Memorial Day in Tunisia

On 6/10/2010 3:12:09 PM General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command wrote:

General William E. "Kip" Ward

Hello Teammates,

I just returned from Tunisia, where I had the privilege of taking part in one of the most memorable Memorial Day ceremonies of my career. The visit was an opportunity to reinforce the strong friendship between the United States and this North African ally, for CSM Ripka and me to pay tribute to fallen comrades at the North African American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage.

Tunisia and the United States have an enduring friendship that extends back over 200 years. The relationship between our countries began with the signing of the Treaty of Tunis in 1791, continued with Tunisian support to Allied troops during the second World War, and remains strong today as we work together to address a range of shared interests, including advancing regional security, combating terrorism and illegal trafficking, and promoting prosperity and stability.

After touching down in the capital city of Tunis, I met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamel Morjane. The next day I met with Minister of Defense Ridha Grira on the morning of May 31, 2010 to discuss security issues of mutual concern. Minister Grira had recently returned from very positive talks in Washington with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and our discussion reinforced our commitments to explore areas for deepening cooperation.

After lunch we headed out to the cemetery for the main event of the day. Following an excellent overview by the superintendent of the cemetery, Carlos Castillo, we walked to an enclosed area where a large crowd had gathered for a ceremony to honor the fallen. As we walked down the path to the ceremony, I marveled at the beautiful day. Dark green, perfectly trimmed grass starkly silhouetted the white markers under an azure blue sky. In front of each stone a miniature American flag fluttered in the stiff breeze.

As we entered the amphitheater, we walked through an honor cordon of Tunisian soldiers. Inside the enclosure, a wonderful mixture of local residents, diplomats from numerous nations and fellow Americans, met us. Men and women from all of our military services, friends, and family members had all gathered to pay tribute to those who lost their lives so we could live in freedom. Their prayers, music, speeches and tributes were heartfelt and moving.

We ended the day with an evening reception that evening hosted by the United States Ambassador to Tunisia, Gordon Gray. Ambassador and Mrs. Gray graciously opened up their home for the presentation of awards to several of our military teammates and their families who will soon depart Tunisia. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Smeigh is departing for Nairobi, Kenya. Lieutenant Commander Matt Lane is retiring from the United States Navy and Colonel Warren Gunderman will soon retire from the U.S. Army after thirty years of service. I am very grateful to Ambassador Gray for devoting part of his Memorial Day reception to honoring our military teammates in Tunisia, as well as to our gracious Tunisian hosts for their warm hospitality.

General Kip Ward
Commander, United States Africa Command

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