A Medal of Honor recipient and five other Army heroes were honored Friday at Fort Benning when six new buildings in Harmony Church were dedicated in their names.
"He lost his life for the country," said Thelma Rivers Jackson, sister of Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers. "Whatever he did, he always did it with all his might."
Rivers, of Tecumseh, Okla., died Nov. 19, 1944, after his tank was hit by enemy fire during World War II in a battle at Guebling, France. A barracks off the Old Cusseta Highway was named for Rivers, a member of the black 761st Tank Battalion under Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army. It took more than 50 years before the Medal of Honor was presented to relatives by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Three other barracks were dedicated for Spc. Travis A. Babbitt of Uvalde, Texas; Staff Sgt. Erwin H. Becker of Larsen, Wis., and Staff Sgt. James C. Matteson of Jamestown, N.Y. A dining facility was named for Master Sgt. Robert A. Tedford of Los Angeles, and a headquarters building for 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade was named for Capt. Weldon W. Wilson.
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Reujena Grimes, Rivers' niece, said she wasn't even born when her uncle died in combat, but she learned about his character and reputation while growing up. "I saw him as being a proud man," she said. "It means a lot to be here."
Anita Babbitt was at the dedication for her late husband, who died Nov. 4, 2004, in Iraq during an ambush by insurgents. Although he received wounds that would later prove fatal, Spc. Travis Babbitt continued firing his weapon from a Humvee, preventing further losses to other soldiers. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest combat military decoration awarded.
"We are beyond proud," said Anita Babbitt, who drove from Killeen, Texas. "Travis would have thought it was silly, but we are proud of what he did. Everything that has happened today has been a blessing. I'm so glad we got to come and see it."
She described her husband as a happy person. You couldn't be around him with tears, she said.
"We are trying to do the same thing and remember the type of person he was," said Anita, who came with their three children: son, Diego, and daughters, Unique and Serenity.
Lt. Col. Dawson Plummer, battalion commander of 81st Armor Regiment, said the names on the buildings are all those of soldiers who knew what was right in serving their country.
"This is a big celebration, not a memorial," Plummer said. "It's a celebration of these men's lives."
Maj. Brian Ducote, operations officer for the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in New York and guest speaker for the event, said he served with Matteson in Germany before he was deployed to Iraq, where he died in November 2004. He recalled what Matteson said during a training exercise on a cold, dark morning in the woods.
"Actually, he taught me to trust in your subordinates," he said. "It's about leadership. He said, 'Sir, I got this. How else would they know what is right?'"