By Capt. Mark Geeting, Public Affairs OperationsDecember 18, 2008
FORT STEWART, GA -- Over 3,000 Family Members, local veterans, grateful citizens and fellow Soldiers, paid homage to 417 fallen 3rd Infantry Division heroes of the Global War on Terrorism, Dec. 13 at a special ceremony held at Fort Stewart's Cottrell Field. The fallen heroes were honored during the holiday season with the laying of a Christmas wreath at the base of each tree at Warrior's Walk.
Each year America's native Eastern Redbud trees bloom from mid-March through mid-April. It was at that time in late March of 2003 the ground assault began into Iraq. Marne Soldiers spearheaded Coalition Forces into Iraq, liberating an oppressed people and smashing the regime of the brutal Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein. It is for this reason Warrior's Walk now consists of three meandering sidewalks aligned with these Eastern Redbud trees.
Warrior's Walk serves as a living monument to the 417, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the Global War on Terrorism.
Each fallen Marne Soldier at Warrior's Walk is honored with an Eastern Redbud tree dedicated in their memory. At the base of each tree is a granite marker with the memorialized Soldier's name, rank and unit.
Due to last year's popularity, this was the second year wreaths were laid at Warrior's Walk. Original organizers Tony Justi and Bruce Muncher, Directorate of Information Management, received some special assistance this year. The now annual ceremony is held in coordination with Fort Stewart Garrison and the Wreaths for Warrior's Walk organization. Wreaths for Warrior's Walk is a local, non-profit organization comprised of installation employees, veterans and local volunteers. Each wreath was donated by Wreaths Across America, a national organization dedicated to placing holiday wreaths at the headstones of our nation's fallen heroes at national cemeteries and monuments like Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.
This year's Warrior's Walk ceremony began with a moment of silence observed at the same time as the Laying of the Wreath Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. The 3rd ID Chaplain, Lt. Col. Bryan Walker gave the invocation, followed by remarks by the installation and 3rd Infantry Division Commander, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo.
"In this season of giving, it is appropriate that we remember our fallen Dogface Soldiers and remember the gift of freedom they have given us," Cucolo said. "Moreover, we should also take a moment and think of what we will do with this gift they have given us."
Later, honors were paid to each fallen Soldier by the laying of a Christmas wreath at the base of each tree by the Families, fellow Soldiers, veterans and friends of the memorialized Soldiers.
One of the fallen Soldiers honored was Spc. Russell H. Nahvi, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment who was killed in action on Oct. 19, 2005 as a result of an improvised explosive device during a routine patrol.
On hand at this years ceremony to honor Spc. Nahvi and lay his wreath were members of the 5/7 CAV's Medical Platoon, Staff Sgt. George Smith, Staff Sgt. David Cooper, Staff Sgt. Joel Buchannan, Sgt. Daniel Simmons and Spc. Kenneth Banks. Following the ceremony these Soldiers reminisced about some of their bitter-sweet memories of their fallen comrade. They said the ceremony helped them bring closure to much of their own grief surrounding Navhi's death.