By Staff Sgt. Tanya Polk, 4th IBCT, 3rd ID Public AffairsDecember 17, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. -Though the weather outside was frightful, the hearts of Soldiers, Family Members, Department of the Army Civilians, and local community members were warm as 3rd Infantry Division's fallen heroes at Warriors Walk were remembered once more before the holiday season.
"It's been described to m'e today that the rain is but tears of angels," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear, who spoke to the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield community during the installation's third annual wreath laying ceremony at Cottrell Field, Dec. 12.
The general said that the ceremony, known as Wreaths for Warriors Walk, was held to honor 421 Dog Face Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and died while defending our nation's freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. Holiday wreaths were placed at the base of Eastern Redbud trees, each one planted to serve as a living memorial for each of the fallen Soldiers.
The ceremony, which began with a moment of silence, coincided with Arlington National Cemetery's annual wreath laying.
Anthony Justi, member of the Directorate of Information Management who attended the national event, organized and localized the Stewart-Hunter ceremony in 2007 with co-worker Bruce Muncher. Other volunteers including Susan Ammons, secretary; and Jackie Fornshell, treasurer; Vietnam Veterans of America; Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps; Boy and Girl Scouts, Association of the United States Army; and local veteran motorcycle groups make up the nonprofit organization that keeps Wreaths for Warriors Walk alive.
"By incorporating all of these volunteers into the ceremony, we have our past and our future working together to make the ceremony a success," said Muncher, Wreaths for Warriors Walk vice president. "We started this ceremony and will continue to host it for future years to honor these Soldiers who have died defending our country. We invite all Family Members (of the fallen) to attend, and they are the guests of honor. We want to show them that they and their loved ones will never be forgotten."
This year, 80 Family Members visited Stewart's hallowed grounds to place the floral tributes beside their Soldiers' tree. Muncher said that the ceremony also provided a venue for these Family Members to meet and draw strength from others who can relate to their loss.
"After the ceremony, we take a picture of the wreaths lined up along Warriors Walk and have a post card made of the perfect picture to send to all Family Members that we have a valid address for," he said.
Muncher added that five of the seven ceremonial wreaths are presented to Stewart-Hunter's surrounding cities; the other two are placed at the installation's Desert Storm and Vietnam memorials.
Warriors Walk became an official Army memorial this year. It's most recent tribute was Nov. 19, when the installation held a Tree Dedication Ceremony in honor of Staff Sgt. Christopher Rudzinski, member of the 293rd Military Police Company, 385th MP Battalion. Staff Sergeant Rudzinski died Oct. 16 from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.