Long 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.”
South Sound Memorial Day events
Mondayis Memorial Day, a chance to remember those who died while serving in the armed forces.
There are plenty of commemorations around the South Sound this weekend for those who have sacrificed their lives while wearing their country’s uniform. Events are listed chronologically.
▪ An observance at Fir Lane Memorial Park in Spanaway is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. The funeral home is at 924 East 176th St.
▪ Key Peninsula Veterans is hosting its annual Memorial Day remembrance and “aisle of honor” display. The event begins at 1 p.m. at the Vaughn cemetery, corner of 100th Street KPN and 186th Avenue KPN.
▪ A waterside memorial to honor veterans lost at sea will take place at 1 p.m. at Percival Landing, 405 Columbia St. NW, Olympia
▪ U.S. Rep. Denny Heck is scheduled to speak at Puyallup’s Memorial Day observance. It’s scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the pavilion in Pioneer Park, 333 S. Meridian.
▪ Yelm Cemetery Memorial Day Observance, 3 p.m., 11540 Cemetery Road SE, Yelm.
Monday (May 30)
▪ Wear Blue: Run to Remember will begin the day with its annual Memorial Day run. The event typically draws more than 1,000 participants. It kicks off at 9 a.m. in DuPont’s Powderworks Park. For more information, go to wearblueruntoremember.org
▪ Nisei Veterans Memorial Day Observance, 10 a.m., Lake View Cemetery, 1554 15th Ave. E., Seattle.
▪ The Sumner Cemetery, 12324 Valley Ave. E., Puyallup, is hosting an observance beginning at 10 a.m.
▪ Bethany Lutheran Church in Spanaway will host a service beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the church cemetery, 26418 Mountain Highway, Spanaway.
▪ The Capitol Rotunda in Olympia opens at 10:30 a.m. for a service hosted by the Thurston County Veterans Coalition.
▪ Joint Base Lewis-McChord is having its Memorial Day observance at the Fort Lewis Cemetery at 11 a.m. Base Commander Col. Daniel Morgan is to lead the ceremony.
▪ The Tacoma Historical Society service will take place at 10:45 a.m. at Tacoma War Memorial Park, South MacArthur Street and Sixth Avenue.
▪ The Tahoma National Cemetery is providing a service at 1 p.m. The cemetery is at 18600 Southeast 240th St. in Kent.
▪ The Pierce County Veterans Advisory Council will host a ceremony at 2 p.m. at Mountain View Cemetery, 4100 Steilacoom Blvd. SW, Lakewood.
▪ Mills & Mills Memorial Park Cemetery, 5725 Littlerock Road SW, Tumwater, will host an observance at 2 p.m
▪ DuPont’s official Memorial Day observance is set to begin at 2 p.m. in Ross Plaza.
▪ The Washington Soldiers Home is having a ceremony at 2 p.m. The soldiers home is at 1301 Orting Kapowsin Highway in Orting.
For a statewide calendar of Memorial Day events, go dva.wa.gov/, the website for the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs