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Families of fallen troops remember loved ones
A wreath lays at the bottom of Sgt. Steve McCoy's tree. - photo by Frenchi Jones

The sun glistened and the winter breeze blew as several hundred family and friends of the 3rd Infantry Division’s fallen soldiers filed into the bleachers Saturday at Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field.

Among those gathered to pay respects to the fallen was the family of 23-year-old Steve McCoy, a sergeant from Moultrie who lost his life last June while serving in Iraq.

Members of the non-profit organization Wreaths for Warriors Walk started the event to honor deceased soldiers during the holidays. It gives families of the fallen an opportunity to place a wreath at the foot of a tree dedicated to their loved one.

Throughout the year, the group’s members collect donations to purchase wreaths for each Eastern Red Bud planted in the memory of a soldier.

On Saturday, the organization provided 417 wreaths, one for each tree on the walk.

During the program, the division’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, encouraged the audience to remember those who had lost their lives by living “a life worthy of their sacrifice.”

“The holiday season is about giving more than you received,” he said. “I look at the names of our fallen, and when I hear the names, all I can think of is: This is America. And once again, she has raised and brought forth a corps of diverse men and women who would defend her and our freedom. There is, and should be, joy and timeless gratitude to these young men and women memorialized on this walk.”

 After Cucolo spoke, the colors were presented and a benediction was read. One by one, family members were invited to take a wreath. 

“Please take one wreath and place it at the bed of your loved one’s tree,” the program announcer said.

For those soldiers whose families could not make it to the ceremony, the announcer asked that a volunteer come and place a wreath for them.

By the time McCoy’s family arrived at his tree, someone had already placed a wreath. The gesture made a powerful impression on his grandmother.

“When we got here, we asked who would have placed the wreath for us if we had not been able to come, and they said, ‘Someone would have done it’,” said Ann McCoy, of Warrenton.

“It just makes us feel so good to know that he’s not forgotten. Steve was such a good man, and he would have done anything for anybody.”

Wreaths for Warriors Walk member Bruce Muncher said he wants family members of the deceased to know how much they are respected by the community. That gives his organization its purpose.

“That’s what it is all about,” he said. “Not only have their loved ones sacrificed, but they have also sacrificed. They have sacrificed receiving that hug or that kiss from their loved one.

“It’s our way of giving back to them – those who have sacrificed so much.”

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