By KRIS GONZALEZ, Fort Jackson LeaderJune 24, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- As Fort Jackson community members and visitors pass by the Strom Thurmond building today, they will be flanked by newly planted trees memorializing some of South Carolina's fallen heroes.
Thirteen Bloodgood Japanese maple trees have been planted in front of the building near the intersection of Strom Thurmond and Jackson boulevards in memory of 13 South Carolina Soldiers who were killed in action.
A "Wall of Remembrance," adorned with photos of the 13 fallen Soldiers, has also been erected and will stand on display inside the front entrance of the building.
Those recognized are among the 75 South Carolina Soldiers killed in action since 9/11.
The display was presented to the Soldiers' surviving family members Tuesday during a "Wall of Remembrance" dedication in which Maj. Gen. James Milano, Fort Jackson Commanding General, honored the fallen Soldiers for their gallantry.
"It's critical to never forget (that) we're a nation at war and there are many who have made extraordinary sacrifices on our behalf," Milano said. "For our families (of Soldiers) who have fallen... please accept our sincere gratitude for the faithful and dedicated service and sacrifice your loved one made on behalf of our nation."
During the somber ceremony, Milano presented each family with a photograph of the family's Soldier framed alongside the poem, "A Shared Tear."
Immediately afterward, the families were escorted outside to the trees representing each fallen Soldier.
"They are beautiful," said Antoinette Stack. "I am just so glad they are doing this here, so everyone remembers the fallen - our boys, our children, our babies - because we will always think of them as our babies."
Stack's son, Sgt. Maj. Michael Stack, a Lake City native serving with the 5th Special Forces Group based out of Fort Campbell, Ky., was killed in Iraq in 2004 when his convoy was attacked with small arms fire during a patrol.
Jane and Hampton Caughman's son, Spc. Thomas Day Caughman, a Lexington native who was serving with the 458th Engineering Battalion, was killed in Iraq that same year.
The Caughmans said they were grateful for the tribute, as well as the support of the Army and its Survivor Outreach Services program, which sponsored Tuesday's dedication.
"I think I would probably speak for every family when I say one of the biggest threats or worries that you have (as a survivor) is that nobody remembers," Hampton Caughman said. "But ... this here today, and other things that the Army has done for us to honor Thomas, helps us in our healing process."
"The trees are a very nice way to remember the ones who have given their lives," Jane Caughman said. "You know when people ride by they'll see them; it's just a constant reminder.
"That's what we need to do - always remember them, and remember we are still at war and there's a lot of families affected, still, every day," she said.
The Soldiers honored Tuesday were:
Staff Sgt. Aaron Brown
Spc. Thomas Day Caughman
Capt. Richard Cliff Jr.
Sgt. Andrew Derrick
Pvt. 1st Class Robert Earl Foster
Capt. Kimberly Hampton
Staff. Sgt. Jerome Lemon
Master Sgt. Danny Maybin
Sgt. 1st Class Edward Nelson
Staff Sgt. Ronald Phillips Jr.
Sgt. Maj. Michael Stack
Spc. Abraham Wheeler III
Spc. Harry 'Buck" Winkler III