FORT STEWART, Ga. - A good man, a good husband, a good father, and a great leader.
Those were the words used to describe Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Rudzinski by his battalion commander at the tree dedication ceremony in his honor at Warriors Walk, Nov. 19.Staff Sergeant Rudzinski, 28, of the 293rd Military Police Company, 385th MP Battalion, was killed near Kandahar, Afghanistan, Oct. 16, of wounds suffered when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.The native of Rantoul, Ill. is survived by his wife, Caroline, and his son, Ryan, 1.On a mild, cloudy fall morning at Fort Stewart, Staff Sgt. Rudzinski's name was committed to granite stone and placed in front of an Eastern Redbud, the 421st such tree at Warriors Walk."Chris had a servant's heart," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, deputy commanding general-rear, during the ceremony. "We remember him as a volunteer, a leader, an American Soldier, and we honor him."Staff Sergeant Rudzinski joined the military at the age of 17, a third-generation Soldier who was sworn in by his father, Col. Michael Rudzinski, a 2003 Iraqi war veteran.Staff Sergeant Rudzinski started out as an armor crewman, serving in Kosovo in 1999 and deploying to Iraq in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In August 2004, he reclassified as a military police officer and deployed to Iraq in 2006, where he led a team of MPs that mentored and trained Iraqi Police. In March, Staff Sgt. Rudzinski was assigned to the 293rd MP Co. and deployed to Afghanistan in July."You never get used to it - never," said Lt. Col. Michael C. Henshaw, commander, 385th MP Bn., of the memorial. "And quite frankly, I hope I never do get used to this. Of course, I'd love it if I never had to attend one of these again. It is never fun to watch a Family grieve."In addition to Caroline, Ryan and Col. Rudzinski, there were five other Family Members in attendance, as well as hundreds of member of Staff Sgt. Rudzinski's other Family - his fellow Soldiers."We really have two Families here," said Brig. Gen. Phillips. "The Family constituted by our Soldiers, and the Family constituted by those who stand with them."After the speakers, including Brig. Gen. Phillips and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ashman, command sergeant major-rear, the granite plaque was unveiled and the Rudzinski Family stood for a receiving line, which wound down and around Warriors Walk."I cried today, and I cried when I got the phone call," Lt. Col. Henshaw admitted.Though the solemn ceremony was filled with tears, it was fitting tribute to a Soldier who gave his all for his country with no expectation of gratitude."I think the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Staff Sgt. Rudzinski is duty," Lt. Col. Henshaw said. "He served four combat tours... I wish people like Staff Sgt. Rudzinski were on the cover of the newspapers; what he stood for is so much more important than the celebrities on the magazines."Staff Sergeant Rudzinski was a decorated noncommissioned officer, his awards including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal.The planting of the tree in Staff Sgt. Rudzinski's honor isn't to commemorate his death; it is to celebrate his life, said his commander."This ceremony is important," Lt. Col. Henshaw said. "These trees symbolize the lives of these Soldiers. It is a celebration of life instead of death- these trees will continue to grow."