1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Brigade Support Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Miles Townsend and Command Sgt. Major Robert Townes walk away after paying respect to all the fallen Soldiers from their battalion who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation New Dawn during the Raider Brigade Fallen Soldiers memorial dedication April 1.

FORT STEWART, Ga. - The sun peaked out for a few hours, April 1, casting light upon Soldiers, Families, and friends of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team as they gathered by the Raider Brigade building for a very special event.

On this day, the brigade was dedicating the Raider Brigade Fallen Soldier Memorial, a three-year project to memorialize the Fallen.

"It is important to remember our history and the sacrifices that have been made on behalf of a free nation," said Col. James Crider, 1st HBCT commander. "When a servicemember is lost, service in life demands that we continue to move forward. But preserving their memory in our hearts and minds strengthens us in that journey. The sacrifice of those who have gone before us and served alongside us makes us who we are."

Two individuals spearheaded the memorial project: Col. Roger Cloutier, current 3rd Infantry Division chief of staff and former 1st HBCT commander, and Mrs. Laura Rittenhouse, head of the Raider Brigade Fallen Soldier Memorial committee.

"Colonel Cloutier had a vision of something more," Col. Crider said. "Like many, if not most of us here today, he understands the depth of emotions that one goes through when a servicemember is lost in combat. He had a vision for a memorial that would draw people to stop, visit and truly reflect on the price of freedom. Second, Mrs. Rittenhouse was the engine behind that vision.

Laura's efforts and sacrifice over the last three years literally turned a patch of dirt on Gulick Avenue into the heart-stopping memorial we are dedicating today."

Colonel Cloutier also spoke at the event, cogitating on the history of the brigade as well as the memorial.

"I am honored to be allowed to speak here today at the dedication of this memorial for our 107 Fallen Raider Soldiers," Col. Cloutier said. "I have been in the division since 2004 and have watched the brigade for three deployments, always in awe as they accomplished mission after mission. [The memorial] started as a simple idea almost three years ago, became rough sketches on scraps of paper, then more refined drawings on poster board and eventually we asked Soldiers to send us their ideas. After numerous iterations it morphed into what we have before us today".

The purpose of the memorial was both simple and complex: to have a place where Soldiers and Families can remember the Fallen, but also something much deeper.

As part of his speech, Col. Cloutier quoted excerpts from Henry Scott Holland's "What is Death":

"I have only slipped away into the next room, I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used to.
Play, smile and think of me. All is Well."

"He describes a place of comfort," explained Col. Cloutier, "A place of easy communication, and he describes a feeling of coming home. That is exactly what this memorial is and should always be. That other room, that place where we can come to mourn, remember and speak with our Fallen."

Colonel Cloutier also thanked all the people that made the memorial possible, whether through donations or hard work.

"Thanks to all our sponsors and individual donors, to Dan and Tim Gay for all their design work, to the Raider Soldiers, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo for supporting our efforts and giving us permission to build, James and Jill Crider for carrying the ball across the goal line, Command. Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson for all your support and finally, a very special thanks to Laura Rittenhouse. You may not know this but even though she was battling a life-threatening illness, she continued to single-handedly pull this together," he said.

Behind him, the memorial stood, pillars of stone with the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Although the flowers and trees have yet to bloom and leaf, they represent the lives able to live because of the departed.

"So we have a special place to remember our Fallen," Col. Cloutier said to end his speech, "Just down the street from Warrior's Walk, surrounded by palm trees and Soldiers hurrying by during the course of their duties. We have that special place where we can talk to our old friends in the easy way we used to."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16