INL Memorial Wall Ceremony

Remarks
William R. Brownfield
   Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Heather Higginbottom
   Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources 
Washington, DC
August 3, 2015


ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD: Good morning, ladies and gentleman. Now that you all have sat down, may I ask you please to rise for the changing of the watch?

Lady and gentleman of the honor guard, please change the watch.

Thank you, lady and gentleman. And please be seated once again.

Deputy Secretary Higginbottom,Your Excellency Distinguished Ambassador of Nepal, Distinguished Charge d'Affairs of the Republic of Afghanistan, Charge of Kenya, First Secretary and Representative of the Embassy of India, Mr. Robert Maina, Joanne Uronu, Mr. George Maina, Chief Executive Officer of DynCorp International and other DynCorp representatives, ladies and gentleman, good morning, and welcome to the third ceremony as we add new names to the memorial wall of those who gave their lives in the service of law enforcement and rule of law overseas. At the first such ceremony in May of 2012, there were 86 names on this wall. Today, there are 93 and that is a record, ladies and gentleman that we do not aspire to increase or add to. Today's event, unlike the last two, is much more in house.

As I look around the lobby, I see mostly INL faces and that is appropriate because the names on this wall are ours and our people and all of us, as we look at this wall, should say there but for the grace of God go I.

But it is also a reminder for all of us as we in INL take great pride in saying we are a program bureau. We are an operational bureau. Let us not forget that programs are not about numbers, or dollars, or budgets.

At the end of the day, programs are about people. The Maina family knows that quite well. For them, Lillian Boit was not a program or a number or even a security officer. She was a wife and a mother. On July 22, 2014, six security officers were on duty at the main entrance to Camp Gibson in Kabul, Afghanistan, which was and is INL's principal operating location for all of our programs and operations in Afghanistan. Inside that facility on any day are hundreds and hundreds of INL, DEA, Afghan and contractor personnel.

That morning, a motorbike approached the main entrance, and when the security guards deployed to prevent it from entering, the driver detonated an explosive device and killed all six of the security guards at the entrance.

Their names were Anil Gurung, P.V. Kuttappan, Ganga Bahadur Limbu, Raveendran Parambath, Lenaitasi Qasiva Rokodi, Lilian Chepchirchir Boit. They were citizens of India, Nepal, Fiji, and Kenya. But for one brief moment, when they made their decision to stand their ground, they became us and we became them.

We are deeply honored to add their names to this wall. And now, ladies and gentleman, it is an honor and a privilege to introduce to you the one person in this entire government who has most strongly supported this wall and the memories that it represents, I am delighted to present to you the Deputy Secretary of State of the United States Heather Higginbottom.

DEPUTY SECRETARY HIGGINBOTTOM: Thank you, Ambassador.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the State Department. Secretary Kerry regrets that his overseas travel prevents him from being here today, but I am honored to be here in his place. As Ambassador Brownfield said, today we honor six fallen heroes who gave their lives so that others may know peace, prosperity, and freedom.

Lillian Chepchirchir Boit, Anil Gurung, Ganga Bahadur Limbu, Lenaitasi Qasiva Rokodi, P.V. Kuttappan, and Raveendran Parambath. I'm honored along with Ambassador Brownfield to welcome the family of Lilian Boit, her husband Robert, her daughter Joanne, and her brother-in-law George. Her family traveled over 20 hours from Kenya to attend this ceremony.

DEPUTY SECRETARY HIGGINBOTTOM:

Robert, Joanne, George, we are honored and humbled that you are here with us today. The families of the other honorees were unable to make the long trip to Washington from their home countries and though they're not here today, we recognize their great loss and we extend to them our deepest condolences.

I'd also like to welcome the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps from the Embassies of Kenya, Nepal, India, and Afghanistan, who have joined us to honor the fallen. And we are grateful that our esteemed guests from DynCorp for being here as well. The individuals that we are honoring today supported the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Mission in Afghanistan, but their legacy is one of service to all people.

Every day, corruption and crime steal opportunities away from entire nations and they threaten critical global values like rule of law, justice, and citizen security. In our globalized world, crime and corruption don't respect borders and boundaries and whenever and wherever they take route, it endangers all of us. By helping to reduce the spread of transnational crime and drugs in Afghanistan, today's honorees made communities around the world safer and more prosperous. But helping other countries develop their criminal justice systems, fight corruption, and combat illicit narcotics is not easy work.

And today's solemn ceremony reminds us it can also be dangerous. There are 93 names on the INL Memorial Wall, each representing a courageous man or woman who gave their life to help make the world more just, peaceful, and secure. These names have supported a wide array of critical missions abroad from counter-narcotics operations in Colombia to prison reform programs in Kosovo and to rule of law programs in Afghanistan.

This Memorial Wall represents far more than an accounting of courage and sacrifice under fire. Each name on the wall is a testament to the life well lived of a brave individual, a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, brother or a sister or a best friend who made the ultimate sacrifice to make the world a little bit more free from the drugs, corruption, and crime that threaten communities everywhere It is a legacy of individual stories, each with a human face that we must not forget. This wall honors not only brave Americans but also courageous heroes of many other nations such as Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, South Africa, Ukraine, and today, we honor those from Kenya, India, Nepal, and Fiji.

The brave men and women we honor today were security guards at Camp Gibson in Afghanistan. As Ambassador Brownfield said, they were killed on July 22, 2014, when a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle attacked the camp, detonating his explosives at the Wings Road entry control point just as the guards were finishing their shift change. In addition to the woman and the five men who lost their lives, the explosion wounded an additional 11 people.

I visited Camp Gibson in February of this year, and as I arrived at the camp in the midst of the sounds of firearms training, I felt the weight and the responsibility our guards take to protect the people, the facility, and the mission. I stopped at the wall where the pictures of these brave guards are hung in their honor and I spent a moment of silence in their memory, as we will do here today. I'm deeply grateful for their actions stopping a bomber from reaching further into that camp where he surely would've killed more innocent people.

Let me tell you a little bit about the lives of each of the people we honor today. Lilian Chepchirchir Boit of Kenya was a wife and a mother. Prior to her work in Afghanistan, Mrs. Boit served for nine years in the Kenyan Air Force, where she was designated as an airfield police officer. In that position, Mrs. Boit honed her skills in base security, casualty evacuations and first aid, VIP protection, and a host of other security responsibilities, which she would eventually employ as a security specialist in Afghanistan.

Anil Gurung of Nepal is survived by his wife, Sharmila. Mr. Gurung served for 11 years in the Nepalese Army. In the Army, he developed the expertise that he would put to work as a security specialist for a gold and diamond company in Saudi Arabia prior to joining DynCorp as a security specialist and deploying to Afghanistan. Ganga Bahadur Limbu also of Nepal is survived by his wife Bishnu.

Mr. Limbu began developing his skills in physical security as an infantry solider in Nepal. He went on to use these skills in numerous positions with DynCorp in Afghanistan, where he worked for over ten years on many important projects.

Lenaitasi Qasiva Rokodi, of Fiji, is survived by his daughter Arieta. Mr. Rokodi enlisted in the Corps of Fiji Engineers in 1987, where he served for 20 years. He held numerous positions that helped him refine his skills as a security specialist, including a peacekeeper deployment with the 2nd Fiji Infantry Regiment in the Sinai Peninsula. P.V. Kuttappan, of India, is survived by his wife, Shylaja. Mr. Kuttappan was a security specialist with an impressive skill set that he demonstrated through his work in positions that were quite varied including as a field training officer for security personnel and an occupational health manager.

Raveendran Parambath, also of India, is survived by his wife Amanchiyil. Mr. Parambath was a seasoned veteran of overseas work. Following 15 years of service in the Indian Army, he took on assignments in the security sector in Dubai, Kuwait, and his native India before deploying to Afghanistan. Mr. Parambath honed in skills in part through various technical trainings from the US Army.

It is with heavy hearts today that we add their names to the INL Memorial Wall. Their names will forever be honored here, where the thousands of diplomats and visitors who pass through each day will be reminded of their sacrifice. To the families of the fallen, I say this: You can be sure that those in the State Department family who pass your loved one's name on a daily basis will be working tirelessly to honor their sacrifice and protect the ideals for which they stood so bravely. As Secretary Kerry has said about our global mission, we are working, all of us together, to try to create order where there is none, to bring stability out of chaos, to fix what is broken, and to make this complicated world just a little bit less complicated and a lot more free.

In that spirit, we remember Lilian, Anil, Ganga, Lenaitasi, P.V, and Raveendran, and all of the names on the wall. We thank each of them for their bravery and sacrifice and we honor them for their dedication to the INL mission abroad and for their willingness to place their duty before themselves. It will now be my honor to present the flag to Lilian's family.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BROWNFIELD:

Honor guard, bring on the flag.

Honor guard, bring on the wreath.

Thank you, Deputy Secretary Higginbottom. Ladies and gentleman, as we bring this ceremony to conclusion, if there is one lesson I hope we will all draw from it, it is this. These are not just names on a wall. These are people and lives.

Donald Tow was a Denver police officer for 29 years. He became a police advisor in Iraq. On May 30, 2004, he was killed by a sniper. You will find his name on the first panel, column three.

Orlando Bonfante was a Colombian citizen and a pilot, and a very good one. He flew missions for INL. On September 30, 2005, a bullet penetrated his cockpit. The autopsy revealed that while the bullet was fatal, he was able to continue to fly for nearly five minutes trying to get back to base until he lost consciousness due to blood loss and crashed. You will find Mr. Bonfante on the first panel, fourth column.

Jose Mauricio Mena Puerto was born in Honduras but raised in Los Angeles. At age 19, he joined the US Army, rose to the rank of sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division. After leaving the army, he became a security officer in Iraq. His convoy was ambushed on December 1, 2004, where he was killed. You will find him on the first panel, third column.

Not just names, but people. And now, ladies and gentleman, may I ask you once again to stand for the changing of the watch. Honor guard, please change the watch. Thank you, lady and gentleman, and thank you, ladies and gentleman. This does conclude our ceremony. May I invite everyone to pause, take a look at and view the wall, and those who are so inclined, please feel free to sign our book. Thank you all very much.