Fort Gordon ceremony honors fallen soldiers, helps families at holidays

Carrying on Christmas traditions is tough for Rose Tilby. Choosing gifts for her children is a decision as difficult.


Twenty months after Tilby’s husband, Sgt. 1st Class James Tilby Jr., died from self-inflicted wounds related to his military service, she doesn’t want to go through the holidays alone. She hasn’t made plans for Christmas dinner, and still longs for her husband’s help with Christmas shopping. He always knew the perfect gifts to buy, she said.

“It will be easier in the future. Just not right now,” Tilby said.

On Tuesday, Survivor Out­reach Services at Fort Gordon held a short ceremony to lay this year’s remembrance wreath. Tilby and 10 other military fam­ilies received ornaments with photos of their loved ones to hang on the tree at home.

Three children whose parents died in service carried the live evergreen wreath – taller than they were – to its resting spot. The wreath will remain at Freedom Park on the Army post through the end of the year.

Judy Smith, of Grovetown, attended the ceremony for the third year to honor all fallen soldiers, especially her husband, Master Sgt. Henry Smith. He served two tours in the Vietnam War and died in 2005 from the effects of Agent Orange, she said.

Around the holidays, Smith and her three children share memories of a husband and father that loved to see faces light up around Christmas. He would sing Santa Claus is Coming to Town when shopping for gifts.

“We stick together and tell stories of what Dad used to do when they were little,” Smith said. “He loved Christmas.”