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CASF memorial walls
Servicemembers' messages to their fellows line the walls of the contingency airlift staging facility at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in this photo taken May 14, 2011. Since the troop surge in 2007, wounded warriors and top military officials have written messages as a way to commemorate their fallen comrades and to thank the Joint Base Balad hospital staff. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Keyonna Fennell)
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'Writing is on the wall' at JBB war memorial

Posted 5/31/2011   Updated 5/31/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Tong Duong
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

5/31/2011 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- The writing on the walls is clear for all to see.

Servicemembers left messages as a way to commemorate the comrades they had lost. Those who were wounded left their marks to thank medical staff members. Comments from well-wishers also were dotted throughout the room.

With U.S. forces committed to leaving Iraq by year's end, a small group effort is underway to preserve historical artifacts from Joint Base Balad. This includes the contingency aeromedical staging facility's "memorial" walls.

It was around the time of the troop surge in Iraq 2007 that the memorial wall was created, said Dr. Charles Dusch, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing historian. Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and allied nation soldiers who were waiting to be transported to higher level of care began writing on the walls. Many of them left memorials and tributes to comrades who had fallen and over time the numbers grew.

"You start to see messages from very important people like Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, Army Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, football coaches and cheerleaders traveling with the United Service Organizations," the historian said.

Dr. Dusch, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel deployed from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., quoted fellow historian Dan Sherman in saying "(Memorials help) transform emotions from grief to honor and a sense of accomplishment."

Dr. Dusch said there aren't many memorials in the world like the CASF walls. Traditionally, a war memorial is put up by someone after the fact, to remember someone.

"The CASF walls were created by people who actually fought, were wounded, and they had the opportunity to speak and honor one another," he said. "It's become a memorial to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and it could be argued quite possible to the surge."

The messages are individual expressions. Some are very bold, while others are timid and more reserved. Several are written smaller and more difficult to read, while a couple are larger works of art that stands out.

"It reflects the expression that those individuals at that moment in history ... what was in their hearts and foremost in their minds at that time, and we have that captured here at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Joint Base Balad," Dr. Dusch said.

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