By Jennifer Hartwig, Fort Stewart Public AffairsJune 25, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. - The sunny, clear skies belied the somber affair as five more Eastern Redbud trees were added to Fort Stewart's Warriors Walk, June 17.
"Today, Warriors Walk is not silent; today, we gather to remember five brave Soldiers, taken from us too soon in a land far from here, serving in defense of our nation, protecting all we hold dear," said Col. Lou Lartigue, commander, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and the featured speaker at the ceremony. "These five Soldiers laid down their lives so that we may continue to live our lives as free men and women. Today, we will not be silent; we will speak proudly and fondly of the five Soldiers we honor."
Those five fallen Soldier honored during the somber ceremony were 1st Lt. Robert W. Collins, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division; Spc. William Anthony Blount, 1/64 Armor, 2nd HBCT, 3rd ID; Sgt. Anthony O. Magee, 2/69th Armor, 3rd HBCT, 3rd ID; Staff Sgt. Esau S. A. Gonzales, 756th Explosive Ordnance Company; and Staff Sgt. Amilcar H. Gonzalez, 1/64 Armor.
Colonel Lartigue spoke of each Soldier. The common thread that tied them together was that each was well-respected by their fellow Soldiers, and each entered the military knowing that they would likely go to war.
First Lieutenant Robert Collins, a 2008 graduate of West Point and a native of Tyrone, Ga., was the only child of two retired lieutenant colonels, Sharon and Burkitt Collins.
"He chose to go into the Family business, so to speak," said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Sharon Collins. "Our hearts are filled with pride, but they're broken - there's room for both. We try to be as positive as we can and do what we can to honor his memory."
First Lieutenant Robert Collins, 24, was engaged to be married to his high school sweetheart, Nicolle Williams.
"They had a future planned, and that's what I mourn the most - that they didn't get their life together," Sharon Collins said.
Specialist William Anthony Blount, 21 of Petal, Miss., was traveling in the same MRAP as 1st Lt. Collins when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in Mosul, Iraq, April 7.
Specialist Blount was looking forward to coming home for his mid-tour Rest & Relaxation, said Col. Lartigue. He wanted to visit his wife, Amanda, and witness the birth of his daughter, Avery Elizabeth, in May. He died one month shy of that trip back home and the birth of his first child.
Sergeant Anthony McGee, 29, of Hattiesburg, Miss., was known for his big heart. His wife of two months, Courtney, said he was always there to help anyone he came across who needed help.
"Helping someone could have been something as simple as making them smile or laugh, something that Anthony did well, thanks to his sense of humor," Col. Lartigue said.
Staff Sergeant Esau Gonzales, 31, of Panhandle, Fla., had 10 years of active military service. He and his wife, Melissa, had two children - Ava and Sam. "Gonzo," as he was known to his friends, was respected by Soldiers and leaders alike for the amazing amount of dedication he put into everything, said Col. Lartigue.
"Easu was a natural leader, one who placed the needs of the Soldiers under him first," he said.
Staff Sergeant Amilcar Gonzalez, 26, of Miami, Fla., left high school during his senior year on Sept. 17, 2001, to join the Army.
"Amilicar became a respected staff sergeant over the course of four deployments," said Col. Lartigue.
During this deployment, Staff Sgt. Gonzalez earned an Army Commendation Medal for valor.
One by one, each name was read by Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ashmen, 3rd ID command sergeant major-rear, as each Soldier's granite marker was uncovered, and the marker cloths bearing their names were folded and presented to their Family Members.
"I still support what we're doing," said Sharon Collins. "It takes brave men and women to step up, knowing it might not end well."
Now at Warriors Walk, 431 trees stand to honor the Soldiers of the 3rd ID who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
"Though their five trees now stand silent vigil with their 426 comrades, we will preserve their memories," said Col. Lartigue. "We will not allow these five Soldiers to be forgotten, neither their service to nation, nor their devotion to Family."