Leadership Liberty-Ft. Stewart Session April 2014

By: Anita Hughes-Vice President of the Leadership Liberty Class 2013-2014

I was able to tour Ft. Stewart on April 9 with my Leadership Liberty class. I was excited about this because I would get to see, behind the scenes, of our base. We toured the 4th Brigade compound. Our agenda said dress comfortably and prepare to get dirty. The entire class was excited because we had no idea what was in store for us. We had a lot of fun taking pictures and laughing with soldiers but it wasn’t until the end of the day that I began to feel something close to shame for my actions.

Our first stop after the introduction by the Deputy Command Garrison was to a field in front of the 4th Brigade headquarters. They had several different stations out there so that we could break into smaller groups and learn what each team did. We beelined it to one of the Hum-Vs and listened to the soldiers tell us about the vehicle and each of their individual role. Then they told us we could get in the vehicle. We climbed in and I went straight to the gunner hole so I could play with a gun. I couldn’t help myself I am a gamer at heart and it was like a real life vehicle from COD: Modern Warfare.

Our next station was the bullet proof Hum-v with doors that weigh 500lbs a piece. It had a bigger gun. I found myself inching closer and closer to the door of the Hum-V because I wanted to be the first one in so I could be in the gunner hole. The soldiers understood we were all kids in a candy store at that time. The soldiers laughed and joked with us when we made comments about “how cool is this” and “man I missed my calling.”

We then went to the virtual training center. The virtual center is super cool. It is a gamer’s paradise. The have several mobile training units that not only allow you to prepare driving and tactical maneuvering but also allows the gunner to have training in different scenarios. True to my current driving ability I crashed within the first 30 seconds of driving the Hum-V. It does not corner well. We all laughed and even took pictures for our Leadership Liberty class wall of shame. The others in my class did not do so well except for our two veterans but I crashed in the shortest amount of time. There are also virtual shooting ranges where the soldiers get to qualify on different types of weaponry. We were not able to do any of the virtual shooting ranges because there was several different teams in there training.

We finished the day at Warriors Walk. Warriors Walk has over 460 trees planted to represent the soldiers who have died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom. If you have not visited Warriors Walk I encourage you to do so at your earliest convenience. Trees line both sides of the walk and you see the name of each of our fallen soldiers. A majority of the trees have personal affects left by the family for the soldier. The trees were decorated by family members leaving things such as, wind chimes, Christmas decorations, Nutella, hair pins, cowboy hats, photos, and numerous other items. I am walking by all these trees not disconnected but not really tuned in until there is this one tree with just a single soldier’s boot.  It is then that the events of the day hit home. As I stare at this boot all I can wonder is where is the matching boot.

I stare at this boot and remember that the soldiers that showed us around all day and laughed with us where a part of the last tree ceremony at Warriors Walk. The 4th brigade planted 65 trees back in January. So while I made light of the situation and enjoyed my time off from work these brave men told me about their job and it wasn’t until I stared at that boot that I realized I never once thanked these soldiers for their service. I thanked them for taking the time to show us around and explain what they do but not for their service.

It is easy to say that we support our military but how many of us stick out our hand and say thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for our country.  How many out there like me support our military but when it comes down to showing gratitude it slips our mind? Do we overlook our fallen? Just because so many soldiers returned back to us how many of them left something of themselves overseas? How can we ever give back enough to our military when they give so much?

We get involved. We make a decision that we will support our military in more than just words but by actions and deeds. We will ask the questions and show not only our local bases but all others what it means to support the military. Join us in supporting our military as they support us.

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