BAGHDAD -- First Lt. Scott Sharkey of the Colorado Army National Guard's 86th Military Intelligence Company stands in front of a painted 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team patch at Forward Operating Base Falcon July 25. The patch, the combat version of which can be seen on Sharkey's left sleeve, dates back to the founding of the 30th Infantry Division in 1917. Sharkey's grandfather, Allen, was attached to the division in World War II and earned a Bronze Star with "V" device for valor while with the unit. Scott wasn't aware that his grandfather had served with "Old Hickory," as the then-division and current brigade are known, until he himself learned he would be deploying to Iraq with the unit. Sharkey hails from Centennial, Colo.

BAGHDAD - When Colorado Army National Guardsman 1st Lt. Scott Sharkey learned he was deploying to Iraq as part of the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, he didn't realize he wasn't the first member of his family to serve with "Old Hickory."

His grandfather, the late retired Maj. Allen Sharkey, had beaten him by about 65 years, having fought with the 30th Infantry Division, the brigade's predecessor, during World War II.

"My grandfather enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard and was attached to the 30th to deploy, the same way I was attached to the 30th this time," said Sharkey, of Centennial, Colo.

Sharkey, of the 86th Military Intelligence Company, serves as an embedded intelligence officer with the 2nd Iraqi Federal Police Division in Baghdad. He said he only found out about his grandfather's time in the 30th after telling his family he was deploying to Iraq.

The call to his father, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Sharkey, elicited a cryptic "the 30th, huh'"

His grandfather rarely, if ever, spoke about his World War II service. But when Steve returned from a tour as a C-7 Caribou cargo pilot in Vietnam, the two were able to share their combat experiences.

Those stories, however, only recently made their way to Scott and they came not from his grandfather, who died in 1986, but through a recent e-mail from his father.

Grandfather Allen, it read, had been accepted to attend engineering college, but chose to enlist with friends instead, in hopes they would serve together.

Instead, he was separated from them and sent to pilot training. That didn't work out as planned, either, as they found out he was color blind.

"Some guy named Ike decided they needed more infantrymen than color-blind pilots," said Sharkey, using the nickname of Gen. (and later President) Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as the Supreme Allied Commander in the European Theater of Operations.

Allen landed on the European continent less than two months after the June 6, 1944, Normandy invasion.

He fought the German 1st SS Division the Battle of the Bulge, and earned a Bronze Star with "V" device for valor for charging an enemy tank with fellow Soldiers and killing its crew by firing through its viewing slits.

Discharged after the war as a sergeant, Allen moved to Palmyra, Pa., earned a commission in the state National Guard, and raised a family before his death when Scott was 10.
Now, 23 years after his grandfather's death, Sharkey earned his combat patch with the 30th, which is deployed near Baghdad.

"This is a way to connect to my own past," said Sharkey, "and the history of military service of all those who fought before us.

"I'm proud to come from Colorado, but proud to be connected [to the 30th]," said Sharkey, who has been in the National Guard since 2004. "This is the closest thing I have to what he experienced. There's absolutely a sense of pride and connection to my grandfather."

Sharkey, who is married and has a son and daughter, works for the Denver-based Qwest communications company as an IT systems engineer when not deployed.

Page last updated Mon July 27th, 2009 at 00:00