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EOD memorial ceremony honors 15 fallen heroes

Kristen Johnson, widow of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, tries to keep her composure after receiving a folded flag from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz during the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Memorial ceremony May 7, 2011, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.  General Schwartz also presented a flag to Senior Airman Michael Buras’ widow, Emily, at the ceremony.  Fifteen new names were added to the memorial wall this year.  The total, which includes all services, now stands at 269.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Kristen Johnson, widow of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, tries to keep her composure after receiving a folded flag from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz during the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Memorial ceremony May 7, 2011, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. General Schwartz also presented a flag to Senior Airman Michael Buras’ widow, Emily, at the ceremony. Fifteen new names were added to the memorial wall this year. The total, which includes all services, now stands at 269. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- "We assemble here today to remember the sacrifice of (explosive ordnance disposal) technicians and comfort their loved ones left behind."

With those words, Navy Capt. Adam Guziewicz, the Naval School EOD commander, welcomed almost 3,000 people to the 42nd annual memorial service honoring EOD technicians past and present.

Fifteen names of EOD technicians from the various services killed last year were added to the EOD Memorial Wall, bringing the total of technicians killed in combat since World War II to 269.

Numerous dignitaries from all services attended the event, including Marine Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant. General Amos spoke directly to the families of the fallen.

"I'm humbled to walk among you this morning and share in this unique opportunity to commemorate and honor our EOD warriors," he said. "Each one is a genuine American hero and a national treasure."

General Amos spoke about the camaraderie in the EOD community and the great sacrifices each technician is willing to make. He reminded those in attendance that every technician, regardless of service, begins his or her career as a student at the school which stands across from the memorial. Platoons from each service stood watch during the ceremony.

"The four services stand together in one place at one memorial forever honoring their heroes in the common mission they all were a part of," General Amos said. "This one wall represents a single team fighting together. No individual whose name is inscribed stood alone nor did they fall alone."

The general reminded those present that EOD operations continue today in both Afghanistan and Iraq, missions which are saving lives.

"You move toward danger while others flee, you create access on the battlefield, you clear compounds, you permit movement down dusty roads and ultimately you make an area safe for the people who live there," he said.

EOD Chief Demetrius O'Halloran, who is currently an instructor at the school, remembered his friend, EOD technician Tony Randolph. Chief O'Halloran said the two were together for about a year before he left for Iraq. EOD Tech Randolph remained in Afghanistan where he was killed in 2009.

"It was just devastating when it's one of your buddies," Chief O'Halloran said. "You never forget them or get over it and you don't want to get over it. I look back on the good times we had when we did operations together."

General Amos promised the families they would not be forgotten. He said the nation's responsibilities do not end at the gravesite.

"We owe each of you our debt of gratitude. We are honor bound to keep. You embody all that is honorable and good about the American spirit."