By Dialogo February 24, 2009 Salvadorian government announced the celebration next Saturday of a “patriotic holiday”, in honor of more than 3,700 soldiers who served in Iraq between August 2003 and last December, to be divided into eleven groups. The Minister of Interior, Juan Miguel Bolanos, told the news conference that the event, which will be attended by President Elías Antonio Saca, will begin around 09:00 local time (15.00 GMT) at the “Jorge Magico Gonzalez” stadium, in San Salvador, and huge crowds are expected. According to the Deputy Minister of Defense and Public Safety, Admiral Marco Antonio Palacios, the ceremony will be “an act of gratitude to over 3,700 soldiers” who engaged in humanitarian work to “alleviate the suffering of thousands of people who are fighting to strengthen the democracy.” Saca will grant awards to the XI Contingent of Cuscatlan Battalion, which is composed of 200 soldiers who returned home last February 7, after working in Iraq and the assistance program offered by El Salvador to the Arab nation for six months till December 31, 2008. Then, the President will honor all the participants of the mission, which began in August 2003 with the deployment of 360 participants. From the second to the ninth contingents the groups grew to 380 members, the tenth was down to 300 and the last to 200, all assigned to work for a semester in humanitarian and reconstruction work in Iraq. Some of the personnel redeployed with the military groups to Iraq several times. Cuscatlan Battalion, formed by personnel specialized in various areas, lost five of their members and about twenty of them were injured during their missions to Iraq, mostly by the explosions of handmade roadside bombs. The XI Contingent left for Iraq in August 2008 under the command of Colonel César Adonai Acosta Bonilla and developed their work at Camp Delta, in the city of Al Kut, a province of Wasit. The Deputy Minister of Defense said, that the forthcoming February 28 celebration ” is a civic event, where our youth must be represented because that were young Salvadoran soldiers who were representing democracy, freedom and peace” in Iraq. Social organizations and the Catholic Church have repeatedly expressed their opposition to sending Salvadoran troops to Iraq in support of the coalition of nations led by the United States.