November 14, 2008

Virginia Guard keeps regimental history alive with muster in Staunton

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Lt. Col. John Epperly (left) and retired Brig. Gen. Theodore G. Shuey Jr. (right) display a World War II-era helmet that 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team was presented as a gift while they served in Kuwait. The helmet will be donated to the 116th museum. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

STAUNTON, Va. — Soldiers and officers of the 116th Brigade Combat Team, also known as “The Stonewall Brigade,” donned their dress green and dress blue uniforms to gather with family and friends at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center in Staunton Nov. 8 to mark the unit’s 41st Annual 116th Regimental Muster. The purpose of the formal dinner was to honor the unit's service to the commonwealth, the nation, the Soldiers, and the unit’s long and rich history.

This year’s muster was the first time the majority of the individual units of the 116th BCT have been able to assemble together since 2006 because of the deployment of units to Iraq, Kuwait and Kosovo. Between overseas deployments, wildfires, hurricanes, tropical storms, and other homeland defense missions, the 116th has been actively engaged for the past few years. The muster was a great opportunity for Guardsmen to reconnect with their brothers-in-arms.

Col. William R. Phillips, commander of the 116th Brigade Combat Team, affixes the Iraq Campaign Battle Streamer to the brigade colors. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“I am very proud and thankful to stand before you and report that all the Stonewall units have returned from their deployment(s) and are in the middle of re-set operations,  focusing on reintegration with families, friends, work, and their respective communities,” said Col. William R. Phillips, commander of the 116th BCT.

In attendance at the Muster were Soldiers and officers of the unit both past and present. There were several veterans of the unit from World War II, some whom stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. From the Adjutant General of Virginia, Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman Jr., to WWII re-enactors, some not even old enough to enlist in the Guard, the 116th was recognized as one of the finest units the National Guard has ever seen.

Historically a Muster was the day designated each year when all able-bodied men were assembled on the village green for a roll-call. Thus, in every community, it was known exactly how many men could be counted on in the event of an emergency. Once the nation got away from using militias, the Guard ceased to muster.

According to retired Brig. Gen. Theodore G. Shuey Jr., Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, in 1967 the veterans of WWII felt the need to again muster, so for the last 41 years they have come together to celebrate the rich heritage of the unit. They first met at the armory in Staunton, and now in the ballrooms of the Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center.

Warrant Officer Candidate Donald Carlson entertains guests at the 41st 116th Regimental Muster as part of a jazz ensemble provided by the 29th Army Band. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

 

Following the presentation of the colors and the introduction of general officers in attendance, the chaplain held a memoriam to honor the fallen Warriors affiliated with the regiment lost in the past year. An impromptu roll call, a moment of silence, and a bugle playing “Taps” solemnly paid tribute to the departed.

For the valorous service of the Soldiers during the ongoing war on terror there have been 1,841 individual combat awards presented to Stonewall Soldiers, said Phillips. “This encompasses 15 Purple hearts, 97 Combat Infantry Badges, 70 Combat Action Badges, one Combat Medical Badge, 108 Bronze Stars, 68 Meritorious Service Medals, two Army Commendation Medals with ‘V’ Device, 730 Army Commendation Medals, six Navy Commendation Medals, 595 Army Achievement Medals, 18 Navy Achievement Medals and 131 Joint Awards.”

In addition to the many individual awards received by the Soldiers the unit also received multiple unit awards and citations, to include a battle streamer from Operation Iraqi Freedom awarded to the Brigade Headquarters. Phillips had the honor of affixing the streamer, the first awarded to the unit since WWII, to the Regimental Colors at the muster.

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