In musical terms, it's an easy song.
Four notes played 24 times.
Trumpeter and Army Maj. Kerry George, who deployed from Fort Eustis to Iraq late last year, has played taps, the military's most recognized tune for "lights out," countless times.
He played it this past Monday, for hundreds of troops gathered at a memorial service in Tallil, Iraq, and it was "the most important and difficult performance of my life," George said in an e-mail to the Daily Press.
The service was for 28-year-old Staff Sgt. Juantrea T. Bradley and 33-year-old Pfc. Tenzin L. Samten — the two soldiers from Fort Eustis who were killed March 12 when their vehicle was hit by a rocket near Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq — and for Spc. Dustin C. Jackson, a 21-year-old Army reservist from Texas attached to the unit who also died in the attack.
"The impact of losing soldiers is still sinking in," said George, who is deployed with the Eustis-based 7th Sustainment Brigade at Tallil. "We are getting through it by relying on our chaplains, friends and co-workers."
Together, they attended a 3 a.m. ceremony where the caskets holding the remains of the soldiers were carried onto a military plane to bring them home.
It was the last chance to "bid farewell to our fallen soldiers," George said.
On Sunday, at Tallil's church services, "there were a lot of tears shed, many prayers for the fallen and their families, and sermons of hope and faith."
Monday's memorial was "beyond standing room only with people standing outside the doors so they could listen."
The troops have to rely on each other right now, George said, because talking about the deaths with family back home is difficult.
Most of them reassured their families that they were deploying to a relatively safe region of Iraq.
"We understand and accept the risks associated with the mission we are doing, but this is not a topic many of us discuss with our families," he said. "We don't want them to worry any more than they already do."
George, who has deployed before, has never been part of a unit that lost soldiers.
"I wasn't sure what to expect, but as the days have passed, there is a renewed dedication and focus on the mission, and the cohesion of the unit is stronger than ever," he said.
"We have honored our fallen and we continue to mourn their loss. But we are soldiers and ... we fully understand the best way we can honor our friends is to finish the mission they volunteered to be a part of."
Soldiers push on after Fort Eustis comrades slain
Hundreds of troops gathered in Tallil, Iraq, on Monday for a memorial service in honor of three killed March 12.
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