Pacific Partnership 2013 Commemorates the 71st Anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal
HONIARA, Solomon Islands - Pacific Partnership 2013 leadership, crew members and partner-nation service members joined with international dignitaries near the historic battle site, "Bloody Ridge," to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, Aug. 7.
Sevety-one years ago the mission was to provide liberty, said U.S. Ambassador to the Solomon Islands, Walter E. North. Now standing in its wake is Pacific Partnership 2013, another mission to the Solomon Islands to provide liberty.
This time, rather than through war, liberty comes through increased maritime security and disaster preparedness.
"I had a chance to visit the various ground activities, both here and in Papua New Guinea, and it was awesome," said North. "I'm not surprised that our military, which is the best in the world, would do a remarkable job - the execution was amazing."
At the invitation of the U.S. Consular, Keithie Saunders, and on behalf of the U.S. Guadalcanal Memorial Committee, the ceremony honored those who fought and those who lost their lives in the effort to liberate the island and secure an important logistics way point that prevented further Japanese expansion into the Pacific.
"The sacrifices born on these hallowed grounds must not be forgotten," said PP13's Mission Commander, U.S. Navy Capt. Wallace Lovely, after recognizing the dignitaries and service members, both past and present. "We stand here today as a continual reminder that the strength of our alliance was forged in the past sacrifices of those who came here before us and of those who never left."
For many in the audience, not forgetting was seen in a historical context, but for one person, Lt. Cmdr. Karrey Sanders, USS Pearl Harbor's (LSD 52) executive officer, not forgetting meant remembering someone whom he would never meet.
"My grandfather fought here," Sanders said. "I don't know much about his experiences during World War II because he never spoke about them, until one Thanksgiving when I was a BM2 [Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class]. It was after dinner and we were watching football; out of nowhere, he started to talk about at Guadalcanal."
Sanders said his grandfather was a member of an aircraft squadron. One day his father was assigned to go on a mission, but he was sick. A friend volunteered to go in his place.
"His friend never came back," said Sanders. "As my grandfather was telling me the story, some of my other family members started to gather around to listen."
When his grandfather noticed the crowd, he stopped talking and never again spoke of the person who took his place on that ill-fated mission.
The Battle of Guadalcanal is remembered, by many, for its role in securing U.S. air superiority in the Pacific. It is also remembered for the sacrifice of the approximately 38,000 combined U.S., Allied and Japanese men who lost their lives during the battle.
Perhaps none felt the history of those who died during the battle more than the Pacific Partnership's Marine Corps members. For Sgt. Jonathan Braun, a member of the civil military coordination center, standing on the very spot where such brutal fighting had happened 71-years ago to the hour, meant a lot.
"Looking around the island that morning, I could see smoke from fires, probably people just burning trash, but to me it seemed a fitting reminder of the fires that must have raged in these very hills during the battle," said Braun.
Braun spent the first three years of his career with 1st Marine Division, known as the Guadalcanal division, a name they earned for their role in the battle.
"I'll talk about this ceremony for the rest of my career," said Braun. "Being able to represent 1st Marine Division at its fiercest battle is something I will always remember."
Pacific Partnership 2013 is a collaborative effort of military members and civilians from 10 partner nations including Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand and the United States that improves maritime security through disaster preparedness.