The Americal Division was an Army infantry unit formed overseas in 1942. Surviving members were in Columbus, Ga. recently to dedicate a new monument outside the National Infantry Museum.
Dennis Ferk, a former Staff Sergeant from World War II, was among them. "This is what I was saving my uniform for" he said, fighting back tears. It's a uniform the 91-year old can still fit into. "When it's gone" said Ferk, "it will be donated to a museum in Fargo, North Dakota."
Earl Brannon had a story to tell too, a near fatal one. "A lot of these guys who are here I haven't seen in almost 43 years" said the former Army Specialist, "because they thought I was dead."
An Army medic, Brannon stepped on a landmine while trying to save another soldier. He eventually reconnected with his unit and was asked to be a part of the ceremony. "I'm glad they finally got the memorial finished and got it up" he added, "and I consider it an honor they want me to help unveil it."
The dedication of the Americal Division monument brought back a lot of memories for the soldiers, especially those with local connections.
Martin Reyna served as a 2nd Lieutenant and was at Ft. Benning, Ga. on five separate occasions. "OCS, the Airborne" said Reyna, "I was assigned to the Infantry School and I retired right here at Ft. Benning."
A second ceremony on the Memorial Walk of Honor involved a special group of Army Rangers.
Unit director Bill Miller explained what they did. "The job was to act as support advisors to the Vietnamese Ranger Battalions" Miller said, "on combat infantry missions, small and large."
Some two dozen veterans were on hand for the dedication, a day they won't soon forget. Neither will others.
Former soldier David W. Taylor summed up the day with these words. "Why do soldiers make the sacrifices they make if not so our fellow Americans can live in peace."
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