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Stewart MP gets tree on Warrior's Walk
Staff sergeant killed in Afghanistan
SGT Rudzinski1
Staff Sgt. Christopher Rudzinski - photo by Photo provided.
Even tough guys cry. Just ask Lt. Col. Michael Henshaw, with the 293rd Military Police Company, 385th Military Police Battalion, 16th MP Brigade (Airborne) at Fort Stewart.
Henshaw spoke to the media about how he and the rest of the 385th MP Battalion were handling the loss of the late Staff Sgt. Christopher Rudzinski, who died Oct. 16 from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his vehicle near Kandahar, Afghanistan. A tree dedication was held Thursday in Rudzinski’s honor at Warriors Walk.
“I cried when I got the phone call,” Henshaw said.  The commander explained a particular phone number shows up on his Blackberry when there’s really bad news.
“You never get used to it. Never,” he said. “I hope I never have to go through another one.”
Henshaw said it’s hard to see Rudzinski’s family grieve. He pointed out the young sergeant had an extended family among his fellow soldiers. Henshaw said the respect and affection Rudzinski’s fellow soldiers held for the hard-working staff sergeant was evidenced by the long line of MPs who offered condolences to Rudzinski’s family.
“I wish there was more written about Sgt. Rudzinski,” the lieutenant colonel said.  Henshaw added the sergeant lived to serve through the Army. “He was a good man, a good father, a good husband and a great soldier.”
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, senior commander of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, echoed Henshaw’s sentiment.
“We have here two families,” Phillips told those gathered for the dedication.
The general eulogized Rudzinski and talked about how he came from a family with a proud tradition of military service. And, he spoke about the sergeant as an individual.
“Staff Sgt. Rudzinski loved science and music,” Phillips said. Rudzinski loved science so much he took two more years of the subject in high school than was required, the general said.
Rudzinski’s impressive military accomplishments also were lauded. He earned a number of medals for his service, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters and the Army Good Conduct Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters.
The fallen soldier had joined the Army 10 years ago, before he was 18. He served in Kosovo with the 1st Armored Division, and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Rudzinski also deployed in 2006, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He deployed last July with the 293rd MP Company to Afghanistan.
Rudzinski’s family, including his wife Caroline, father Michael and infant son Ryan attended the dedication of an eastern redbud tree in the fallen soldier’s honor. There are now 241 memorial trees planted along Warriors Walk.
“This ceremony is important,” Henshaw said. “These trees symbolize the lives of these soldiers. It is a celebration of life instead of death. These trees will continue to grow.”
Henshaw added he would like to see more people “from outside the gates” of Fort Stewart pay their respects to the fallen soldiers by attending tree dedication ceremonies and visiting Warriors Walk.
Local man Bob Haldeman was one person from outside the post gates who attended the service. He said he and his wife have “adopted” a fallen soldier’s memorial on Warriors Walk, the one belonging to Staff Sgt. Vincent E. Summers. The couple has decorated the tree with wind chimes and a dainty garden globe which sits at the tree’s base.
“We came here (to Warriors Walk) for the first wreath laying ceremony,” Haldeman recalled. “This was the first tree we came to that didn’t have a wreath on it.”
Haldeman said he and his wife have even planted an eastern redbud tree in their yard, and are having a small headstone made bearing Summers’ name. This stone will be placed before the tree in Haldeman’s yard for a soldier he never knew but doesn’t want anyone to forget.
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