A 24-year-old soldier, husband, father, son and brother was memorialized Thursday morning with a tree dedication ceremony at Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk.
Arkansas native Sgt. Jason Swindle was remembered with a granite memorial and a living memorial — an eastern red bud tree.
Swindle’s wife Chelsey; his father and mother, Jerry and Joy Swindle; and four brothers, Joey, Matt, Sam and John, were present for the ceremony, along with members of his unit, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Swindle’s sons, Paxton, 1, and newborn Jason Jr., were unable to attend. The youngest was born Dec. 3 — his father’s birthday — more than three months after Swindle was killed in action in Afghanistan.
Brig. Gen. John Hort, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear, thanked Swindle’s family for their sacrifice and for attending the ceremony. With a backdrop of sunny skies, but strong winds, he recognized Swindle’s father for his service with the U.S. Marine Corps and his support for the Army by having had three sons serve in the Army. At one point, all of sons were deployed at the same time.
He welcomed guests, especially the soldiers from Swindle’s unit, thanking them for taking part in the 444th tree dedication at Warriors Walk.
Hort said wars today are different than past wars in that they’re fought by volunteers dedicated to their teammates and the mission.
“Let us not dwell on how Jason left us, but rather by how he lived when his nation called,” Hort said. “I want us to remember he was an outstanding person on and off duty.”
Hort told about Swindle’s twin brother, John, coming to see him off for a deployment. He was dressed in civilian clothes and drinking a beer. A noncommissioned officer in Swindle’s unit came over to John, ready to take “corrective actions,” only to learn he was Swindle’s twin. Hort also noted that friends recalled a floppy hat Swindle always wore while mowing his lawn, a hat that fit his happy personality.
Swindle’s first sergeant, Scott Collum, took time after the ceremony to talk with reporters. Explaining that he first met Swindle in 2008 and deployed with him to Iraq in 2009, Collum said the one thing he remembered most about the young soldier was his bright red hair.
“He had such a positive mental attitude,” Collum said. “He didn’t worry about the heat, the long hours or the heavy equipment.”
Collum said he has lost a lot of sleep since his soldier died during a security mission. He said he was relieved knowing that Swindle’s family was being cared for, and he had some closure now that his soldier had been memorialized with a tree on Warriors Walk.
Sgt. Christopher Shaul said he and Swindle were friends because they served in the same company and were both from Arkansas.Consequently, they were both Arkansas Razorbacks fans. Every day, Swindle would yell, “it’s the year of the hog,” he said.
“Sgt. Swindle was one of the greatest guys you’d ever want to meet,” said Shaul, agreeing with his first sergeant about the importance for the tree dedication ceremonies. “Anytime I want to remember him now, I have a living memorial I can visit.”
Swindle served in the Army seven years. His awards included the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and both the Expert and Combat Infantryman badges.