The Kempner Veterans of Foreign Wars post was packed Saturday as more than 400 past and present troopers of the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment “Garryowen” gathered together for a first-of-a-kind Past and Present Garryowen Reunion.
The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division unit, which was established on July 28, 1866, is most well-known for its participation in the Battle of Little Big Horn under the command of Lt. Col. George A. Custer and for its victory against a vastly superior force during the Vietnam War at the IA Drang Valley under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore — a victory later portrayed in the Mel Gibson movie “We Were Soldiers.”
The unit’s history, stretching from the troopers’ bravery during the Indian Wars through countless victories in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and into actions in Iraq during the War on Terror, prompted current and former members of the unit to bring everyone together to help foster the deep pride shared by the unit’s alumni in the newest generation of “Garryowen” troopers.
“I’ve seen many reunions, but they have always been era-based — whether it’s Vietnam or guys from Desert Storm — but there’s never been a reunion that brought all ages together in one room, to include the active duty soldiers,” said 1st Sgt. Andrew Odell, a former trooper with the unit who now serves as the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Divison and helped organize the reunion. “What inpsired us to do this was to build up the ‘Garryowen spirit’ within the active duty soldiers to ensure our Garryowen pride continues into the future.”
Odell said interacting with the alumni of the unit helps to build the camaraderie of the younger troops who are actively serving now.
“When I first joined the Army, my first duty station was Blackhawk Troop 1/7, and I did not know how lucky I was to have been assigned to that unit,” he said. “It was many years after when I realized that 1/7 has a lot of history and a lot of processes within our formation that drives our success within that formation. I don’t want these soldiers to have to wait five, 10 years down the road to figure that out.”
For the troopers who attended, the opportunity to rub elbows with former troopers from as far back as the Korean War was amazing.
“I think this is great,” said Sgt. Jenna M. Trevino, a combat medic with the squadron’s Headquarters and Headquarters Troop. “It’s inspiring. To see all of these veterans and see everyone get together is great — it makes us want to stay motivated and positive while we do our work.”
Trevino, who sang the national anthem at the start of the ceremonies, said she would love to see these types of reunions happen more often.
“This is the type of stuff we need,” she said, adding that the reason she’d like to see the reunions more often is to help foster a sense of pride for the unit within the newest troops who had never served with “Garryowen” before.
Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, III Corps and Fort Hood commander and a former “Garryowen” commander himself, sent a video to the troopers from the Middle East, where he currently commands Operation Inherent Resolve — the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State.
“I am even more proud I can hold my head high and say that I am a Garryowen trooper, just like you,” Funk said in the video. “All Garryowen troopers have one thing in common — tenacity, the single most important trait of a trooper. That fixed resolve not to quit when things get tough.”
Retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, a former command sergeant major for the squadron and the 14th sergeant major of the Army, also offered some words of encouragement for all the troopers at the event, both past and present.
“My time in 1/7 Cav for me was the most pivotal and most memorable part of my military career,” he said. “I just want to tell each and every one of you, thank you for helping to shape my life and for teaching me one of the most important things — that honor is the most important value. It’s what makes Garryowen, the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, the pride of not only the 1st Cavalry Division, but as far as I’m concerned, the rest of the United States Army.”
The day before the reunion, one Korean War veteran and 12 Desert Storm veterans of the unit received recognition for their combat service in a long-overdue ceremony at the unit’s headquarters on Fort Hood.
The veterans were awarded their gold spurs, a U.S. Army Cavalry tradition inducting the former troopers into the Order of the Spur. The gold spurs indicate the troopers served in combat with a cavalry unit and are worn at ceremonial functions, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Bradley, the squadron’s commander.
All the Desert Storm veterans were members of the unit’s Echo Troop, which was later reorganized as Comanche Troop following Desert Storm. The squadron led the 1st Cavalry Division’s assault into Iraq at the beginning of the ground war, Bradley said.
“They went 250 kilometers in 24 hours, leading the charge into Iraq, destroying multiple enemy positions along the way and capturing about 500 prisoners,” Bradley said.
For those veterans receiving their spurs, the event held a lot of meaning.
“It’s an emotional event and I think it’s long overdue — it’s been 27 years,” said former Cpl. Julio Marin, who currently works with the National Desert Storm War Memorial. “When we heard the colonel (Bradley) was going out of his way to take care of us old veterans ... It’s a very special day, for a lot of us.”
Plans have already begun for the 2019 reunion, which will occur once the unit returns from an upcoming deployment to Europe with the 1st Brigade.
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