Society of 1st Inf. Div. place for all to unite
Old memorabilia of the 1st Infantry Division fills the walls at the Society of the 1st Inf. Div. headquarters, Junction City. The association has been around since 1919 and was activated at the end of World War II. Photo by: Calun Reece, POST.
Story by: Calun Reece
1ST INF. DIV. POST
"It's not just about joining, it's about belonging," said Ruth Dupree, office administrator, Society of the 1st Infantry Division.
Reaching out and taking care of 1st Inf. Div. Soldiers and veterans is what the Society of the 1st Inf. Div. is all about.
The purpose of the association is to continue the memory of the 1st Inf. Div. and to honor the service and sacrifice of its Soldiers and units, according to the society's website.
The association has been around since 1919 and was activated right at the end of World War II, said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Darrell Wallace, executive director of the society.
The 1st Inf. Div. was founded in 1917, and was the first modern Army division to be formed.
One of the ways the society honors Soldiers is by providing grants or financial assistance when there is no other means available, Wallace said.
If a Soldier, for example, has to take their child to a specialized medical appointment the Army will only pay for the sponsor to accompany the child, Wallace said.
"We realize how challenging that is," Wallace said. "I know if my son was having some work done … my wife would want to be there."
Soldiers can come to the society and apply for assistance for situations like this one, he said.
"We've done that a couple of times here," he added.
The association also supports the "Big Red One" and its Soldiers in several other ways including providing sponsorship for a USO's No Dough Dinner every quarter, providing scholarship awards, placing wreaths at memorials, sponsoring annual reunions and raising funds to provide and maintain 1st Inf. Div. memorials all over the world.
One of the memorials is the First Division Monument in Washington.
The names of every 1st Inf. Div. Soldier who died during World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm are displayed on that memorial, Wallace said.
The society is currently trying to raise money now to add the Soldiers who sacrificed their lives in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well.
All this could not be done without memberships and donations because the society is a nonprofit organization, Wallace said.
Every penny that comes into the society goes back to the Soldier, he added.
A majority of the society members are Vietnam veterans.
Wallace said he would like to see the society engage more of the younger Soldiers as well.
Becoming a part of an organization like this can really help Soldiers because they will be surrounded by veterans who really care about the service they provided to the division, Wallace said.
"I think as you get older, you want to reach out to those guys that you served with … especially the Vietnam veterans," Dupree said.
Reunions, for example, provide the opportunity for younger Soldiers to get to know the older ones who have been there before them, she said.
"Each of the regiments will come in and set up a command post at the reunion and then the young guys come in and they exchange stories with each other – the vets and the young Soldiers," Dupree said.
Reunions also give veterans a chance to reconnect with those they served with.
"Last year, at our reunion, there was a colonel who had cancer and he knew he was dying," Dupree said. "He found the combat medic that saved his life in Vietnam."
The colonel wanted to give this man a combat medic's badge as a way to say thank you for saving his life, she said. The society had a badge shipped overnight so the colonel could present the badge to the man who saved him.
"That was very touching," Dupree said, adding the colonel wanted to recognize him before he left this earth.
"I guess when you're a young guy and you're doing it, you don't really see the value in (belonging to the society), but when you get out, you really do see the value in it," Wallace said.
Memberships and donations are needed to keep the society going, Wallace said, but whether a member or not, the society is here to help.
"Anything that we can do to help the active-duty Soldier and their Family is what we're about," Wallace said.
Membership fees vary. A lifetime membership is available at a lowered rate for active-duty Soldiers of the Big Red One. For more information about receiving financial aid or to become a member, call 785-579-6761, or visit www.1stid.org/index.php.