First Warriors Walk Tree Dedication Since Third ID Return - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/16/06

First Warriors Walk Tree Dedication Since Third ID Return

It was a somber morning at Fort Stewart today as the Third Infantry Division planted 30 trees in memory of 30 soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. This is the first dedication at Warriors Walk since the Third ID returned from Iraq.

Many soldiers--including some of the division's highest ranking--felt it was important to be there today.

From today on, the granite memorials that bear the names of each soldier and eastern red bud trees planted in their honor will forever be a part of Warriors Walk. It's a moving ceremony, not only for the families, but also for the soldiers who served with their loved ones.

Spc. Lex Nelson's fellow soldiers made sure they were there. Spc. Stephen Lee-won Thomas told us, "I was in LA for leave and I was going to go to Utah, but then when Sgt. Mitchell told me they were going to have the tree memorial today, I cancelled my ticket to Utah and went straight over here."

It's a gesture that moved Nelson's family. "It gives everyone an opportunity to meet the people he worked with and that's important to us," said Ingrid Nelson, Spc. Nelson's sister.

"It's like that feeling of awe, that people feel this way about someone I feel about," said his other sister, Caleana Nelson.

This isn't the first time these soldiers have paid their respects to their fallen comrades. They held memorials in Iraq as well.

"This is more of a celebration of his life," said Capt. Janus Fraley, Spc. Nelson's battery commander. "We get to spend time with his family, people who love him, his buddies. We all loved him and this is more of a healing process, part of the healing process for us."

It is not limited to those who wear the Third Infantry Division badge. Twenty-three of those honored were attached to the Third ID, including three members of the 48th Brigade.

"We treated them as our own," said Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, assistant division commander, maneuvers. "They were our own. We lived together, we fought together, we died together and so it's only fitting as we come back and memorialize the soldiers who wear the Third ID patch, we do not forget the soldiers who so valiantly served with us, but wore someone else's patch."

The Third Infantry Division will hold at least one more tree dedication ceremony next month, bringing the total number of soldiers honored since Warriors Walk began to more than 300.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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