FORT CAMPBELL, Ky --Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division gathered from around the base to participate in a division run as part of the 75th birthday of the division, August 16, at the division parade field.
The run was led by Vincent J. Speranza, a former Screaming Eagle, with Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, who is the oldest living Screaming Eagle Veteran and author of '"Nuts!": A 101st Airborne Division Machine Gunner at Bastogne." He jumped into Holland, fought his way through the Battle of the Bulge and was there when they took Hitler's hideout, "the Eagles Nest."
"This morning I was honored, by the general to be a part of the division run, in the jeep, I wanted to get out and run with them, I would have lasted about 3 yards." said Speranza with a chuckle. "Never have I been so proud in my entire life, of what has happened to the 101st Airborne Division, undiminished in its fighting mentality and determination."
The 101st Airborne Division was activated August 16, 1942, at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The division's first commander, Maj. Gen. William C. Lee, made the famous observation; "The 101st has no history, but has a rendezvous with destiny."
For 2nd Lt. Joshua Hartwell, platoon leader, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st, the morning was an opportunity to experience his first division run with the 101st.
"This was my first division run and it just so happened to be on the 75th anniversary of the division, which is very significant and exciting," said Hartwell. "It was motivating, an eye opening experience and humbling to be a part of such a historic division."
At the turn around point on the run route, there was a spot for Families, friends and veterans to gather and cheer on the runners.
"We came out here today to support our troops and spouses," said Sarah Kuchan, a member of the Fort Campbell Spouses Club. "We love our troops. Go Eagles!"
Later in the morning, the Screaming Eagles recognized Sheryl Ellis, vice president and general manager for the Kentucky New Era Newspaper, as a Champion of Fort Campbell. Champions of Fort Campbell is a program, started in 2010, that honors and recognizes the efforts of citizens in the local communities who have enhanced the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families.
"She has been supporting Soldiers and Families of Fort Campbell since 1996," said Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, commander, 101st Abn. Div. and Fort Campbell. "She is a woman of action, always looking out for Soldiers and their families."
There have been 19 people selected as Champions of Fort Campbell. 12 of the previous Champions were present to congratulate Ellis on her award. Her mother, father, sister, husband and son were also in attendance for this occasion.
"It's an honor for me to be selected," said Ellis. "I didn't do this to be a Champion. I have been involved with the Association of the United States Army, and military affairs for more then 20 years and it's very humbling and exciting to be selected."
The ceremony concluded with a cake cutting for the 75th anniversary. The cake was cut by Pvt. Mark Gurrola, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, the youngest Soldier in the division, and Speranza, the oldest veteran of the 101st.
"Hit it hard!" Speranza told Gurrola before cutting the cake enthusiastically with the ceremonial sword.
The 75th anniversary of the 101st is one of the cornerstone events to celebrate this great storied organization. This year's anniversary theme, "Legacy of Heroism," embodies the history and contributions of all who have worn "Old Abe" on their shoulder. It represents one of the most resilient forces in the world who are truly among the best trained, equipped, and led warriors in the United States Army.
During the 75th anniversary, events from August 14-26 will provide an opportunity for veterans to come back and interact with their old formations. Local community leaders and civilians, and Families of Fort Campbell to come and take part in all of the celebratory activities, which will culminate with the 72nd annual 101st Association Memorial Reunion Dinner in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 26.