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The 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade, has dedicated its headquarters building, four barracks and a dining facility in honor of six Armor and Cavalry Soldiers who fought in World War II, the Korean War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Bronze plaques were unveiled Friday at each venue in the units complex on Harmony Church. A barracks was named for Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, a World War II Armor crewman and one of only seven black Soldiers to earn the Medal of Honor. Others memorialized were Capt. Weldon Wilson, Master Sgt. Robert Tedford, Staff Sgts. Erwin Becker and James Matteson, and Spc. Travis Babbitt.
Its a great day here at Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence to be able to celebrate the lives of these six Soldiers, said Lt. Col. Dawson Plummer, the 1-81 Armor battalion commander. They knew what was right: selfless service, giving their lives for other Soldiers during combat, making the ultimate sacrifice. The least we can do is honor them by dedicating these buildings.
The battalion conducts one station unit training for Armor crewmen and Cavalry scouts. Over 15 weeks, they are taught basic Soldier skills, as well as proper operation and maintenance of the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank and its weapons systems.
Plummer said Soldiers will see the dedications and memorials every day as they prepare for training.
One thing the Army always thrives on is our historical experiences, he said. When they see the historical monuments around here, that just inspires them. And theres so many stories that are still waiting to be told.
Maj. Brian Ducote, the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Divisions operations officer, was the ceremonys guest speaker. A decade ago, he served as Mattesons platoon leader in Germany.
I watched him grow up to become a team leader, he said. He taught me that trusting your subordinates is one thing, but the Army is about developing and nurturing leaders. These sacrifices and actions essentially embody everything good that our nation stands for.
All of them gave more than any of us can really understand. Every one of these guys were heroes, in terms of their actions before they were taken away too early from this world. Its nothing short of impressive to read their biographies and what they did.
Rivers was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His sister, Thelma Rivers-Jackson, received it in January 1997 from President Bill Clinton at the White House. Now 84, she attended Fridays ceremony as the Family traveled from Oklahoma.
He was a person who was well thought of. My memories will always be there of Ruben, Rivers-Jackson said.
Rivers niece, Reujena Grimes, never knew him personally as he died long before she was born.
Its such a great honor to be here for the dedication of this building, Grimes said. In seeing these dedications they have been giving him, its meant a lot to me because thats basically his character, his reputation and his attributes. That was him.
He gave his life for this country. He was totally committed to the cause of defending this country, and were all very proud of him.
Babbitts widow, Anita, drove in from Texas with the couples three children and several other Family members.
Everything thats happened today has been a blessing, she said. We just try to remember him as the happy person he was. He wouldve probably said this is silly and be laughing, but he really deserves it. He did a lot for this country and for our Family.
He was a big teddy bear. In those weird times you needed a hug, he was there to give you that hug and tell you, Cheer up. Even though hes not here, he still accomplished what he wanted to. Hes doing something greater. Im just overjoyed.