Numerous spouses of Fort Stewart soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored Friday during a special ceremony held at Club Stewart and Warriors Walk.
Gold Star Spouses Day is one of two observances hosted by Stewart’s Army Community Service, or ACS, to remember the sacrifices made by 3rd Infantry Division soldiers and their families. ACS Director William Lukens said Survivor Outreach Services, which also is under ACS, holds a separate ceremony at the Main Post Chapel to honor the parents, grandparents, siblings and children of Fort Stewart soldiers killed while serving on active duty.
“It’s not just these two events,” Lukens said. “We’re in contact with (Gold Star family members) every month. We’re there for them as long as they want us to be.”
Friday’s ceremony kicked off with a buffet lunch followed by remarks from the guest speaker, Col. Mike Calvin, 3rd Sustainment Brigade commander-rear. He told the spouses that no service ACS can provide them will ever take the place of their loved one, but that SOS has no greater cause than to support them and their families.
He talked about the history of Gold Star “wives” day, which began in 1945, with the help of
Eleanor Roosevelt. Its purpose then, and now, was to help the families of fallen soldiers, he said.
Throughout the luncheon, a large screen filled the main ballroom with images of Stewart soldiers who are memorialized at Warriors Walk.
Some soldiers were in their duty uniform downrange, while some were proudly wearing their dress uniform. Some wore civilian attire, and some wore a high-school or college graduation gown. Some pictures were a soldier as a girl or boy. Many depicted soldiers with their families.
Dana Hubbell was one of the Gold Star spouses who attended Friday’s event. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Darren Hubbell, a senior medic with the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, was killed June 20, 2007, in Iraq.
“This event, which they’ve had several years now, lets us know that we’re remembered, as well as our husbands, (our) spouses, sons and daughters,” Dana Hubbell said. “For me, it’s a little bit personal because it’s where (my husband) was stationed. … He loved his country. He loved his family. He loved Fort Stewart and Georgia. To serve his country was an awesome thing for him. He lived for it.”
She expressed gratitude for Warriors Walk, which she said is a comfort because the trees are a living memorial. It’s a place of quiet reflection, she said. Her husband’s tree includes a gray plaque with an engraved picture of him and the words, “Knowing the cost of freedom is not free.”
“I’m in a network of over 2,000 widows,” she said. “Being able to connect with them is amazing. Most of them are spread out across the United States. … It helps because you never know when you’re going to have a breakdown. … It’s vital to have that hug, to have that shoulder (to cry on.”
Hubbell advised military couples and families to “live every day like it’s your last and enjoy each other.”
“Don’t belittle their dreams about being in the military,” she said. “It’s something they want to do. Love them. Support them. Be there for them.”
Following a presentation of mementos and coins to spouses, everyone left Club Stewart, then met again at Warriors Walk. After a short stroll through the memorial, SOS Coordinator Cheryl Sowell released a box of butterflies.
A poem, “I Am Always With You,” was read just prior to the release. It began with the words, “When I am gone, release me; let me go.” The poem ended with the words, “And then, when you come this way alone, I’ll greet you with a smile and a ‘welcome home.’”