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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Task Force Members Honor Fallen Soldiers during memorial ceremony

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Service members from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and officials from the Armed Forces Philippines paid their final respects at a memorial ceremony Oct. 3, for two JSOTF-P Soldiers who lost their lives Sept. 29.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher D. Shaw and Staff Sgt. Jack M. Martin III died when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while conducting a resupply mission for a school construction project in the vicinity of Kagay Barangay on Jolo Island, southern Philippines.

An AFP Marine was also killed and three AFP Soldiers were wounded in the explosion.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jeffrey Tyer, JSOTF-P Deputy Commander, gave the opening remarks to nearly 150 people in attendance, emphasizing the important role of these fallen U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers.

“These were men who chose the path of the U.S. Special Forces warrior. Christopher Shaw and Jack Martin chose this path because it’s a worthwhile and honorable path,” said Tyer.

“It’s a path down which you see worlds and lives transformed, and from which you realize that individuals willing to sacrifice can make a huge difference,” he said.

After a short scripture reading, three Soldiers who worked side-by-side with Shaw and Martin took the opportunity to share some of their memories.

“Chris and Jack led the way in all aspects of this mission. Their sacrifices will not be forgotten,” said Shaw and Martin’s Company Sergeant Major.

Two of the Soldiers in their company spoke about the Soldiers to the teary-eyed audience, expressing their personal relationships and the impact of the loss.

“Those of you, who knew Chris, knew Chris had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life. He would give you the shirt off his back,” said a master sergeant who knew both of them well. “Chris was a great Soldier. He was a friend, a father, an uncle and brother.”

A staff sergeant who served with Martin, spoke of his sense of humor and contribution to the unit.

“Jack brought a real sense of joy to the team, through everything. You could be having the worst day ever and Jack would do things that would make everything alright. Jack was the best kind of Soldier,” said the staff sergeant.

The JSOTF-P Soldiers were from 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces (Airborne), headquartered in Fort Lewis, Wash.

After the ceremony, two photo plaques were added to a painted mural within the JSOTF-P headquarters compound, preserving the memory of the fallen Soldiers.

Ambassador Kenney expressed her condolences to the 3rd Battalion Soldiers and to 10 JSOTF-P service members from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, who were working on the school construction project in Kagay, Jolo when the IED exploded.

“In the last few days, [Filipino] people here have literally jumped out of windows and corners to tell me how sorry they are and to say, ‘We know what you are doing for our country and we can’t believe you lost lives doing it,” she said. “You should know there is a Filipino nation behind you.”

At the request of the Philippine Government, JSOTF-P forces are temporarily deployed to support the Philippine Security Forces countering terrorism, sharing information and intelligence, participating in tactical training programs and working with the AFP on humanitarian assistance projects.

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