FORT STEWART (WTOC) - The Rock of the Marne is celebrating its 100th birthday this month.
That's the nickname of the 3rd Infantry Division which is based at Ft. Stewart and Hunter. The moniker came in tribute to their stand at France's Marne River in World War I when they changed the course of the war.
Nous resterons la – we shall remain here. That was the command of General Joseph Dickman as the 3rd ID defended Paris from the Germans in WWI. It was a bold statement. On either side of the Americans, their allies - the French - were retreating.
General Black Jack Pershing would call the effort, "one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history". Though it was that, Pershing could not know that it was only the first page.
World War II would see the 3rd ID lead the allies, fighting alongside Patton, in Salerno and finally to the heart of the Nazi war machine.
But the most celebrated – and decorated - soldier of WWII was Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy. The son of a sharecropper, Murphy single-handedly held off an entire company of German soldiers before leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition.
Murphy's fame was eclipsed by one Dwight David Eisenhower, whose rise to becoming president of the United States began in WWII with the 3rd ID.
The soldiers were scarcely home from WWII when Uncle Sam called again – this time to Korea.
Following Korea, the dog-face soldiers began the long, tension-filled stare down with the Soviets.
In 1996, the 3rd ID came home to the United States and stationed here at Ft. Stewart and Hunter Field. Since that time, they have been almost constantly engaged in the global war on terror.
Early in 2003, the entire division deployed to Kuwait where it spearheaded coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, fighting its way to Baghdad and leading to the end of Saddam Hussein.
Fighting in unknown terrain and miserable conditions has not dissuaded the 3rd, but fighting inside a city is completely different from storming across the desert in a thunder run. But night – which you would assume is a challenge – is an ally of the dog face soldiers.
Col. Burch has had two tours to the Middle East. He says the soldiers at the top of the command are one reason for their success. The other half of the equation, says Burch, is the soldiers.
The 3rd ID has more Medal of Honor winners than any division in the United States Army. Fifty-five soldiers have earned the nation's highest distinction.
Sgt. Paul Smith - "Smitty" - was a soldier's soldier: tough, demanding, uncompromising. But when his soldiers' lives were on the line in a battle in Iraq, Sgt. Smith didn't demand of his soldiers. He demanded of himself.
Sgt. Smith and his 50-caliber stood between an Iraqi assault and his men. He risked – and gave – his own life.
In 2005, a man who walked Cottrell field and the streets of Hinesville and Savannah became Operation Iraqi Freedom's first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Smith is honored along with 468 other soldiers along Warriors Walk at Ft. Stewart, a living memorial to their sacrifice that is a key component of the culture of the Rock of the Marne.
For the people of the Coastal Empire, the 3rd ID is the home team. A presence at all of the great community events around the region.
The relationship we have is widely regarded as the best in the nation. One Lt. Colonel called us, "the most patriotic, supportive community I've ever served in."
That support is well deserved as the 3rd ID not only defends our nation, they feed our families.
Some of that support is due to the positive coverage provided by local media and for that, we have to acknowledge two of our own. As general manager of WTOC, Bill Cathcart's commitment to the military was unsurpassed. A fact recognized when he was selected as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for our area, an honor that confirmed Bill's singular understanding of the relationship of the community with the dog face soldiers.
Bill's partner in that mission was WTOC anchor Mike Manhatton, who worked the military beat, even when it led to Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Mike was a constant voice in our coverage - a voice for the Rock of the Marne - a voice we miss even still.
It takes more than media to make our area the most hospitable military home on the East Coast. It also takes a location strategically positioned to support the Army's most powerful and often used fighting force.
Those assets are critical now that we've entered an era of enormous volatility that the Pentagon refers to as the velocity of global instability. But we know that where ever that instability arises, the 3rd ID is ready.