A display of 10 or more bright red poinsettias stood between a color guard and bleachers filled with families, soldiers and friends of fallen 3rd Infantry Division soldiers who were honored Saturday at the sixth annual Wreaths for Warriors Walk ceremony on Cottrell Field.
Gloomy skies added to the poignant occasion to memorialize 443 heroes, each represented by an eastern redbud tree. Fort Stewart Public Affairs Officer Kevin Larson said a record 40 families came this year to remember their loved ones.
It was apparent, too, that a record number of soldiers and friends were there this year to remember their fallen comrades, including nearly 150 motorcycle riders.
“This field is where warriors walk,” Col. John Hort, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear told guests. “This is just one of many wreath-laying ceremonies that will be held around the country today. ... Although they have been taken from us, they will be remembered.”
He said the soldiers memorialized at Warriors Walk represent ages 18-51 years old and 49 states and U.S. territories. He called each tree a “living memorial” and reminded everyone they would be walking through “hallowed paths” as they walked between the rows of redbud trees.
Hort said it was important to think about the personal loss of the families of those honored during the Wreaths for Warriors Walk ceremony, in perspective with Friday morning’s tragedy at a Connecticut elementary school.
Following Hort’s remarks, family members were asked to take a wreath from one of the long rows of tables flanking each side of the field and place it on their soldier’s tree. As families moved from the stands to the trees, soldiers and friends were then asked to assist by ensuring a wreath was placed on every tree.
“No, I didn’t know him,” said Maj. Kristopher Howell after laying a wreath at the tree marking Sgt. Eugene Williams’ memorial. “I’ll remember his name now, though.”
Read more in the Dec. 19 edition of the News.