A light breeze ruffled the leaves of trees and flags along Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk on Thursday morning as loved ones, friends and soldiers gathered for the dedication of eastern redbud trees in honor of three fallen 3rd Infantry Division soldiers. Warriors Walk now contains 439 trees.
Sgt. Brandon S. Hocking, 24, of Seattle, Wash., was killed March 21 in As Samawah, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade.
Maj. Wesley J. Hinkley, 36, of Carlisle, Pa., died April 4 in Baghdad, Iraq, as a result of a non-combat-related incident. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade.
Spc. Gary L. Nelson III, 20, of Woodstock, Ga., died April 5 in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat-related incident. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
After the national anthem, a prayer invocation and a poem reading, Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division, welcomed family members and eulogized the fallen soldiers.
“These men were patriots … and they served their country with pride and honor,” he said. “We should not dwell on how these men died, but rather we should dwell on how they lived and what they stood for when their country needed them.”
Hinkley had 17 years of active military service. He started as an enlisted soldier with a four-year commitment and then attended Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, where he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He married “the love of his life,” Melissa, in 2005, before his first deployment to Iraq. The couple’s son, Gregory, is 3 years old. According to Abrams, Hinkley was a very intelligent man with a penchant for history. He had aspired to pursue a master’s degree in business administration at Texas A&M University.
“He was a soldier who lived the values of honor and duty,” Abrams said. “He’ll be sorely missed and will never be forgotten.
“Sgt. Brandon Hocking was a soldier who understood duty and selfless service,” Abrams continued. “He took his job seriously, but he had a big smile with a tremendous sense of humor that would put others around him at ease, even during the worst of times.”
Hocking enjoyed working on cars, collecting and shooting firearms, playing guitar and shooting pool in his free time. His peers often heard him singing Johnny Cash songs. Hocking was interested in becoming a Ranger and joining Special Forces during his military career. He dreamed of starting a car-repair business. Hocking leaves behind a wife and four children.
“His devotion to the Army and his family will always be remembered,” Abrams said.
Nelson, a supply specialist, was an unsung hero who enjoyed his work, according to the commanding general.
“Professionally, he was known as a tireless worker, going the extra mile to help his unit and other soldiers, and always volunteered for missions,” Abrams said. “The impact he made upon his unit was far above that which is normally expected of someone of his age and experience.”
Nelson loved music and played guitar often. He hoped to enter college and eventually the business world.
“We will forever remember and are grateful for these three men’s service,” Abrams said.