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Spectators read a plaque decorating the newest monument in Marne Garden at Fort Stewart, Ga., a desert sandstone boulder that honors the roughly 17,000 division soldiers who fought in Iraq.

Spectators read a plaque decorating the newest monument in Marne Garden at Fort Stewart, Ga., a desert sandstone boulder that honors the roughly 17,000 division soldiers who fought in Iraq. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

FORT STEWART, Ga. — The living must be honored just as much as the dead.

So Thursday leaders of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and the quaint Southern town of Hinesville, Ga., did just that.

To honor of the Army’s “bulldogs,” another stone has been placed in the base parade field, reminding all of the sacrifices of war, said Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, the outgoing division commanding general.

Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliff recounted the biblical story of Joshua traversing the Jordan River with the ark of the covenant, and how the sea parted to allow his army to cross on dry land. Joshua picked 12 men from 12 tribes to pick stones from the bed of the river, markers of their triumphant crossing.

“So, in modern time, we repeat the ancient ritual … and these stones represent your acts and deeds,” Ratcliff said. “These stones cause those who come after us … to ask the same ancient question, ‘What does the stone mean?’

“They’ll tell of a war you fought to protect and free other human beings,” Ratcliff said, and remind visitors of a “the greatest of [Army] divisions, with extreme valor and extreme benevolence.”

The Marne Garden at Fort Stewart is peppered with boulders honoring the “Marne Division’s” soldiers, beginning with World War I. Thursday, they added the Iraq war. In five wars and many more battles, the Marne Division has lost 35,000 warriors, Blount said.

The Division earned its famed title “Rock of the Marne” during WWI, when soldiers stood their ground, like a rock, to defend the Marne River in France against the Germans.

“I’m glad to know we’re appreciated, by the community and by the division,” said Pfc. Josh McClure, 24, a soldier with the 11th Engineering Battalion who suffered minor injuries to his hands and feet in an April 7 attack.

He lost three friends in the war, combat brothers memorialized by trees planted at nearby Warrior’s Walk. “We know what we sacrificed. I’m glad to know others do too.”

In all, 42 of the division’s 17,000 deployed soldiers “went down” during the conflict.

“The rock itself is a monument to memorialize the service the 3rd Infantry Division gave to our country, both for the lives lost and those who served our country and the world by ridding us of that tyrant and dictator,” said Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards.

Savannah, Ga.-based DuPre Monument Co. got the 3,286-pound, $2,225 desert sandstone boulder from Arizona, paid for with donations the Hinesville Military Affairs Committee raised by sending letters to chamber of commerce members throughout Georgia. They raised some $45,000 thus far to pay for various homecoming needs for the 3rd ID, including a much-anticipated picnic bash set for Oct. 4.

Hinesville residents celebrate when the soldiers celebrate, and mourn when they mourn, several said.

Hinesville sure knows how to say “thank you,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Rauschuber, a reservist who has been activated for more than three years of his four-year Army career.

Two of those years have been with the 3rd ID, in his opinion, the Army’s greatest.

“What an honor it was to go to war with them,” Rauschuber said, “and even more to return with them.”


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