Former members of the 133rd Engineer Battalion of the Maine Army National Guard and their families listen to John Jansen, former commander of the battalion (not pictured), speak during a reunion marking the 20th anniversary of the 133rd’s deployment to Iraq. In the foreground is a battlefield cross of a helmet, machine gun and boots honoring the soldiers who died during the deployment. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Former members of the 133rd Engineer Battalion of the Maine Army National Guard gathered in Winthrop on Sunday to mark the 20th anniversary of their deployment to Iraq.

Over 500 guard soldiers were activated in 2003, which was the largest call-up of any Maine military unit since World War II. They were deployed to Iraq in 2004, stationed in Mosul at Forward Operating Base Marez, and worked on projects around Mosul and throughout northern Iraq.

In addition to restoring runways for military airfields, they built or rebuilt eight schools and 10 medical clinics in northern Iraq, built three community centers and renovated six others, and installed generators in 38 remote villages.

Seeing an incredible need for Iraqis who had been displaced or were living in remote villages, the soldiers also asked Mainers back home for donations and eventually handed out nearly 1,500 boxes of sneakers, clothing, and school and medical supplies.

During his introductory speech Sunday, John Jansen, former commander of the battalion, called for a moment of silence to honor five soldiers the battalion lost: three killed in active duty in Iraq, one who died shortly after returning to the U.S. and one who died in 2020, having never recovered from serious injuries sustained during the deployment.

“I want to start this whole thing with a moment of silence really to recognize the soldiers that are no longer with us,” Jansen said. “I know that everyone here has a special place in their heart for these soldiers. They will never be forgotten.”


People bow their heads during a moment of silence at a reunion of the 133rd Engineer Battalion of the Maine Army National Guard in Winthrop on Sunday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Sgt. Christopher Gelineau, of Portland, was killed on April 20, 2004, when a roadside bomb hit the convoy he was traveling in near Mosul.

Staff Sgt. Lynn R. Poulin Sr., 47, of Freedom, and Sgt. Thomas J. Dostie, 20, of Somerville, were killed on Dec. 21, 2004, when a suicide bomber attacked a dining facility at FOB Marez. The blast, which killed 22 people and injured 72 more, was the deadliest suicide attack against the U.S. military in Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Jones, of Unity, came back from Iraq but died of medical complications shortly after returning to American soil in 2005.

Sgt. Harold Gray, of Penobscot, was seriously injured when a roadside bomb hit his convoy in December 2004. He was hit by shrapnel in the blast and suffered back and head injuries. Gray returned to Maine in July 2005 after spending seven months in hospitals in Germany and the U.S. He never fully recovered from his injuries and died in 2020.

Over 200 former members of the battalion attended the reunion, held at the YMCA camp on the shores of Cobbosseecontee Lake.

Todd Crawford, who served as a first lieutenant in the battalion and was on the reunion’s organizing committee, said the idea for the event came around last year at a small gathering of the former soldiers.

“We realized we were losing the connection with each other,” Crawford said. “We wanted to get that connection back.”

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