The Fort Stewart field that welcomes 3rd Infantry Division soldiers home from deployment is surrounded by a living memorial known as Warriors Walk. Redbud trees line the walkway, each one in honor of a soldier who died serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. An American flag and a name-bearing plaque marks each memorial. I walked this walk in the dark of night and then again in the crisp daylight, feeling the need to pause at every single tree – there are nearly 500 of them.
Many have called it sacred ground. It may be so because in the midst of the memorials, one is compelled to reflect and remember, pray and give thanks.
The words, always the words, capture me:
Brandon’s good friend, Jimmy, a fellow classmate and fellow pilot.
Family and friends place photos and mementos on the trees, leaving a glimpse into the life of their loved one. An amplifier, a Red Sox license plate, a gameboy, a cap, a jersey, golf balls, dogtags, boots – you are struck by the fact that these are men and women who lived, laughed and loved and gave it all. They were somebody’s son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, mother or father. Because of them, because of their sacrifice, our freedom survives.
What a hard life I lead,
My heart finds perspective,
Among those trees.