CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (WNCT) — A dedication ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune on Wednesday honored those that fought and were killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom in the early 2000s.
Wednesday afternoon, a plaque was unveiled commemorating the II Marine Expeditionary Force Marines and Sailors who lost their lives and the ones who survived. II Marine Expeditionary Force hosted the ceremony.
“This is the eighteenth anniversary of our official march up to An-Nasiriya, so what better way to do it than today,” said Sgt. Maj. Lonnie N. Travis, Jr.
There were 7,100 Marines and Sailors from the II Marine Expeditionary Brigade, a subordinate command of II MEF, who were involved in the initial invasion of Iraq, which began on March 23, 2003.
Officials said the fighting began quickly, including a huge battle in the city of An-Nasiriyah. It was the first large-scale battle fought by Marines in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I never thought 18 years ago as a young sergeant sitting in a desert I would be here that many years later unveiling a plaque dedicated to my brothers and sisters,” said William L. Edwards II, who helped unveil both plaques during Wednesday’s ceremony.
“I knew a lot of them that didn’t come back and still talk to some today that served over their with us,” Edwards said.
Marine Antoine Bates was another who had the honor of unveiling the plaques.
“As someone that walked the mean streets of Afghanistan who was injured, actually lost a leg over there, this was very deep-rooted in the experience you go through as a marine,” Bates said.