FORT BENNING, GEORGIA— The hallowed grounds surrounding the National Infantry Museum, near Fort Benning, Georgia, is an honored space in military circles, and Oregon’s most historic national guard unit will forever connect its past, present, and future Veterans there with a monument dedicated, April 28, 2018, at the museum’s Walk of Honor.
The former 41st Infantry Division, and the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon Army National Guard that now carries its lineage, have many historic achievements to be proud of, including the longest deployment of any unit in the South Pacific during World War II, and a unit that received the highest award bestowed upon a military unit for heroic actions in Iraq.
“Our patch joins those of historic infantry units and organizations that have made lasting contributions to the United States Army, the U.S. military, and our nation,” said Oregon Army National Guard Brig. Gen. William J. Prendergast IV during the dedication ceremony.
Prendergast commanded the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) before becoming the Oregon National Guard’s Assistant Adjutant General-Army and the U.S. Army Africa deputy commander. He has spent the vast majority of his military career serving with the 41st.
“The monument will provide a place where young members of the 41st can visit to remember the traditions of service and sacrifice they are joining, and all the brave Soldiers who came before them,” he said.
The symbol of the 41st is a sunset patch that past and present Soldiers of the 41st wear on their left shoulder. The unit was nicknamed the “Sunset Division” in 1917 due to its close association with northwest states, where the sun sets on the Pacific Ocean.
Some of the 41st Division’s proudest accomplishments were earned during World War II, where it was the first American division sent overseas after Pearl Harbor, and the first American division trained in jungle warfare. The division spent 45 months fighting overseas, where it was also the first division to confront Japanese Imperial forces in an offensive operation in New Guinea, earning them the nickname “Jungleers.” The tour was the longest of any division in World War II.
In 2004-05, a 41st unit received the highest award a unit can receive for their actions in Iraq. Thirty members of the Corvallis, Oregon, based 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment, were honored with the Presidential Unit Citation in 2011.
Soldiers from the 41st Division and its successor, the 41st IBCT, have deployed overseas in support of World War I, World War II, peace-keeping missions, multinational training exercises, Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Freedom’s Sentinel. The unit has also provided much needed emergency response and recovery assistance following the devastation of such natural disasters as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“Today is the culmination of almost five years of hard work and dedication to install the 41st Infantry Division’s Sunset Patch on the National Infantry Museum’s Walk of Honor,” Prendergast said.
The current 41st IBCT commander, Col. Eric Riley, was in attendance with others who have helped shape the history of the 41st, including World War II Veterans from the 41st Infantry Division Association who were able to attend. Riley said he was honored and humbled to have the opportunity to say a few words at the event.
“As we dedicate this amazing monument today, we have among us, the past, the present, and the future of the legendary 41st,” Riley said at the ceremony. “These men here, men from the Greatest Generation, were lethal warriors. They are heroes who understand sacrifice and selfless service. While our composition has changed over years, we carry on the same honored tradition as the first divisional units. We are proud of our history. We train hard and are eager to answer the call when we are needed.”
Several Soldiers currently serving in the brigade were in attendance to represent the future of the 41st.
“They are eager to carry the torch and continue the proud history of the 41st,” said Riley.
The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center opened in 2009 with one guiding mission: to honor the legacy and valor of the U.S. Army Infantryman. For more information, visit the website at http://nationalinfantrymuseum.org.
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