BISMARCK â€” Three North Dakotans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored Saturday â€œto ensure they are forever remembered and thanked for their sacrifice.â€
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 â€œthese great heroesâ€ already on the monument. â€œTheir names will always be on this monument,â€ he said. â€œTheir spirit will live on forever with us and with all Americans who come after us.â€
Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., thanked the families present â€œfor the extraordinary young men that you raised.â€
â€œTheir commitment to country, their commitment to their fellow soldiers, their commitment to our values was absolute,â€ he said. â€œThey were willing to lay down their lives for it.â€
Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk said it was one year ago that the memorial was dedicated.
â€œThose honored on the memorial behind me stepped up and answered Americaâ€™s call to serve and did so willingly as members of a free society,â€ he said.
â€œTheir 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 â€” their lives of dedication and service â€” and we honor their sacrifice.â€
Paul Goodiron of Mandaree, N.D., lost his son, Nathan, during the war. He and family members attended Saturdayâ€™s ceremony to honor all of the soldiers.
â€œWhen we lost our son, a lot of people, organizations and groups came to support us,â€ he said. â€œWe want to be here to support these three families that are here. That theyâ€™re not alone.â€
Bismarck Mayor John Warford said the memorial honors those who sacrificed their lives â€œso that we could enjoy our freedom as Americans.â€
He closed his remarks with the ending of singer Lee Greenwoodâ€™s â€œGod Bless the USAâ€:
â€œIâ€™m proud to be an American, where at least I know Iâ€™m free. And I wonâ€™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. â€˜Cause there ainâ€™t no doubt I love this land. God Bless the USA.â€