Tree Dedication
Grieving Family Members and friends of Staff Sgt. Ronald Phillips Jr. pay their respect to the fallen hero Oct. 14 at Warrior's Walk during the Fort Stewart Tree Dedication Ceremony held for three 3/7 Inf. Soldiers who died serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

<b> FORT STEWART, GA </b> -- Hundreds of Soldiers, Family, friends, co-workers and community members gathered Oct. 14 at Warrior's Walk for a solemn occasion to honor three fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Global War on Terrorism.

All three Soldiers served with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Ensuring their sacrifice would be remembered; their names were engraved in granite and placed at the base of Eastern Redbud Trees.

The living monuments to Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson, 24, of Pensacola, Fla.; Sgt. Wesley R. Durbin, 26, of Hurst, Texas; and Staff Sgt. Ronald Phillips, Jr., 33, of Conway, S.C., joined those of their brothers and sisters-in-arms, bringing the total trees in the sacred grove - that is Warrior's Walk - to 417.

A poem, written by a former Fort Stewart Family Member, Kathleen Mills, whose husband served with the 3rd ID during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was read in the Soldiers memory.

"Honor
On my honor, we will stand at the place where you rest and remember you.
On my honor, we will pick up the torch of freedom and carry it for you.
On my honor, you will not be a silent memory.
We will speak of you often so the world will know what you've done.
On my honor, as you reach the gates of heaven you will hear the voices of a grateful nation rise up, and we will honor you."

The ceremony recognized that each of the Soldiers were united in their commitment to freedom and sacrificed all in service to their nation. Third Infantry Division Commander, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo wanted to share thoughts on their service, and how they lived.
Cucolo said all three men honored had a lot in common, as Americans, professional non-commissioned officers, serving in the same battalion, company and platoon. He said all three had nicknames in the unit.

"Darris Dawson was 'Smoke'; Ron Phillips was 'Phil' or 'Fee', and Wes Durbin's was 'Gunny.' Nicknames based on vibrant personal qualities, wonderful senses of humor in each of them," Cucolo said and noted each had good attitudes and were playful.

He said each Soldier was loved deeply by two Families - their Families at home and their unit. He said that love carried them through difficult times.

He said when the platoon took casualties and lost one of their key leaders, Staff Sgt. Letterman, who was injured and sent to Walter Reed, these three stepped up to the task. He said they never quit. They never left a fallen comrade. They always placed the mission first and were never defeated.

"Command Sergeant Major (Jesse) Andrews, and I were up at Walter Reed the other week, and we're visiting our wounded and we saw Staff Sgt. Letterman," Cucolo said.

He said Letterman was moved to hear about their loss and noted they were the best.

"It is important to future generations to come, to know how they lived," Cucolo said. "How they lived as brothers and sons, husbands and fathers, volunteers for their nation in a time of war."

He said the living monument at Warrior's Walk sent messages to the fallen's Families that they are still part of the Army Family.

"To other Soldiers it says look at these examples and remember their sacrifice," Cucolo said. "And to all Americans it sends the message, 'Be thankful we have such men and women who will do this for you. Less we forget.'"

Page last updated Fri October 24th, 2008 at 18:15