Nov. 16, 2009

Leesburg honors 116th BCT unit on Veterans Day

By Maj. Nevin Blankenship
116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

LEESBURG, Va. — Company C of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team was honored at the fifth annual Veterans Day commemoration at Dodona Manor in Leesburg.


Soldiers from Company C, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th  Brigade Combat Team march from the county courthouse along Market  Street to the Dodona Manor in Leesburg where they were greeted with a  standing ovation by elected representatives, area families, retired veterans and patients from the Veterans Administration hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va. The Soldiers were honored at the fifth annual Veterans Day commemoration at Dodona Manor. (Photo by Maj. Nevin Blankenship, 116th BCT Public Affairs)

Members of the unit marched from the county courthouse along Market Street to the Manor, where they were greeted by a standing ovation by elected representatives, area families, retired veterans and patients from the Veterans Administration hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va. 

“We are here to celebrate Veterans Day, a time when we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men and women who in defense of our freedom have bravely worn the uniform of the United States,” said Giancarlo Brizzi, master of ceremonies and former commander of Company C.

Retired Brig. Gen. Theodore G. Shuey recalled the history of the unit dating back to the Revolutionary War. He talked of the actions the unit was involved in including the War of 1812, the Civil War under the leadership of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and World War I. 

Shuey said Gen. George C. Marshall handpicked the 116th Infantry to participate in the Omaha Beach landing in Normandy, France. He said Marshall felt it was important to have a unit of volunteer Guardsmen participate in the liberation effort.

Shuey then talked of the accomplishments of the Company C by laying the groundwork for deploying guardsman in today’s operating environment. Company C was the first unit from Virginia to deploy overseas since World War II.  It proved to active duty counterparts that Guardsmen can do the same missions effectively both then and today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In the 1990s, we got into peace enforcement and stabilization and the Army was getting spread throughout the world. They decided it was time to get the National Guard back involved in securing peace throughout the world. So they came to the National Guard and said, ‘Give me a company.’ There was no doubt in my mind that that company would be Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion out of Leesburg, Va. I want to say to you that these gentlemen distinguished themselves in Bosnia and began the process that we enjoy today involved with the Army that is just tremendous as we join in their ranks around the world,” said Shuey.

The unit also had a key role in securing Dulles and Reagan National airports following the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Company C has also completed recent deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia's 10th District in the House of Representatives discussed how the plans of Gen. Marshall had a lasting impact in the war. He also talked of the sacrifices that this country’s veterans have made in battle, specifically more than one million causalities over the past two centuries.

“Still today we must stay vigilant against tyranny in whatever form it takes. Although patriotic Americans may disagree about particular calls to arms, the honor of those who have put on their uniform in our nation’s behalf should never be questioned. Many have given their lives because they believe in the basic goodness of their nation and the dream that it embodies,” said Wolf.

A wreath was placed at the base of the statue of Marshall by Lt. Col. William Zana, 3rd Battalion commander, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Marshall’s death Oct. 16, 1959.  Jim Winn, grandson of Marshall, and Ann Brown helped Zana with the laying wreath. 

Other dignitaries who participated in the ceremony were Shuey, Fred Morefield and Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstaddt. 

Matthew Kuldell followed the procession with the playing of the bag pipes.


Lt. Col. William Zana, commander of 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, lays a wreath at the base of a statue of Gen. George C. Marshall during Veteran's Day ceremonies Nov. 11, 2009 in Leesburg, Va. (Photo by Maj. Nevin Blankenship, 116th BCT Public Affairs)

The Veterans Day commemoration concluded with a moment of silence honoring the fallen warriors who gave their lives in defense of our great nation.

“The cost of war in human lives is constantly spread before me, written neatly in many ledgers whose columns are gravestones,” Marshall once said.

A replica of the jeep station wagon that Marshall was given in 1947 and an actual jeep from World War II were on display along with military vehicles from the unit.

Dodona Manor was George and Katherine Marshall’s residence from 1941 until the General’s death in 1959. The Manor is an 1820s, Federal-style house with mid-19th century additions and is situated on 3.8 acres of gardens on the eastern end of Leesburg’s Historic District.

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. The armistice was signed between the fighting nations on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. The day has evolved into also honoring living military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation.

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