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1st Brigade breaks ground on memorial
raider memorial 3
Fort Stewart officials, memorial sponsors and other dignitaries break ground on the 1st Brigade’s Raider Memorial Wednesday underneath a rain-soaked tarp. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Fort Stewart commanding officers, dignitaries and local business leaders braved wet, windy weather to break ground on the Raider Brigade Fallen Soldier Memorial on Wednesday afternoon. The 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team had the groundbreaking in advance of its soldiers’ imminent deployment to Iraq this week and next.
“We’re hoping to be finished with this memorial by the time they come back (from Iraq) and have it dedicated when they return,” said Laura Chandler Rittenhouse, Raider Memorial chairman.
Rittenhouse, who is married to Maj. Michael Rittenhouse of the 1st Brigade, said she initiated efforts to build the memorial because she wanted to “give something back” to the 1st Brigade soldiers and their families.
“I’ve been a military spouse for 16 years,” she said. “I’ve always been a part of something to give back.”
The officer’s wife has been involved in various fundraising efforts over the years, such as raising money for scholarships and welfare requests, she said.
Rittenhouse said after speaking with other members of the 1st Brigade and meeting families who lost loved ones in Iraq she felt a memorial was needed.
The Raider Memorial mission statement posted on the memorial Web site reflects Rittenhouse’s commitment: “We created the Raider Brigade Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial to remember the lives of our loved ones who are no longer with us. Following the completion of the brigade’s third deployment to Iraq in less than five years, we realized the need to honor our fallen soldiers and recognize the tremendous sacrifices of those who volunteered to serve. We can never repay that kind of dedication and selflessness, but we can and we must honor and remember them for their courage and dedication.”
Rittenhouse estimates 90 to 100 names will be put on the memorial’s wall.
“I hope that’s all the names there will be,” she said, although there will be room for more if needed.
The memorial also will include an island area where visitors can sit on stone benches in quiet meditation. 
“The island is a place of comforting, for one or for many,” said Col. Roger Cloutier, 1st Brigade commander. “It is a place of honor.”
He said the memorial was a culmination of 18 months of work by people like Rittenhouse. The colonel thanked Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commanding general of the 3rd ID, for granting permission for the memorial to be built, as well as area sponsors for donating money and in-kind services.
Rittenhouse said a fundraising goal of $100,000 has been set and that about half has already been collected. The officer’s wife said project sponsors have been generous in giving emotional, as well as monetary, support.
Lee Gound, executive vice president of Navy Federal Credit Union, said attending the ground breaking evoked a mix of pain and pride.
“It brings back memories of 47 years ago,” Gound, a Vietnam veteran, said in a choked voice.
A Marine, he served more than two years in fierce combat. He said he will always remember the heroic actions of a young Army warrant officer. Gound had radioed for help to get his injured men flown to safety. The Army helicopter pilot was the one who answered that call, he said.
Navy Federal Credit Union, one of the memorial sponsors, donated $10,000.
Other sponsors include Savannah Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Infinity Design Builders, BAE Systems, Southern Eagle Distributing Budweiser, GeoVista Credit Union, First Southern Services, Saturn of Savannah, Elm Press, Oglethorpe Marble and Granite Company, Coastal Empire AUSA and the Fort Stewart Officer Spouses Club.
The Raider Memorial will be on the grounds of the 1st Brigade’s headquarters building, across from Warriors Walk on Fort Stewart.
“It is fitting that this memorial resides across from Warriors Walk,” Cloutier said. “The memorial means more to us than you’ll ever know. It is more than a garden of stone.”
The colonel said visitors will understand the value of the Raider Memorial when they see tears on the faces of the families whose loved ones’ names appear on the memorial wall.
To make a donation contact Rittenhouse by mail: Laura Chandler Rittenhouse, Raider Brigade Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Chairman, P.O. Box 4050, Fort Stewart, GA, 31315. Or, call 912-445-0186. For more information, visit
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