News: Remembering Our Fallen: Memorial pays tribute to Georgia military heroes
Story by Sgt. William Begley
SAVANNAH, Ga.—Several of Savannah’s top military supporters were on hand at the presentation of the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit Nov. 23 in Savannah. Remembering Our Fallen is a photo memorial honoring the military members from Georgia who paid the ultimate sacrifice supporting the Global War On Terrorism since Sept. 11.
Though they may not have served in our armed forces themselves, Bill and Evonne Williams created Remembering Our Fallen to honor the sacrifices made by our military and their loved ones. They have four sons who currently serve; one son completed two deployments to Iraq and two others have served overseas.
Among the Gold Star Families in attendance was Lisa Freeman, mother of Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman, who was 29 years old when he gave his life supporting combat operations in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan Aug. 7, 2009. Freeman was a native of Richmond Hill, Ga. located just outside of Savannah.
“This has become a healing process,” said Freeman. “That’s what I see more than anything is that this is one more way for us to heal. People are recognizing the sacrifices that not only we have made, but our children made and I am just very thankful that this couple [Bill and Evonne Williams] were able to come up with something while we are still at war.”
Representing the Third Infantry Division was Col. John D. Kline, commander of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade. His brigade recently redeployed from Afghanistan and suffered seven fallen soldiers during its nine-month deployment. Kline, who took command last month, provided an insight on his father’s experience as a veteran.
“Today our military is the most trusted and respected organization in our country. This was not always the case,” said Kline. “My father, a 25-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps tells a different story. He saw firsthand the damage caused by a nation that does not venerate its heroes. He described a time when veterans were publicly ridiculed and disrespected for their service. Despite the sacrifices that they made, the injuries sustained, and the friends that they lost.”
Crystal Rodriguez, mother of Marine Cpl. John R. Stalvey, was another member of the group of Gold Star Families who travelled to remember and honor the sacrifice her son made.
“It was very emotional walking in. It usually is when you come to a ceremony like this,” said Rodriguez. “This tribute to our heroes is very moving and very well done and beautifully displayed.”
Rodriguez said that although these ceremonies are tearfully moving and painful, it is therapeutic and comforting at the same time.
“It just couldn’t be more fitting to be held at this time of the year at Thanksgiving,” continued Rodriguez. “I’m so thankful for my son, a hero, and so thankful for all these other heroes from the state of Georgia who laid down their lives over there.”
It had always been a dream of Stalvey to be a scout sniper. When he joined the Marines he pursued that dream until it became a reality.
“He was so proud of that accomplishment once he joined the Marines that became his dream and his goal and just before going to Iraq he graduated from sniper school and attained that goal,” said Rodriguez.
Stalvey died on Oct 3, 2005, in Iraq from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device.
Kline said that while many will never know what it is like to be handed a folded flag, or be greeted by a casualty notification team, the strength and resiliency of these Gold Star Families should be an inspiration to all. We can never forget the sacrifices they’ve made, nor forget to pay tribute to those who gave their all.
With a tearful and pained smile on her face, Rodriguez commented that remembering the fallen is only part of what gives her comfort.
“For the families of the fallen the greatest thing you can do for us is to remember them; to speak their name, because if their names are not spoken, they have been forgotten,” Rodriguez said.