Nov. 17, 2011

116th Regiment musters in Staunton

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen   
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

STAUNTON, Va. — Dressed in formal attire, Soldiers of the 116th Brigade Combat Team past and present gathered once again at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton Nov. 12 to celebrate the 44th Annual Muster of the 116th Infantry Regiment. The Soldiers and veterans muster every year to pay honor to the unit’s 270-year long history.

 

Soldiers of the 116th Infantry Regiment, past and present, attend the 44th Annual Regimental Muster Nov. 12 at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, Va. The Guest speaker for the 270 year old unit's annual event was U.S. Representative Robert William Goodlatte. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

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“Our theme this year is to recognize the 270 years of service and still serving,” said retired Brig. Gen. Theodore G. Shuey Jr., the honorary colonel of the 116th Infantry Regiment.

This year’s muster saw a decline in attendance among service members due to ongoing deployments of the brigade supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, but the turnout of World War II veterans who served in the 116th remained high with a number of veterans making the trip to honor the lineage of the “Stonewall Brigade.”

“Last year at this time we were all together, but for this year’s Regimental Muster we are separated once again,” said Col. John Epperly, commander of the 116th Brigade Combat Team (Rear Detachment).

Approximately 175 Soldiers from the Staunton-based 116th Brigade Combat Team Headquarters are currently serving in Afghanistan. About 825 Soldiers from across the commonwealth are mobilized for duty in Iraq under the command of the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment with units in Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. Also serving as part of the task force are Soldiers from the Fredericksburg-based Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and Company D, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment and the Christiansburg-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.

“Let us take this year to honor them as we honor all our regimental veterans. We are honored to be called veterans and to be included amongst our World War II veterans, some who have traveled far to be here this weekend.” Epperly said.

The evening began with the presentation of the colors and a video teleconference with Col. Blake Ortner from Afghanistan. Though the sun had just set over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, the sun was just beginning to rise over the mountains of Afghanistan for the 116th Brigade Combat Team Headquarters commander.

“I wasn’t sure this was going to actually work, but it just goes to show you how amazing technology is,” said Ortner. “I guess if we can control Predators from back in Nevada, we can do a Skype call back to Virginia.”

On behalf of all the Soldiers of the 116th in Afghanistan, Ortner recognized the service of the Soldiers of the regiment who served in World War II.

“We are actually just starting our day over here; it’s about 5 a.m. and I would really like to welcome our D-Day veterans and our World War II veterans to the muster,” Ortner said. “That is probably the greatest part of the legacy of our muster. It is the recognition of those individuals.

“We are reminded probably every week by someone, either from an active duty unit or another National Guard unit that comes through, just how great your service was and how great a legacy we have to live up to in what happened there.”

The evening was also highlighted by remarks from guest speaker, Rep. Robert William Goodlatte, U.S. Representative for Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.

“It is indeed an honor to be at this wonderful occasion with this distinguished group,” said Goodlatte. “To be at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel with the Stonewall Brigade is very exciting. I am proud to be here in honor of each and every one of you.

“I am truly humbled to be speaking to such a large number of American patriots,” he said. “You are our nation’s veterans and our true public servants. You have sacrificed so much to defend our nation and our freedom at home and abroad and for that I applaud you.”

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.

Seeing extensive action in France during WWI, the regiment earned the motto “Ever Forward” for its reputation of never giving up ground in battle, and during the Second World War, the 116th spearheaded the invasion of Normandy at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

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