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1st Brigade dedicates Raider memorial for fallen soldiers
0403 Raider memorial dedication 1
Raider Memorial Chairwoman Laura Rittenhouse, left, and her family discuss the memorial dedication with 1st Brigade public affairs officer Maj. Vince Porter before the ceremony Friday. - photo by Denise Etheridge

Described as a tranquil space where soldiers can commune with their fallen comrades, the Raider memorial was dedicated Friday on the grounds of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team headquarters at Fort Stewart, across the street from Warriors Walk.

The memorial consists of four stone pillars, each adorned with a plaque bearing the names of Raider soldiers who died in the line of duty. There also are memorial pavers encircling the space and wrought-iron benches where soldiers, friends and families can sit and reflect.

During the solemn ceremony, a wreath was placed in the center of the memorial. Then the names of 108 fallen 1st Brigade soldiers were read aloud. A Raider soldier played a mournful rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, and a line of soldiers offered a gun salute.

Carol Lumpkin, widow of fallen 1st Brigade soldier Sgt. Johnny Lumpkin, accepted her husband’s medal, which was awarded posthumously. Lumpkin, 38, saved another soldier during the accident that claimed his life July 2, 2010. The sergeant died from injuries he sustained when a panel from a mobile radar system fell on him, according to Fort Stewart public affairs. He was serving his third deployment to Iraq when he died.

Lumpkin was with the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment.

"Eight years ago this week, the Raider brigade was fighting its way to Baghdad," recalled 1st Brigade Commander Col. James Crider. He said the sacrifice "of those who have gone before and those who have served beside us make us who we are."

Crider praised his predecessor, former 1st Brigade Commander Col. Roger Cloutier, now the 3rd Infantry Division’s chief of staff, for initially conceiving the memorial project. Crider also lauded Laura Chandler Rittenhouse, who spearheaded fundraising efforts for the memorial. Rittenhouse is married to 1st Brigade officer Maj. Michael Rittenhouse.

"Laura broke through barriers that seemed impossible," he said.

Cloutier also thanked Rittenhouse for her "personal sacrifice," noting she remained committed to the project despite her own "life-threatening" illness, from which she has recovered, and her father’s current illness.

"This may have been my idea, but it was your hard work and dedication that brought the project to fruition," he said. Cloutier said the memorial will serve as "another room" where soldiers can "talk to old friends in the easy way we used to."

Guest speaker Lt. Col. (retired) Rock Marcone of St. Paul, Minn., said he could not come up with "enough adjectives and nouns" to convey what he wanted to say about the memorial.

"Some of my boys are on that wall," Marcone said. He had participated in the 1st Brigade’s initial push into Baghdad when the Iraq War began in 2003.

The 1st Brigade was the first unit to deploy to Iraq three times and one of the first brigades to deploy as part of the surge, according to the Team Stewart website.

Marcone told troops assembled, "The people in your nation love you."

He said the reason soldiers go to war and sacrifice life and limb is to protect an idea: freedom. They voluntarily pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States, Marcone said.

"It is the bond, it is the glue that binds us as brothers and sisters," he said. "It’s who we are. There is no greater honor. There is no greater glory."

Crider said the memorial project took about three years to complete. The brigade broke ground on the memorial in December 2009, just days before the 1st Brigade deployed to Iraq. The Raider brigade returned to Fort Stewart late last year.

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