thing in mind, “What needs to be done? What’s the damage?” I just wanted to get to work, that’s what I came here to do. Work.
Matt: I was really excited for the opportunity to do this. We loaded up and headed to the wall. I arrived at the wall and was instantly humbled. In front of me was ten huge stone tablets completely filled with names. It was the first war memorial like it I have ever visited. I knew my buddies were up there somewhere and I set out trying to find them.
Pam: As the team leaders formulated a plan for the day we had some down time, I turned to the wall. Ten panels of names, hundreds of names per panel, thousands of brothers and sisters who never made it home.
Matt: There is a computer system that usually allows you to locate a name quickly. Due to flood damage the computer was down. So I started my search: name by name, row by row, tablet by tablet. I was lost in a sea of names and was overcome by emotions. I couldn’t find my friends. There were just too many names to go through.
Pam: A lot of the time you can forget that our country has been fighting a war for over a decade and forget the loss, but standing in front of all of those names I couldn’t help but linger on the familiar ones and think of the terrible loss that our country has sustained.
Matt: I had never truly thought about the number of people we have lost in the Middle East until it was in front of me. The names were staring me in the face. It was a sobering moment. I had a strange feeling like I needed to find my friends now. I needed them to be remembered. I continued to search knowing they were there.
Pam: Turning to the river, watching the sky I took a moment and prepared myself for the days of hard work ahead but I thought about all of the people that I had served with and I honored them in that moment of time.
Matt: Finally another Marine that lived close to the area knew the names I was looking for and pointed them out to me. Finally, I found them. I felt a little better knowing where they were on the wall. I stood there and looked at all 20 names of my fallen brothers. We took up 3 lines of the tablet just from my Battalion. I stood there and as I read their names I remembered each one of them. I remembered how they lived and how they died. I remember them today and everyday. You are not forgotten. Semper Fidelis.
Pam: Soon we were hard at work cleaning up the mess that the flood had made here in Marseilles but I was suddenly working with a different sense of purpose, I wasn’t just working for Team Rubicon or the people of the town I was working for every name on that wall who couldn’t be here with us, I wasn’t doing a job to that had to be done. My purpose was to restore that memorial to it’s former glory to honor each and every name on the wall.