Barbara Selge remembered her son Wednesday with some of the people who knew him best – his comrades from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
She wore black in a sea of camouflage and seemed comforted to be among her son’s friends.
Staff Sgt. Todd Selge, 25, was killed in a September 2009 vehicle accident in Iraq’s Diyala Province.
“It’s good to be a part of this world,” she said.
Barbara Selge traveled to the base from Burnsville, Minn., to participate in a ceremony in which the brigade recognized the sacrifices of eight soldiers, including her son, who died during a yearlong deployment to Iraq that ended in August.
Their names were added to the brigade’s war memorial next to its headquarters.
Those names showed the cost of the conflict, but they also demonstrated how the Iraq War changed over the course of the brigade’s three deployments to the Middle East.
The memorial was unveiled in October 2007 with 88 names etched in stone, representing casualties from heavy fighting in 2004-05 and 2006-07. Now there are 104 names, including soldiers who died while training for missions overseas.
The 3rd Brigade is the Army’s original Stryker unit; two others are also stationed at the base south of Tacoma. The 4th Brigade, which also returned from Iraq last summer, has a memorial in another area of the base. The 2nd Brigade, which returned from a bloody deployment in Afghanistan last year when it was still called the 5th Brigade, doesn’t yet have its own touchstone.
Col. David Funk, who led the 3rd Brigade on its most recent deployment, said the mission was to maintain stability as American forces scaled down and prepared to leave Iraq. Funk said his soldiers accomplished that goal, ensuring the sacrifices marked at the monument “wouldn’t be in vain.”
The ceremony included the formal trappings of a military funeral, such as a bugler performing taps. A gun salute was carried out by an artillery battery whose cannon blasts set off nearby car alarms.
The brigade’s subordinate units formed a semicircle around the monument in tight ranks with their hands pressed behind their backs.
The monument, created by Olympia sculptor Gareth Curtiss, features a soldier standing above the stone that carries the names of casualties.
Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel Murphy described the monument as a gathering place where some soldiers mourn friends on the anniversaries of deaths and others learn about the brigade’s history.
“Sometimes I, too, become misty-eyed as I run my hand over the names,” Murphy said in the ceremony’s opening remarks.
Thirteen families of fallen soldiers attended the event. They came from all over the country with help from the Army.
Edgar Badillo, 52, of Miami, traced his son’s name on a sheet of white paper. Pfc. Edgar Badillo, 21, died while training in November 2008.
“His room’s still the way he left it. It’ll stay that way for a long time,” the father said.
Three generations of Selges came from Minnesota: Todd’s mother, sister, widow and two sons.
They called him a man who was so patriotic that he wore an American flag to school – only to be punished for wearing a flag inappropriately.
There was no question he’d join the Army after high school, said his widow, Dellona Selge.
His last tour was his second in Iraq. He served with 3rd Brigade on its 2006-07 deployment to Iraq and earned a Purple Heart when he was shot twice. Dellona, 27, said he insisted on returning to his unit to be with his soldiers.
“Strength and honor,” his mother said, remembering a motto from “Gladiator,” a Russell Crowe movie that inspired Todd Selge.
“That’s him. It’s even on his headstone.”
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/military