Hundreds of people, including Latvia's top officials and military commanders, gathered in St. Peter's Church in Riga on Thursday [Jan. 4] to say goodbye to two Latvian servicemen fallen in Iraq.
Among some six hundred people who attended the service for Private First Class Vitalijs Vasiljevs and Private First Class Gints Bleija were Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, National Armed Forces Commander, Brigade General Juris Maklakovs and foreign ambassadors.
The army commanders, the president, Defense Minister Atis Slakteris and other high-ranking officials shook hands with the relatives of the fallen soldiers and extended their condolences.
A guard of honor as well as soldiers holding the flags of the armed forces stood by the coffins. A minute of silence was observed and the Lord's Prayer said to honor the memory of the deceased.
National Armed Forces chief chaplain Elmars Plavins in his eulogy called the fallen servicemen "the best soldiers" who will be always remembered. They did their job without grumbling or hesitation, the chaplain said.
After the two-hour farewell ceremony the coffins were placed in hearses and taken to cemeteries in Riga and Ropazi for burials.
Two Latvian troops died and three other suffered injuries when a roadside bomb went off in Iraq on December 27.
In all, three Latvian servicemen have lost their lives in Iraq so far.
There are 130 Latvian troops serving on the international peacekeeping force in Iraq.