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Trees dedicated to five fallen soldiers
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The families of five fallen 3rd Infantry Division soldiers are escorted to Warriors Walk on Thursday for a memorial service and tree dedication. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Five fallen 3rd Infantry Division soldiers were memorialized Thursday with the addition of five more eastern red bud trees to the hallowed grove of Warriors Walk, bringing the total number of trees to 431.  
Trees were dedicated to 1st Lt. Robert Collins, 24, and Spc. William Blount, 22, of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID. They died April 7 on deployment to Mosul, Iraq.  The two men were killed in action when enemy forces attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
Also honored was Staff Sgt. Amilcar H. Gonzalez, 26, who died on May 21 in Ash Shura, Iraq, when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire.  He, too, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID.
Staff Sgt. Esau S.A. Gonzales, 31, died May 3 in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 38th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company at Fort Stewart.  Fort Benning soldier Sgt. Anthony O. Magee, 29, died April 27 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. He was wounded April 24 when enemy forces attacked his unit with indirect fire at Contingency Operating Base Kalsu, Iskandariyah, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID.
“These soldiers shared bonds beyond being Marne soldiers,” 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander Col. Lou Lartigue said.
Lartigue said some of the fallen, like Blount and Collins, served — and died — together. Some were separated by towns “only miles apart.” Others shared nicknames.
Collins’s mother, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Sharon Collins, touched her son’s tree in a quiet, tender moment following the memorial service. He was her only child.
“It certainly wasn’t the ending we were hoping for,” Collins said.
Her son attended West Point after graduating from Sandy Creek High School in Atlanta. Sharon Collins said she and her husband, retired Army Lt. Col. Burkitt “Deacon” Collins, supported their son’s career decision.
“It was something he wanted to do,” she said. “We didn’t drill it into him.”
Collins was engaged to Nicholle Williams at the time of his death.
Blount, who was Collins’ driver, died one month before he was due to return to the states.
Lartigue choked up as he spoke about Blount anticipating fatherhood. Blount and his wife, Amanda, were expecting their first child. Their daughter, Avery, was born about a month after Blount was killed.
Blount was known by his fellow soldiers for his sense of humor, according to Lartigue. He also was an Atlanta Braves fan, taught himself to play guitar and loved video games, the colonel said.
“He was a good friend,” Lartigue said.
Staff Sgt. Amilcar Gonzalez, nicknamed “Gonzo,” had four deployments during his eight-year Army career, the colonel said.
“He was a person of deep faith who often went to church when he was home,” Lartigue said.
Gonzalez was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Staff Sgt. Esau S.A. Gonzales, also nicknamed “Gonzo,” was considered a natural leader and a “larger-than life” cut-up whose antics amused both soldiers and Iraqis, according to Lartigue.
“Esau once chased a comrade with a dead bat,” the colonel said.
Fort Benning soldier Magee was praised for his readiness to help others.
“His desire to help others led him to his Army career,” Lartigue said. “He wanted to support his nation.”
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