By MSG Jennifer Yancey, 3ID Public AffairsDecember 16, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Many traveled far and wide to Fort Stewart's Cottrell Field for the 4th Annual Wreaths for Warriors Walk wreath ceremony, Dec. 11, to pay homage to those Third Infantry Division Soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Held the second Saturday in December, Wreaths for Warriors Walk coincides with the national ceremony sponsored by Wreaths Across America, according to Tony Justi, Wreaths for Warriors Walk president and cofounder. More than 100 Family Members, representing more than 30 of the fallen Soldiers, traveled from as far as Missouri and Ohio to pay tribute.
Founded in 2007, the goal of Wreaths for Warriors Walk is to honor the sacrifice of 3rd ID's fallen by placing a Christmas wreath at the tree of every Soldier memorialized at Warriors Walk: a message to the Soldiers and their Families that their fallen comrades won't be forgotten.
Staffed solely by volunteers, many of them veterans, it runs with the support of unsolicited donations from businesses across the country.
Damp, frigid temperatures did not deter the Soldiers, Family Members, civilians and friends in attendance, nor the many supporting organizations, including: the Boy Scouts, the Vietnam Veterans Association, Liberty County High School JROTC, the Savannah Civil Air Patrol, the Association of the United States Army, the Girl Scouts and about 109 members of the U.S. Military Veterans Motorcycle Club.
Their dedication to service is what the 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, described as "a labor of volunteer love."
Major General Cucolo took a moment to remember those we've lost.
He quoted Gen. George S. Patton, who once said: 'It is foolish and wrong to mourn men who died. We should thank God such men lived.' While Maj. Gen. Cucolo respectfully disagreed with part of that - "I miss those Soldiers," he said of the 436 fallen.
"They were taken from us too soon." - he did agree that everyone should be thankful for the lives they lived. "We should be grateful to the Families that raised them, loved them and made them who they are," he said.
"I remember him for his sense of humor," said Staff Sgt. William Bowman, of his fallen comrade, Sgt. Gene L. Lamie. Staff Sergeant Bowman, from Net-Centric Operating Environment, Fort Benning, served with Sergeant Lamie at Fort Hood, Texas and during Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Although he's visited Sgt. Lamie's site at Arlington National Cemetery, Staff Sgt. Bowman appreciated being able to honor him at Warriors Walk.
It's fitting that Sgt. Lamie be memorialized at Fort Stewart, where he last served, he said.
The 436 Soldiers honored at Warriors Walk represent diverse backgrounds.
"At Warriors Walk there are three Williams, three Johnsons, two Watkins, two Nelsons and seven Smiths," he said. "But when I hear those names, all that I can think of is: This is America."
Specialist Gina Kellar, an all-wheel mechanic with B Company, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, spent more than four years on Fort Stewart. Kellar said of these heroes, "I've served with some of the greatest people in the world. All ranks, all walks of life."
In making the ultimate sacrifice, these warriors exhibited selfless service.
"They gave us the gift of safety and security by defending our freedoms," said Maj. Gen. Cucolo.
Specialist Kellar said of their sacrifice, "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them," adding, "The made that sacrifice for me."
Major General Cucolo left the audience with an additional goal:
"All of us should humbly take their gifts and leave here today recommitted to a life worthy of their sacrifice."