Sept. 11 ceremony in Bismarck

BISMARCK — Three North Dakotans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored Saturday “to ensure they are forever remembered and thanked for their sacrifice.”

About 200 people gathered here at the Memorial to the Fallen in the Global War on Terrorism to pay tribute to the North Dakotans who have died in the war.

The service members whose names were added to the memorial this year are:

– Sgt. Michael E. Bitz, U.S. Marine Corps, formerly of Wishek, N.D., killed in action March 23, 2003, in Nasiriya, Iraq.

– Pfc. Jonathan C. Yanney, U.S. Army, formerly of Hettinger, N.D., killed in action Aug. 18, 2009, in Argandab, Afghanistan.

– Spc. Keenan A. Cooper, U.S. Army, formerly of Wahpeton, N.D., killed in action July 5, 2010, in Yakuta, Afghanistan.

The memorial now honors 23 North Dakota soldiers and one Marine. It is a joint endeavor between the city of Bismarck and the North Dakota National Guard and is outside the main entrance at Fraine Barracks.

Gov. John Hoeven said the three soldiers join “these great heroes” already on the monument. “Their names will always be on this monument,” he said. “Their spirit will live on forever with us and with all Americans who come after us.”

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., thanked the families present “for the extraordinary young men that you raised.”

“Their commitment to country, their commitment to their fellow soldiers, their commitment to our values was absolute,” he said. “They were willing to lay down their lives for it.”

Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk said it was one year ago that the memorial was dedicated.

“Those honored on the memorial behind me stepped up and answered America’s call to serve and did so willingly as members of a free society,” he said.

“Their duty and responsibility was clear to them: to serve their nation in uniform. And our duty and responsibility to remember them is just as clear. We celebrate their lives — their lives of dedication and service — and we honor their sacrifice.”

Paul Goodiron of Mandaree, N.D., lost his son, Nathan, during the war. He and family members attended Saturday’s ceremony to honor all of the soldiers.

“When we lost our son, a lot of people, organizations and groups came to support us,” he said. “We want to be here to support these three families that are here. That they’re not alone.”

Bismarck Mayor John Warford said the memorial honors those who sacrificed their lives “so that we could enjoy our freedom as Americans.”

He closed his remarks with the ending of singer Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”:

“I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me. And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land. God Bless the USA.”