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Fallen troops parents honored
Families send messasges to loved ones
Parents release their balloon messages on Cottrell Field. - photo by Photo by Lewis Levine
The 27 Gold Star Mothers who attended Sunday afternoon’s recognition and remembrance ceremony at Fort Stewart’s Marne Chapel had one thing in common — they are parents of fallen soldiers. The first annual event, sponsored by the Survivor Outreach Services, was part of a military-wide long-term support program for surviving family members.
Mothers from as far away as Gainesville, Fla., and as close as Richmond Hill attended the hourlong ceremony. They listened as Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton spoke to the crowd of parents and siblings. His words elicited tears from some.
“You took pride in your children and you found comfort in the fact that they died doing something that they loved. Protecting the ideals of their great nation,”  Milton said. “Today, we gather to pay tribute to your tears and assure you that, by no means, the legacies of your soldier will ever be forgotten by this grateful nation.”
When the colonel finished his remarks, he gave each mother a garrison commander’s coin. Each coin is stamped with the words “Team Fort Stewart,”  the 3rd Infantry Division’s logo and the garrison commander’s logo.  
Ronna Jackson, who traveled from her home in Gainesville, Fla., held the coin in the palm of her hand and broke down into tears as she gazed at it. Her husband Jerry comforted her. Jackson’s son, Staff Sgt. John Reiners, was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo. He was killed by an IED explosion in February while serving in Afghanistan, she said as she fought back tears.
“He was my son first and then my hero. It’s an honor just to be his mom, I carried him for nine months and raised him ’til he was 18. He repaid me with the greatest gift of all — service to his country,” Jackson said.
The parents mingled, introduced themselves to one another and enjoyed refreshments before walking to Cottrell Field, which is flanked on either side by 434 eastern redbud trees, planted in honor of fallen 3rd Infantry Division soldiers.
 On Cottrell, the group learned about the history of Warriors Walk. Each mother was then given a white balloon and a black marker with which to write a personnel message to their fallen soldiers.
Loice Chavers of Portal wrote her son, Sgt. Brock Chavers, a series of brief messages about his horses and dogs and much she misses him.  
“Brock and I were very close, we would talk every day. I left him a message  about his horses and dogs. I told him I’m sick of your horses and dogs, but because you loved them, I love them to and I’m taking care of them.”  
Chavers also told her son how much she misses talking to him. She said by writing messages to her child on a balloon, she felt closer to him.  
On the center of the field, the mothers released their balloon messages on cue. The balloons drifted slowly into the sky as those below hoped their loved ones might receive the carefully penned messages.
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