By Wayne Eggleston
This Friday Aug. 26, at noon, The Heritage of San Clemente Foundation will be lowering the American Flag at the Marine Monument, Park Semper Fi, to honor those who sacrificed their lives for our country one year ago at the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan.
The flag will be lowered by a Marine Corporal from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines who was there that fateful day. The local chapter of the Marine Corps League will also participate in the ceremony.
The names of those who perished will be read and a bell will ring after each name. We hope that this Remembrance Ceremony will occur every year. While this country needed to leave Afghanistan, the manner in which we left was viewed as ill-planned and a disaster.
The bronze plaque at Park Semper Fi, which was dedicated on Memorial Day 2022, has the names and photos of each of the fallen, and reads: “Our Flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each Marine, Sailor, Soldier who died protecting it.”
On Aug. 26, 2021, during the devastating evacuation of U.S. NATO military and Afghan civilians, an explosion occurred outside the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL-K) claimed responsibility for the attack.
ISIL-K is a sworn enemy of both the United States and the Taliban. The attack was perpetrated by a suicide bomber, who detonated a 25-pound explosive vest hidden under clothing, close to a group of U.S. military personnel who were performing security screenings of Afghans hoping to enter the airport.
Thirteen U.S. military personnel—11 Marines, one Soldier, and one Navy Corpsman—were killed in the attack.
Of the 13 killed were nine Marines from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Camp Pendleton, and a Navy Corpsman, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton. The 2/1 is located at the north side of Camp Pendleton, our Marine neighbors.
Unfortunately, the brother of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California, took his life on Aug. 9. Dakota Halverson, 28, was Nikoui’s older brother. He took his own life near the permanent town memorial paying tribute to Nikoui and the 12 other servicemembers killed in Kabul. The tragedy continues.
You are welcomed to attend this informal and short ceremony, and your presence will remind those families who lost a son or daughter that we shall never forget.
Summer has been very busy at The Marine Monument at Park Semper Fi, and we are very appreciative of the daily volunteers, the San Clemente Garden Club members who work on a monthly basis, and, of course, our sponsors and supporters, including the City of San Clemente and the Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar.
Our appreciation also goes to San Clemente’s adopted unit, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, who were adopted by the city and the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce in 1996. They have spent several hours since April trimming trees, bushes and general maintenance, and we are very grateful.
On Sept. 16, the city, Chamber and The Heritage of San Clemente Foundation will be hosting a barbecue for the 2/4 at Pacific Coast Church, prior to their deployment. During their deployment, the city along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, will collect and send deployment packages to them.
You can help by dropping off “deployment goodies” in the various deployment boxes around town. In November, we will provide a list of locations and “goodies” for you to contribute. More information can soon be found at marinemonument.com.
G. Wayne Eggleston is a former San Clemente councilmember and mayor, who previously sat on the city’s Planning Commission. He is the executive director of The Heritage of San Clemente Foundation.