Green Berets at JBLM begin South Sound’s Memorial Day observances

memorial_list_1Long after her husband’s death in Afghanistan, Barbie Coleman still feels like part of the Special Forces family at Joint Base Lewis-McChord when she visits his old unit.

“It’s been six years and it feels like yesterday” that Master Sgt. Mark Coleman died while trying to protect his teammates from a bomb placed to harm them, Barbie said.

She returned to his headquarters Thursday for an early Memorial Day service recognizing the sacrifices of Green Berets in the 1st Special Forces Group who’ve died since the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon in 2001. She was joined by families of three other fallen Green Berets and hundreds of soldiers who serve in the unit today.

Mark Coleman served in a unit that recorded the first casualty in the Afghanistan War, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman. The group’s soldiers are constantly deployed around the world, often collaborating with U.S. allies along the Pacific Rim to improve security ties. The group’s 20 combat casualties since Chapman’s death include soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines.

Sometimes, 1st Group Green Berets are still in harm’s way. One of the recent mementos on display in its headquarters is a black flag from the Islamic State that Kurdish forces aligned with American advisers reportedly seized in 2014.

“The soldiers standing in the ranks today, the veterans and families gathered today, know all too well the risks associated with defending this great country, yet in the face of that risk, they continue to serve,” said Lt. Col. Marc Dickinson, the group’s executive officer.

Coleman holds a place of honor in the group headquarters. His name is etched in its memorial wall. The unit also is building a Japanese-style garden in his memory and one of its compounds is named after him.

“He’s a big part of the community here. It’s nice to know he’s still part of that,” said his son, Brett Coleman, 26. Brett followed his dad into the Army. His sister, Jessica Rose, and brother-in-law, David Rose, also attended the memorial service.

Coleman, 40, was killed on May 2, 2010 while trying to disable an enemy explosive. He served in the Army for 21 years, with much of his career in Special Forces.

“I never did think anything would happen to him. He was invincible to me,” Barbie, 46, of Yelm said.

The most recent name on the group’s memorial wall belongs to Capt. James Ahn, who was killed in a parachute accident in Shelton eight months ago.

“They’re like a second family,” Barbie said. “I just hate to see more names on the wall.”

via News Tribune