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VIDEO: 3rd ID enjoys Independence Day celebration ahead of deployment

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With a deployment for thousands of 3rd Infantry Division troops and their families looming, the vast expanse of Donovan Field was teeming with soldiers, families and members of the civilian community to enjoy Fort Stewart’s Independence Day activities Saturday night.

And for the division’s leaders, they relished the opportunity for the multitude of soldiers, family members and civilians to celebrate and revel in the food trucks, inflatables and music Saturday evening.

“Our nation asks a tremendous amount from the Army and particularly this division over time,” said 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Christopher Norrie, “and for them to have a few minutes tonight, one evening, where we can celebrate each other and be part of such an incredible community and an amazing team, just means the world. So it’s a tremendous event and we’re honored to be here.”

Added Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Reffeor, “It’s a great time to bond and come together.”

For Command Sgt. Maj. Reffeor, the Fourth of July holiday also brings to mind the 461 trees at Warriors Walk, each planted in honor of a 3rd ID soldier killed during the last 20 years.

“Ultimately to me it’s about remembering the sacrifice of the 461 soldiers that gave their life for this country from this division,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Norrie, who took command last month, is preparing the division headquarters, its sustainment brigade, the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team and the Division Artillery for a nine-month deployment to Europe, a show of NATO resolve against further Russian aggression in the region. It’s another reason he relished having a big celebration for the entire base and the community in advance of the mission.

Most of the division, he said, will deploy in the next 90 to 120 days.

“We’re really proud,” Maj. Gen. Norrie said. “The 3rd Infantry Division has been called many times for many generations and this team will continue to selflessly serve and answer that call proudly. But again, an opportunity as we get ready to do all these things to spend a night together with all of this is amazing.”

Planning for the event starts a year out, garrison commander Col. Manny Ramirez said. Weather canceled last year’s Dru Hill show, but Dru Hill was back on the stage Saturday evening for a set.

“We start working venues. We start working talent,” Col. Ramirez said of the preparations, adding Dru Hill quickly answered yes when asked to come back for 2023. “I can think of no better way to celebrate the Fourth of July, America’s birthday, with the families and soldiers of the 3rd ID, and the surrounding community.”

Last year’s event, even a storm-shortened one, drew between 8,000 and 10,000 people, and Col. Ramirez figured the crowd was just as large for Dru Hill and Chris Cagle.

For Maj. Gen. Norrie, whose career had not taken him to Fort Stewart and the Coastal Empire prior to taking command, it has allowed him to see the connection between the post and its neighbors.

“I have been so impressed with this community,” he said, “the strength of this community, not just this team on Fort Stewart, but all of the teams in the area. Everyone has been so welcoming and wonderful. There is a real sense of shared purpose here and it’s really a humbling thing to be a part of.”

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