Rakkasan veterans stay connected, reach out to new generation
November 16, 2012
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Whether they are currently serving in Afghanistan or have served in historical conflicts such as World War II, Korea or Vietnam, the "Rakkasans" of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) have been recognized for many outstanding achievements.
The National Rakkasan Association -- a private, non-profit organization -- illustrates a prime example of a group of elite veterans who have played an enormous role in shaping American history and the Rakkasan legacy. They keep it alive by inspiring the newest generation of actively-serving 3rd BCT Soldiers to continue on the path of excellence.
Major John Page, the rear-detachment commander of 3rd BCT, describes the vets of the Rakkasan Association as "Some of the bravest men I have ever met."
"There are two living Medal of Honor winners that are a part of us and they make every effort to share their stories. The Troops of old have set the standard that all Rakkasans of today should strive to be," he said.
"This Brigade has a long history of warriors who have sacrificed more than any will know, through [nearly] every conflict our country has been in over the past century. In short, without them, we would not be or have the foundation that we stand on to call ourselves Rakkasans," said Page.
The association allows these veterans to stay connected with their former brothers in arms and invites new ones from younger generations to join and strengthen the bond.
"We are a fraternity, a brotherhood," said retired Col. Blair Ross, a member of the National Rakkasan Association who served as a Battalion Commander for 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment from 1994 to 1996.
"Through our service together, we've earned a place in each other's lives, and we seek to sustain that through this association," Ross said.
The unit and the association also share a very unique relationship with each other, Page said.
"The Relationship between the Association and the [3rd] BCT is one of the most unique in the Army," he said.
"It is [one of] the most active year-round associations, always interested to know the status of the troops and if there is anything they can do. They are our constant mentors and the warriors that have served before us; they are the hero we try to emulate daily. They enjoy our good times and feel our pain and our sorrow when we lose a fellow Rakkasan," said Page.
The vets of the association also share their stories at public events. The most recent example was the 31st Annual National Rakkasan Association Reunion Oct. 14-21 at The International Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla.
More than 200 members of the association and seven active-duty Soldiers from the 3rd BCT attended the event, including Page and 1st Sgt. Jeremy Clark, the brigade's rear-detachment command sergeant major, as well as a color guard team.
The gap between generations was almost undetectable at the reunion as veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq met and joined in conversation, listening intently to each other's stories and experiences.
"The Rakkasan legend has many chapters, [with] new ones being written as we enjoy ourselves here tonight," Ross said in a speech at the event.
"We want to ensure that our Association is a welcome place for the authors of these new chapters to come together and experience the same enduring fraternity that we have benefited from," he said.
Ross spoke about how soldiers of the past have communicated and shared their stories, from sitting together at the end of the day to coming together in a means of fellowship at reunions.
He then discussed how the association is reaching out to the young veterans of today with the newer technology they are using, such as social media and other websites, to invite them to join the association and keep the legacy alive.
"We've got to give our new generations of Rakkasans a 21st century association that's going to make the next 30 years of our fraternity as vibrant and rewarding and important to them as the past 30 have been to us," Ross said.
Members of the association who attended the reunion were reminded of why they are so proud to have served as a Rakkasan.
"I was deeply moved by my experience at the Orlando reunion," said Brian Kenney, a former member of Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment from 1989-1991.
"It was like getting a front row seat to the Rakkasans, who laid the foundation of our heritage and history. I left more proud than ever to have been - and to remain - a Rakkasan." Kenney said.
Mr. Beau Brumfield, a former member of Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, and 187th Infantry Regiment from 1989-1991 and now the new National Association Quartermaster, said, "It was an honor to be amongst these heroes; they truly are American treasures. Our generations are connected by the pride in our Regiment."
At the end of the reunion, they held a dinner and upheld traditions of the Army and the association. With a formal color guard present, the National Colors and 187th Infantry Regimental Colors were marched through the gathering and posted in the time-honored tradition.
Fallen Soldiers from the past and present were honored with a moment of silence and the annual unveiling of the Fallen Rakkasan, a testament to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Although these veterans enjoy honoring traditions and stories of the unit's past, they say that they are also motivated to move forward with their plans for the future.
"I'm not depressed about our future, I'm excited about it," said Ross.
"A decade's worth of new blood, anxious to retain their ties to their fellow Rakkasans. They're all out there…we just have to give it to them. So, let's get out there and do it."