There is an unspoken bond among those who lay wreaths at Fort Stewart’s living memorial, Warriors Walk, each year. The event is held to honor the sacrifices of fallen soldiers, and to allow family members, friends and comrades a place to gather, to mourn and to remember.
The wreath laying at Fort Stewart Saturday coincided with the national Wreaths Across America, when wreaths are placed on soldiers’ graves at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Wreaths were laid at the base of 468 white crepe myrtles lining two long cement walks at the edge of Cottrell Field on Fort Stewart. Warriors Walk is dedicated to the service men and women attached to the 3rd Infantry Division who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Numerous family members from across the nation make the trip to Warriors Walk each year for the ceremony. They travel to Fort Stewart at their own expense and are served lunch donated by supporters of Wreaths for Warriors Walk, a nonprofit that depends on donations to buy the wreaths used in the ceremony. The wreaths, from the Worcester Wreath Company in Maine, cost $15 each. Worcester is the same company that makes wreaths used in the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Timothy Hines, Sr. travelled 11 hours from Covington, Ky., to decorate the memorial tree planted for his late son, Specialist Timothy Hines, Jr.
“He was all for his country. He’s my hero. I’m very proud of him,” Hines, Sr. said.
Hines, Sr. said his son was devoted to family. The grieving father said his son had a small daughter and a baby on the way when he was killed in July 2005. Hines, Jr. was 21 at the time of his death. Hines, Sr. described his son as being a friendly person with “a great sense of humor.”
Asked if honoring his son gets easier as time goes on, the bereaved father, with his eyes moist, responded, “It’s always easy to honor his memory, the hard part is not being able to talk to him.”
Hines, Sr. said he supports the annual wreath laying ceremony at Fort Stewart, commenting, “I really appreciate all that they do and all the effort that they put into it.”
“I want them (families of fallen) to know that we will never forget their (soldiers’) sacrifices,” said Susan Ammons, Wreaths for Warriors Walk vice president of operations. “We have been very fortunate to have as many donors as we do. We’ve had a great response from the community.”
During a somber ceremony, prior to the actual laying of wreaths, Tatyanna Campbell, a junior at the University of Georgia, recited the poem, “Another Tree Planted,” by Reese Bishop. It reads, in part, “There is a place that I must go/And speak to soldiers that I don’t know/I go there often just to talk/On this sacred ground called Warrior’s Walk/ Another tree planted means another life gone/And another family tries to move on.”
Commanding General of the Third Infantry Division Maj. Gen. Lee Quintas thanked the 105 Gold Star family members for attending, and read the names of the 28 soldiers they came to honor.
The organization was founded in 2007 by Tony Justi, a retired Army Lt. Colonel, and Hinesville resident Bruce Muncher. The non-profit was incorporated in 2008.
For more information on the local Wreaths for Warriors Walk at Fort Stewart, visit www.w4ww.org/.