Yuma, Ariz. -- Since World War II, Yuma has become a central location for military training and aviation, bringing thousands of service members and their families to settle here. This cooperative relationship has become a source of pride for the southwestern city, and patriotism runs deep throughout the community. So, in commemoration of Independence Day, the City of Yuma and the Caballeros de Yuma sponsored the 28th annual Independence Day flag raising ceremony at the Armed Forces Park in Yuma, Ariz., July 4.
Yuma area residents, veterans, service members and their families attended the ceremony, which included a 21 gun salute, an award ceremony, followed by the raising of the flag by Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. The guest speaker for the ceremony was Yuma Proving Ground Commanding Officer Col. Randy Murray.
Awarded were Cpl. Stephen R. Price, an air traffic control radar technician and Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year with Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron (H&HS); Sgt. Seth A. Barnes, an ordnance technician and Marine of the Year with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 (MWSS-371); Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Lawrence, a hospital corpsman and Sailor of the Quarter with Naval Branch Health Clinic Yuma; and Sgt. Luis Montejano, YPG's Soldier of the Year and Sgt. Colin Alexander, YPG's NCO of the Year.
Also recognized during the ceremony was Sgt. Ryan Carter, a Purple Heart recipient and combat engineer with MWSS -371 based out of MCAS Yuma. Carter, a humble individual, was chosen by his command to be the guest of honor due to his service to country and Corps while deployed.
“I am honored, but this is not for me. This [event] is to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could have this holiday,” said Carter. “This is for the Marines and service members who made that sacrifice and didn’t come home. People come out to honor the fallen at the park and it’s such a small place and a humbling experience.”
As a combat engineer, Carter has always worked closely with Marines from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). During deployments in support of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, his responsibilities were to mine sweep and detect ordnance and other potential hazards for EOD to eliminate.
“Although we [the sections] did butt heads a lot because we were the ones who went out there and found stuff for EOD to blow up,” said Carter “It was great.”
On Oct. 15, 2005, while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, Carter was struck by improvised explosive device (IED) and then received a gunshot wound during the attack. He was medically evacuated to Baghdad hospital where he recovered from his injuries, and returned to his unit to complete his deployment.
“My first deployment in 2005 was with Charlie Company, 2nd Combat Engineer battalion, 2nd platoon. That was an amazing group of men that I worked with and I still keep in contact with and love them to death,” said Carter. “I was young, it was my first time away from home, and I didn’t know anyone or anything. I was on the other side of the country on my own, but the platoon and I bonded very close and that’s the platoon that I remember the most out of any.”
Carter may speak modestly about his time deployed, but reflects at the end of his service that the experience makes a good ending to a ten-year career.
In his crisp and pressed dress blue deltas uniform, Carter delivered the folded flag to his fellow sergeants during the flag raising ceremony in honor of Independence Day. It was a solemn moment, as Carter raised his hand in salute and took his place to raise the flag as the crowd stood in silent respect.
“Sergeant Page, Sgt. Rosales and Sgt. Hodges, we all work together at corporals course for the past seven months, so it’s easy for us to come to an event like this and show the community that we are here support them,” said Carter. “Just like they are here to support us, we keep that professionalism at all times within the community and help one another out.”