- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Nicholas Tabori didn’t spend his time in Iraq searching for insurgents in Baghdad or avoiding improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on bomb-pocked roads.

Instead, the 28-year-old College Park native spent his days aboard a Coast Guard cutter guarding Iraq’s two major oil platforms — a job that hasn’t garnered headlines but placed him squarely on the front lines of the war on terror.

The Coast Guard’s “role is hugely important over there,” said Lt. Tabori, who commanded the cutter Sailfish from June 2004 until May 2005. “Sometimes people don’t even know we’re an armed force.”

Lt. Tabori was one of the 600 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom who marched yesterday in the District in the second annual National Memorial Day Parade.

“We do all the security for all the tankers coming in and out,” as well as “anti-piracy, intelligence, keeping the indigenous people safe from piracy,” Lt. Tabori said. “At any given time there’s [300] to 400 of us over in the Middle East.”

Yesterday’s parade was part homecoming and part celebration for Lt. Tabori, whose father, John Rogard Tabori, was elected mayor of University Park on May 2.

It also offered a chance for Lt. Tabori — now stationed on the Adak cutter in Sandy Hook, N.J. — to get his due.

The parade “is important,” he said. It “makes us feel good to get recognized.”

Like Lt.Tabori, Capt. Jesse Ceja’s last deployment didn’t put him at the recognized forefront of the war.

A member of the Old Guard stationed out of Fort Myer, Va., Capt. Ceja spent from December 2003 to July 2004 in the Horn of Africa, training coalition troops from Ethiopia and performing joint special forces missions.

He was part of the Old Guard’s first infantry deployment since the Vietnam War.

“We weren’t getting shot at every day, but it was all in the same mission,” said Capt. Ceja, 32, of Houston. All soldiers “are serving and sacrificing for their country.”

Capt. Ceja said the African people appreciated the troops’ presence. After a severe storm and flood, the troops performed a more humanitarian wartime mission, providing food and water to flood victims and rescuing those stranded by the storm.

Sgt. Sebrina Sims of the D.C. National Guard spent time in Iraq from January 2003 to April 2004 as a transportation operator — a job whose title belies its perilous tasks.

“We were constantly on the road to Fallujah — Baghdad,” said Sgt. Sims, 49, of Takoma Park. “We’d roll in the middle of the road because the IEDs were always set out to the side.”

Sgt. Sims said the chance to march in the parade alongside others who served in the recent wars was “an honor.”

“I am a veteran, and I honor all vets,” Sgt. Sims said. “If I could do it next year, I’d love to.”

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