3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Robert Abrams paid homage Monday to veterans of all ages — old war heroes in wheelchairs to tattooed young vets who enlisted after 9/11. Abrams spoke about military members’ courage and sacrifice and that of their families during the annual American Legion Fred L. Ginter Post 168 Memorial Day observance in Hinesville.
Abrams said for many in Liberty County, Memorial Day is not just the unofficial start to summer but an opportunity “to remember friends and comrades.”
“Eighty percent of our soldiers joined post 9/11,” the general said. “I assure you their patriotism is no less (sincere) than yours.”
“They’re [today’s soldiers] doing a heck of a job in my book,” retired Staff Sgt. Paul Rivers said. Rivers, a Korean War veteran, said he has the utmost respect for the service men and women who voluntarily joined and would like to see the draft re-established. A draft would give the military “a broader sweep of the nation,” he said.
Abrams appeared at the local Memorial Day observance just days after returning from a trip to Iraq, where he inspected 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team troops currently deployed there.
Abrams said Iraqi security forces “were wonderful hosts” and gave him “unfettered access” while he was there. He said he had not been to Iraq in three years and saw the “phenomenal” progress American troops and the Iraqis have made. The country’s infrastructure is coming along well, Abrams said, “although, electricity is still a challenge.”
He said the 4th Brigade has taken the Iraqi security forces’ military training “to a new level” helping them move beyond handling a counter insurgency to acquiring the skill sets and confidence they need to “defend their borders.”
Abrams said for the past eight months the Vanguard Brigade has focused on new training centers in Iraq.
He also commented how some of today’s newer memorials, such as Warriors Walk and the Raiders Memorial at Fort Stewart, give soldiers, veterans and their families a “personal connection to their (soldiers’) units.”
Abrams attended a candlelight vigil on Cottrell Field on Sunday evening and met a number of Gold Star families during the event.
“It was incredibly powerful,” he said.
The general said the Army is making a commitment not to forget its fallen or their families.
Abrams greeted a number of veterans after the Memorial Day observance ended, including former Staff Sgt. Shawn Sethman.
Sethman served in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. The young veteran attended the event with his 3-year-old son, Keoni. Now a Honeywell contract employee, Sethman will leave for Afghanistan today. He will teach troops how to operate new FMTVs — Family and Medium Tactical Vehicles — he said.
His advice to today’s soldiers: “If you’re healthy, stay in; get your retirement. It’s not (a bad life). There’s a lot of perks.”