More than 100 family members of eight 3rd Infantry Division soldiers took part in a tree-dedication ceremony Thursday morning. Six of the eight soldiers honored with living memorials were assigned to the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade at Hunter Army Airfield.
Brig. Gen. John Hort, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear, said the eight recently planted Eastern redbud trees bring the total number of soldiers memorialized at Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk to 453. Public Affairs Officer Pat Young said the highest number of soldiers memorialized at one tree dedication ceremony was 43 in 2005.
“We have families here today from 15 different states,” said Hort, who called the day’s ceremony a somber event but also a special occasion to remember loved ones. “Every soldier memorialized along this walk is a hero.”
Hort said that memorials for previous wars usually are in some distant field, but Warriors Walk is located where these soldiers served. While emphasizing they were all volunteers who were committed to each other, he called each soldier by name: Staff Sgt. Rex L. Schad, Capt. Sara Knutson-Cullen, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Bryan J. Henderson, Staff Sgt. Mark A. Scialdo, Staff Sgt. Steven P. Blass, Spec. Zachary L. Shannon, Spec. David. T. Proctor and Chief Warrant Officer-3 James E. Groves III. Hort also provided short biological sketches of the fallen troops.
“Each of them left behind fruitful lives and incredible families,” he said. “The love we feel for these great soldiers will not fade away into the night.”
Concluding, he said Gen. Douglas MacArthur best described the ultimate sacrifice made by the soldiers they were honoring.
“ ... However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind,” MacArthur told his men of the Rainbow Division in 1935 near the end of his tenure as chief of staff of the Army.
Behind the tents reserved for family members and special guests, a sea of black berets stood in formation, mostly soldiers with the 3rd CAB who were there to honor their fallen comrades. The 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team currently is deployed, but a large number of friends and fellow soldiers were on hand to pay their respects.
After the unveiling of each granite marker, family members were invited to visit their loved ones’ trees. Some came with flowers and other mementos, which they placed next to the trees. Claudine Ehlers, sister of Mark Scialdo, told reporters that, of course, their family was devastated by Scialdo’s loss, but she appreciated the support her family had received from the “Army family.”
Edwin Bryan, Bryan Henderson’s uncle, spoke fondly about his nephew’s love for the family farm in Franklin, La., recalling several instances in Bryan’s boyhood that indicated the kind of man he would become. Henderson’s mother, Jill Bryan Henderson, said her son had lived more in his 27 years than most people live in a full lifetime. She said the best way to honor her son is to honor the flag and country he died serving.