FORT LEE, Va –
The Army Reserve’s 80th Training Command, a legacy unit of the 80th Infantry Division, hosted the 80th Division Veterans Association here on Sept. 16 to commemorate the unit’s history. The event took place at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum and the U.S. Army Women’s Museum, which are co-located here.
Veteran’s Association Historian Dr. Lee Anthony presented “The 80th Division during World War I” and recounted how the unit formed 100 years ago, sailed to France, was trained by the British, and subsequently participated in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns. The division primarily drew Soldiers from Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and because of this became known as the “Blue Ridge Division.”
The event was open to the public and included World War I American, British and French reenactors with displays of equipment, weapons, vehicles, and horses. Buses took visitors to view a small portion of the eight miles of trenches that still exist and were dug at what was then Camp Lee to train the soldiers of the 80th for combat. Other lectures took place throughout the day, including two from members of the National Park Service.
Retired Maj. Gen. John McLaren, past commander of the Veterans Association, noted that the event brings together the past and the present for the division. While there are no living World War I veterans, family members of veterans are members of the association, and five World War II veterans attended the festivities. The Division also fought in France during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The 80th Training Command formed in 2008 and has since sent Soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Events such as this are taking place around the country and significant because World War I ushered in the formation of the modern Army, and many units therefore trace their lineage to that conflict. The culmination of all the commemorations will be the dedication of a National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day in 2018.
Perhaps this event and others like them were best summed up by Col. Sean Davis, commander of the 59th Ordnance Brigade, who presided over the flag-lowering ceremony. After a trumpeter from the 392nd Army Band performed “Retreat,” Davis stated, “The World War I veterans were the advance party on modern war, and their ghosts live on in the fighting spirit of today’s Army.”