As we pause to take time this Memorial Day weekend to honor those who've given their lives in service to our country, we can also think of those still living and working in harm's way.
It's still rough in places like Ramadi, Iraq, which has seen a lot of action since the war began. We got a chance to speak with Col. John Charlton, commander of the Third Infantry Division's First Brigade Combat Team, which has been in Ramadi since February.
"Well, I'll tell you, Ramadi is, at least in my opinion and I've been over here three times now, the most damaged city in Iraq," he told us Friday in a satellite interview from there. "This city has undergone intense fighting over the past few years, and a good portion of it is completely destroyed. So one of our challenges is to work with the Iraqi government to help put that back together."
And a good deal of that work is being handled by Iraqi civilians through contracting programs.
"We'll hire local Iraqis from certain a neighborhood to clean the neighborhood up," explained Col. Charlton. "That generates some immediate income for those people. It also cleans up the area, it makes it more sanitary. It also, in the process of cleaning that up...they often find caches of weapons and munitions that were left behind by insurgents, so they're very useful programs on several fronts."
Security remains a priority, though. As Col. Charlton explained, "We've had a total of 27 days in the city of Ramadi where there was not a single attack. And so we're working very hard every day to keep that security up. Cause if we can keep the security up, then all those other things will happen. All the reconstruction and economic development will continue to progress very well."
The First Brigade Combat Team plans to have a short, simple Memorial Day ceremony honoring all the fallen, but those who've made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq especially.
Col. Charlton says the support of the people on the home front is essential as he and his soldiers continue to focus on the serious work to be done in a dangerous environment. "Well, we're grateful for everyone back home remembering those fallen warriors," he said. "What they've done for their country, what they've done for the people here in Iraq."