It's been an emotional day at Fort Stewart as some of the men and women who lost their lives during Operation Iraqi Freedom were honored at the monthly Warriors Walk ceremony. Families from all over the country come to honor their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Twenty-two soldiers were honored, each with a tree that serves as a living memorial to their sacrifice for our country in what's become an all-too-familiar and painful ceremony.
"These trees dedicated to each of the soldiers are living legacies to their memory and sacrifices they made to this country," said Lt. Col. Noel Nicolle with the Third Infantry Division.
Each tree represents a different story. Take Sgt. Alan Gifford, who left behind his family, including his wife and two-year-old son Mitchell. "He kept saying, 'I'll be home soon Mitchell, just hang in there, I'll be home,'" said his mother-in-law, Rose Anderson. "Unfortunately, Daddy didn't come home."
Sgt. Gifford told a fellow soldier to take the day off and took over his tank duties. But that tank was attacked, and Sgt. Gifford didn't make it out alive.
"I'll never forget that morning when the military came to the door at 6:30 in the morning and we thought he was injured but no, killed," Anderson said.
Families held on to the memorabilia of their loved ones, and sadly said goodbye again.
It's a ceremony that never gets any easier, but one the Third ID says is important. "We will continue as long as it takes for this war on terror and soldiers of this division are deployed," said Lt. Col. Nicolle.
Since the first deployment in 2003, 201 trees have been planted, 155 from the most recent deployment.