By Spc. Dustin Gautney, 2nd BCT Public AffairsFebruary 19, 2009
ARLINGTON, VA. On a cool morning in February hundreds of Families and servicemembers walk amid the endless rows of granite headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Each person attending delicately placed bright red silk roses honoring the fallen Warriors, reminding all of those in attendance of the saying etched on a nearby monument honoring the Heroes: "Freedom is not free."
For ten 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3 ID Soldiers who volunteered their time, seeing the countless number of Warriors buried at Arlington and meeting with Families of the fallen Heroes left a lasting imprint on their memories.
"Honestly, it was an honor as well an overwhelming experience," said Staff Sgt. Patrick Buckley, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd BCT, 3 ID.
The Spartan Soldiers helped place silk roses in section 60 of Arlington, the section dedicated to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, said Buckley.
"That was my first time ever visiting Arlington," Buckley said. "It is hard to not to feel a little choked up when you see how large Arlington is and seeing how many fallen Warriors are there from all wars. Also being there to speak with Families of loved ones was a very moving experience."
Like the placing of holiday wreaths, the placing of silk roses is part of Arlington's seasonal changes. In winter months, silk roses are used because live flowers cannot withstand the chill of winter months.
"It's painful no matter how much time has passed. You never forget the loss of a child," said Emma Jean James, mother of Lt. Col. Leon G. James, who was killed during a roadside bombing in 2005 while serving in OIF.
"Being able to talk and spend time with Soldiers really boosts my morale," said James.
When James heard that Soldiers from 3 ID were showing their support at the ceremony, she sought them out to spend time with them.
"I actually spent a couple of days with the Soldiers," James said, "They were so cordial and friendly. I think it was great that they were able to come up here and offer support."
First Lieutenant Calvin Grubbs, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Division, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, agrees.
"To be chosen to come here and offer support to Arlington and the Families is truly a great honor," said Grubbs.
The Soldiers chosen from battalions within the Spartan Brigade represented the best of the brigade, said Grubbs.
"It's a surreal experience, but it certainly will be a cherished memory I'll take with me forever."