FORT SILL, Okla. -- Military and civilian leaders, family and friends gathered to dedicate a monument to a man who gave more than 65 years service to his country, many at Fort Sill.

The monument stands in a grassy area near the entry to what will now and forever be called the Command Sgt. Maj. E.J. Ardoin Natural Resources and Enforcement Compound.

Ardoin completed his lengthy service at Fort Sill as the sportsmen services supervisor working to improve training areas on post both for military use and recreational purposes. Throughout his military and civil service careers in all or parts of six decades, Ardoin was a steadfast proponent of what Fort Sill's training areas meant for Soldiers during off-duty hours. Though also an avid hunter and fisherman, he is best known for the many things he did to improve the lives of others, such as the Greenwing Shoot or the Kid's Fishing Derby.

Looking out over Medicine Bluff, Maj. Gen. David Halverson, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill and Fort Sill commanding general, spoke of the perfect setting for the compound. Even as he did so, Canada geese honked along Medicine Creek and a hawk soared in the thermals above. Halverson said it was these moments that reminded us all of what is important in life. Because so much of what Ardoin did benefited Soldiers and their families, Halverson added the ceremony's timing fit right with the beginning of the Month of the Military Child.

"E.J. gave countless hours educating children on the importance of preserving wildlife and natural resources here," said the general. "He loved teaching future sportsmen about the things he cared so much about."

Halverson cited Ardoin's military service record including serving 29 years as a first sergeant or command sergeant major. He said Ardoin was the kind of leader who never set someone up for failure.

Following his military retirement, Ardoin was also instrumental in the post starting the integrated training area management program. ITAM personnel fix training damage and teach Soldiers to train in a manner thats less stressful on the environment. Tree planting was one technique used to shore up damaged areas and something Ardoin especially enjoyed doing. Even now many of Ardoin's trees continue to reach toward the sky extending his legacy of improving Fort Sill for Soldiers and wildlife alike.

Ardoin's wife, Nellie, and their son, Butch, joined Halverson to unveil the memorial. Afterward, Ardoin's son thanked the post and community leaders, along with friends and co-workers of his father for joining with his family to remember his father and what his legacy means to so many.

"He saw this facility as a way to enhance his community and help the people who lived in it. E.J., my father and friend, was a true symbol of what makes this country great, and he showed this through his courage, sacrifice, character, confidence and compassion," said Butch.

He said, though his father could growl and shout, he was a compassionate man through his actions as a cheerleader of the weak, neglected and less fortunate.

"E.J. was the ultimate mentor: whether at home, here at work or in his favorite place -- anywhere he could run his dogs and hunt quail or drift fish for walleye and sand bass," said Butch. "He loved life completely and lived it intensely."

Fitting to Ardoin's legacy, following the ceremony the post held a drawing for hunting privileges for the third annual youth turkey hunt. As Halverson shared a story of a young Soldier who visited sportsmen services recently to show a fishing rod she received during the first kid's fishing derby, perhaps this turkey hunt will lead another youngster to selfless service in a similar manner. Regardless, Soldiers will benefit from a special time with their sons or daughters, and that would be right in line with Ardoin's vision for sportsmen services' impact on the Fort Sill community.