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Small family feeling loss this Christmas
Wreaths added to fallen soldiers' memorials
In memory: Kymberly and Robert Howdeshell, wife and son of fallen 3rd Infantry Division Sgt. William Howdeshell, kneel in front of a new donated wreath placed against the soldier’s dedicated tree along Warriors Walk. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington
There were two records Sgt. William Howdeshell could be proud of in his life - a decade of distinguished service as a member of the U.S. Army and eight straight years of being home with his wife and son for Christmas.
Both records were broken on a tragic day in July.
Howdeshell and Spcs. Charles E Bilbrey Jr. and Jaime Rodriguez Jr. were on their way to help a unit that had detained a group of suspected terrorists when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee as it crossed a canal in Saqlawiyah, Iraq, on July 26.
The sergeant and his two young soldiers, all members of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, were killed instantly.
Howdeshell’s death came exactly one month before his ninth wedding anniversary, leaving his wife to cope with her new life as a widow and a grieving 8-year-old son trying to make sense of losing the father who was one of his closest friends.
Standing in front of her husband’s dedicated eastern redbud tree along Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk during the Wreaths for Warriors Walk wreath laying ceremony on Saturday, Kymberly Howdeshell said life without her husband remains tough nearly five months later.
“It’s just been unreal,” she said through choked words as her eyes stared at the new wreath placed against her husband’s tree site. “It’s still just extremely difficult.”
Surrounded by hundreds of family, friends and volunteers who attended the ceremony to honor each of the 3rd ID’s 373 fallen heroes with wreaths purchased and donated by local community members, the widow said dealing with the loss was harder with Christmas just over a week away.
“He spent 10 years in the service and he never missed Christmas with us,” she said. “This is the first year he’s not going to be home during Christmas.”
Taking a break from tracing the outside of his father’s wreath with his finger, Robert Howdeshell said he was not sure how he was going to feel the first Christmas morning without his dad, but he kept good memories of time they spent together.
“(We went) to Disney and Busch Gardens,” he said with a smile. “And I (remember) all different things with me and my daddy.”
Watching her son resume his touching of the wreath next to Howdeshell’s tree, Kymberly said standing at the site reminded her of her husband’s sense of duty.
“He loved what he did and he died doing what he loved,” she said. “This is what he wanted to do.”
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