FORT STEWART, Ga. - The families and close friends of the soldiers sat under the tent, holding each other and struggling to maintain composure. Behind them rows of soldiers stood, almost as if forming a protective wall for those in front.
But as a somber drizzle fell from the overcast sky, and the first notes of “America the Beautiful” echoed throughout the crowd, nothing could shield the attendees from the reason they were there.
On April 18, 2013 ... eight new Eastern Redbud trees were added to Fort Stewart's Warrior's Walk, each representing a Marne Division hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation while serving in Afghanistan.
Family members of the fallen soldiers are escorted down Warrior's Walk at the beginning of the tree dedication ceremony at Fort Stewart, GA on April 18, 2013. Eight soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division were honored with trees after making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan last month. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Emily Knitter)
During the dedication ceremony, 3rd Infantry Division deputy commander-rear Brigadier Gen. John Hort took time to talk about the professional, and personal, qualities of each soldier.
Staff Sgt. Rex Schad was a 26-year-old native of Edmond, Okla., attached to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, who was known for his jovial attitude, outspokenness and confidence. He was a stand-out rifle squad leader and had a unique capability to develop teams and subordinates. He had ambitions to go to college and become an officer. He was a loyal Oklahoma City Thunder fan and he was a marathon runner. He is survived by his family.
Capt. Sara Knutson-Cullen was a 27-year-old native of Eldersburg, Md., attached to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade. She was a professional and intelligent officer who was focused on the success of her unit. She had a knack for having an immediate and positive impact on those she knew, especially her soldiers. She was an accomplished traveler and lover of fine wine. She is survived by her loving husband.
Chief Warrant Officer II Bryan Henderson was a 27-year-old native of Franklin, La., attached to B Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd CAB, and wanted nothing more than to fly helicopters. His superb aviation skills and ability to teach were unparalleled and were the main reason he was an instructor pilot for his battalion. He also loved to scuba dive, water-ski, and was a legendary grill master and carpenter. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
Staff Sgt. Mark Scialdo was a 31-year-old native of Naples, Fla., attached to B Company, 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd CAB. He was a humble and caring man who had the ability to lead his soldiers through any situation with a smile on his face. He was responsible to train his brigade's downed aircraft recovery team. The only thing that surpassed his love for the Army was his love for his wife.
Staff Sgt. Steven Blass was a 27-year-old native of Estherville, Iowa, attached to B Company, 4th Bn., 3rd CAB, who loved America and the American way of life. He was a crew chief who passionately loved his job, and was a flight instructor and trainer. He was a huge fan of Star Wars, a good cup of coffee, and his favorite brand of beer. He is survived by his wife and son. Those that knew him said you couldn't have a conversation with him without hearing about his family.
Spc. Zachary Shannon was a 21-year-old native of Dunedin, Fla., attached to B Company, 4th Bn., 3rd CAB. He was an extremely hardworking soldier who exuded confidence and always had a knack for putting smiles on his coworkers faces. He was rarely angry, and his positive attitude and comical comments always brightened the mood. He was a cherished friend and dedicated soldier. Shannon is survived by his family.
Spc. David Proctor was a 26-year-old native of Greensboro, N.C., attached to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st ABCT. He was an exceptionally intelligent soldier who loved his job as an infantryman. His squad leader often stated he was “too darn smart to be one of us.” He was soft-spoken and respectful, and had a gift for making everyone around him feel comfortable. He was an incredibly loyal friend and dedicated soldier. He had intended to apply to officer candidate school and was a die-hard fisherman. He is survived by his wife.
Chief Warrant Officer III James Groves III was a 37-year-old native of Kettering, Ohio, attached to B Company, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd CAB. He brightened every room he entered, and served as a role model and mentor. He had served 19 years of active duty military service. He was an avid runner, and always wore a distinct orange boony cap during races. He was a proud husband and father.
Hort closed the remembrance by reminding everyone that each soldiers' sacrifice for others and dedication to duty will never be forgotten.
As the soldiers joined the ranks of the fallen, and the number of trees on Warrior's Walk rose to 453, Henderson's mother, Kim Bryan Henderson, had one quiet plea for the future.
“I know everybody will remember him here, I just hope the rest of the country does, and that they make what he's doing worthwhile.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Emily Knitter
Provided through DVIDS
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