FORT STEWART, Ga. - More than 100 veterans from across the United States gathered at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel in New Orleans Sept. 8-11 for the 92nd Annual Society of the Third Infantry Division Reunion.

The reunion brought together current and former Dogface Soldiers from as far back as World War II to as recently as Operation New Dawn.

"It's an amazing experience that's hard to get rid of," said John Shirley, the reunion committee chairman and author of I Remember: Stories of a Combat Infantry man in World War II. "It's nice to be with Soldiers who know what the military was like."

While it may have seemed like happenstance that the Society held its 92nd reunion in New Orleans, attendees soon found that the location had more of a historical significance. The division's ties to Louisiana actually date as far back as the Battle of New Orleans, when the famous Cottonbalers of the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd ID distinguished themselves in battle. Later, in World War II, Col. Edward Benezech, who also attended the reunion, commanded the Louisiana National Guard's Washington Artillery, which supported the 3rd ID in Anzio. Most recently, the 1st Battalion, 256th Infantry Regiment supported the 3rd Sustainment Brigade in Iraq during Operation New Dawn.

"We wanted to come to New Orleans because it's a great city," said Rich Heller, the society's webmaster. "But we learned a lot this weekend about the relationship between the 3rd Infantry Division and Louisiana.

The 1/256th further supported by providing a Color Guard for the President's Reception, which kicked off the reunion weekend. The next day included tours of the World War II Memorial Museum and the city of New Orleans. However, the highlight for many during the reunion was the keynote address from the 3rd Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams.

"I count my blessings everyday that I am the commanding general of the best division in the Army," he said during his speech.

After showing a video of 3rd ID Soldiers in action, Maj. Gen. Abrams updated the audience on the status and mission of each brigade under the division. He reported that currently all of the division's brigades, with the exception of some companies, are back home, and that none are on deployment orders at this time, noting that the brigades had each served four back-to-back rotations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. The division headquarters itself, Maj. Gen. Abrams said, is now preparing for a historic fifth rotation to Iraq.

"All of those units are an all-volunteer force," he said. "All of those units are comprised of just regular Americans just like you were when you joined the Army and became a member of the 3rd Infantry Division. All are men and women from diverse backgrounds who are just considered normal ordinary people, but every day doing extraordinary things on behalf of our country. They fought for each other and have proven themselves time and time again on the battlefield, and they forged a bond that will never be broken, the same bond that many of you in this room share."

Major General Abrams admitted that he sees the toll that the constant deployment cycle takes on Soldiers, and noted that they are now facing shorter deployments with longer dwell time.

"It's a huge improvement that will go a long way toward reducing the stress on the force and on Families," he said.

He ended his speech by announcing with the division's current strength and capability, the 3rd Infantry Division is the most "advanced and modernized division in the Army." He credited that achievement to the current and former Soldiers who make up the unit.

"The division's got an incredible history. We are lucky to live in a supportive community, and the 3rd Infantry Division Society is a huge part of that support, and for that, we are very grateful," he said. "I want all of you tonight when you close your eyes, to know that the 3rd Infantry Division stands ready, is ready, for whenever our nation calls. Any mission, anytime, anywhere."

The night ended with Lynn Ball, the society of the 3rd ID scholarship foundation chairperson, announcing that the organization had awarded 10 scholarships that year, and is preparing for next year's scholarship drive. The society then presented several awards, including making Maj. Gen. Abrams an honorary member and president of the association. Major General Abrams also presented two Certificates of Appreciation to Ball and Heller.

Also awarded were two of the division's Purple Heart recipients, Sgt. Chadd Myers, of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Spc. Matthew Singleton, of Company D, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th IBCT. They each received handmade quilts from the society's Giovinazzo-York Outpost 18 out of Milwaukee, Wis.

The weekend ended with a memorial breakfast Sunday morning, which happened to Fall on Sept. 11. The society recognized more than 100 Fallen members of the 3rd Infantry Division from the past year.

Overall, society members rated the reunion a success, and Shirley expressed his gratitude for the support the division constantly gives the society, as well.

"We always have nice conventions and nice meetings," he said. "And we've always had the support of the 3rd Infantry Division, even when it was in Germany, and we really appreciate it."

The 93rd reunion is scheduled to take place Sept. 6-9, 2012 in Savannah, Ga.

Page last updated Thu September 15th, 2011 at 14:32