AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by Sgt. Michael Giles
36th Infantry Division (TXARNG)
The 36th Infantry Division celebrates its 100th anniversary July 18, 2017 and soldiers from the division honored their 100-year legacy of service during their July drill, with sweat, reverence and festivities.
The celebration began as several hundred soldiers marched along Congress Avenue from across Lady Bird Lake and up to the Texas State Capitol. When they arrived, they stood in formation behind unit colors, as Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the division commander, and division Command Sgt. Maj. Mark J. Horn, ceremoniously placed a wreath at the base of the granite T-patch monument on the west side of the Capitol.
As the formation of soldiers solemnly saluted the monument, Henry spoke to them about the symbolism of the wreath and the granite.
“The Texas sunset red granite monument honors the soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, both past and present,” Henry said. “The laying of the wreath today honors those 36th Infantry Division soldiers who have gone before us, and the sacrifices that both they and their families made for our freedom and security.”
As soldiers listened silently, Henry related the symbolism to the 36th’s history of answering the call to serve. He referred to the division’s service in war abroad, in response to disasters at home, and in support of domestic security.
“It represents those who answered the call in July of 1917, as the nation ramped up for war, to form a new division made of soldiers from both Texas and Oklahoma,” Henry said. “It represents those who answered the call when nature wreaks havoc in the form of floods, fire or tornados. It represents those who are currently deployed overseas, and those who stand watch on our southern border.”
Spc. Josh Strickland, an all-source intelligence analyst with the 36th Infantry Division, said participating in this celebration strengthens his esprit de corps and reminds him of his own military heritage.
“It makes you proud to be part of a unit with such a great legacy,” Strickland said. “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. Participating in this celebration adds meaning to my time in the Guard.”
The 100-year history of the 36th Infantry Division began July 18, 1917. It was formed to fight in the first world war, and decades later it was the first U.S. division to land on the European continent to fight in World War II. Since then, the division has supported the War on Terror with deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and several other countries around the world. At home, the 36th sent soldiers to responded to Hurricane Katrina and the Bastrop, Texas wildfires, and has played key roles both in border security and efforts to reduce drug trafficking.
During his speech, Henry also mentioned World War II veteran Sgt. Jim Niederer, living evidence of the 36th Infantry Division’s legacy. Niederer, who received six Bronze Star Medals for his service in Europe, expressed a belief that the 36th always has been, and always will be, a unit to be proud of.
“It’s a good outfit, and I’m sure it will get better,” Niederer said. “I’m just proud to have been one of the members of the 36th.”
During his more than two years in Europe, he explained, he landed in four invasions: in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and in Southern France.
“All those things I still remember,” Niederer said. “So many things I just can’t forget. I was fortunate to be able to serve my country. Thank God I made it.”
Those soldiers wounded in action or killed in action were also appreciated during Henry’s speech about the granite T-patch memorial.
“It recognizes the sacrifice made by those who are wounded and come back different people, both physically and mentally,” Henry said. “It memorializes and honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while wearing the famous T-patch on their shoulders.”