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“There is a place / That I must go / And speak to soldiers / That I don’t know / I go there often / Just to talk / On this sacred ground / Called Warriors Walk.”
Fort Stewart hosted the ninth annual Wreaths for Warriors Walk ceremony Saturday. Inspired by the wreaths placed on the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, the families of fallen 3rd Infantry Division soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as comrades, friends and residents of the surrounding community, came out to lay a wreath at the base of the 468 trees on the walk.
This year marked a significant milestone, as no additional trees were planted on the walk for the first time since the annual wreath event began. Fort Stewart also is the only installation in the country to have a living memorial, according to Wreaths for Warriors Walk co-founder Bruce Muncher.
Muncher said the organizers hold the wreath ceremony each year to honor the families of the fallen.
“They are our guests of honor,” he said. “They’re the ones sitting in the main grandstands. It’s all about them.”
The ceremony is held on Cottrell Field, which the walk borders on both sides and is the site for major ceremonies and homecomings at Fort Stewart.
Families of the fallen wear name badges that say who they are there to represent on the walk. The Gold Star they wear signifies that their family has felt the full impact of a soldier’s ultimate sacrifice.
The poem “Another Tree Planted” by Reese Bishop was read during the ceremony. It speaks of coming to Warriors Walk to reflect on the lives and sacrifice of the fallen.
“We take for granted / So very much/ Like reaching out / Being able to touch / So I go there / My thanks to give / I’m grateful to them / For the life I live.”
Maj. Gen. James Rainey, the commanding general of 3rd ID, said “There’s nothing that I could say that would be worthy of the significance of the sacrifice and the loss and the commitment that you all have made.”
He then read aloud the famous Bixby letter that is attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, written in 1864 to a mother whose sons were killed during the Civil War.
Rainey concluded by saying that any family who needed anything need only ask.
“We’ll always be here for you,” he said. “And we’ll never forget your fallen loved one.”
After the ceremony, the family members were escorted to their soldier’s tree by 3rd ID soldiers, including Brenda and Leonard Luxmore, the parents of Cpl. Bryant J. Luxmore.
The Luxmores make the trip every year to take part in Wreaths for Warriors Walk.
Cpl. Luxmore of New Windsor, Illinois, was killed June 10, 2012, in Afghanistan at age 25 by small-arms fire as he was walking the point during a dismounted patrol. He had a wife, Jaimie, and son, Lane, who is now 7. Cpl. Luxmore had deployed in March 2012.
He was posthumously promoted to corporal and awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge, according to his memorial website.
Waiting for his parents on Warriors Walk was a Georgia Youth Challenge Academy cadet with a wreath for them to lay at the base of his tree.
The trees had been decorated with Christmas ornaments by Gold Star mother Linda Lamie and volunteers Friday. Lamie has been decorating the trees for years, starting with her own son’s, Sgt. Gene Lamie, on the first year of the wreath ceremony, according to Muncher.
The colorful orbs hung from the tree above Leonard Luxmore as he grasped the wreath.
His wife and Luxmore’s former comrade, Staff Sgt. David Campbell of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat team, looked on.
He placed the wreath at the base of the tree and then walked back to the group as they looked at the tree.
Cpl. Luxmore was “just a kindhearted young man that since 9/11 just always spoke of going to the military,” his father said. “Finished high school, finished college and still chose that direction. That’s what he just felt he needed to do.
“Certainly miss him, terribly, but it was something that he wanted to do and felt he needed to do, and I certainly respect that,” he said.
Campbell said Cpl. Luxmore was “a great soldier.”
“I consider him one of the guys that was fast-tracking to go ahead and do great things for the Army,” he said. “It’s just, his life got cut short defending this country.”
Campbell, who was injured when Cpl. Luxmore was killed, said the Luxmores helped him deal with his fellow soldier’s death, and he now considers them like family.
Brenda, Cpl. Luxmore’s mother, said that after her son graduated college and still wanted to join the army, “We accepted his wishes and prayed every day.”
“He was a good soldier for the short time. But this is what he wanted to do, and we’re thankful and very proud of that,” she said. “He was kind of the center of our family.”
“I think one of the fears of any parent that loses a loved one like this is just the fear of people forgetting,” Leonard Luxmore said. “And when you come to things like this and see what people do, what organizations do to make everyone aware of what this is all about, it’s pretty heartwarming.”
At Cpl. Luxmore’s tree is a black stone marker the family made with a picture of him with his wife and son.
“It’s just peace of knowing that somewhere else he’s honored,” Brenda said about what she takes away with her every year she comes to Warriors Walk.
“Somebody else is walking by and seeing his face and knowing the sacrifice he made. … It’s hard, but it brings us peace that one more person walking by will know his name.”