By Capt. Margaret ZifferDecember 5, 2019
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Soldiers of the 35th Infantry "Santa Fe" Division held a ceremony dedicating a conference room in honor of a historic figure at the division forward-deployed headquarters building Dec. 22.
The newly remodeled Spurrier Conference Room was named in honor of Staff Sgt. James Ira "Junior" Spurrier, Company G, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions while serving in World War II.
Prior to the renovations, the conference room was due for some updates.
"You could say it was a neglected conference room," said Col. Timothy Bush, chief of staff, 35th Infantry Division. "But it was right in the middle of our office space and we wanted it to reflect the pride and professionalism of the current division."
So the division staff organized a committee of Soldiers who took steps to make improvements. Updates included a fresh coat of paint, new chairs and a conference table, and original artwork courtesy of some of the unit's own artists.
"I wanted to have a space that we can take pride in and see and use every day where the history of the division comes alive," said Bush. "I wanted the unit to connect to our record of achievements of bravery and selfless service - to emphasize the long lineage of the 35th Infantry Division by creating a tangible connection to a hero from the past."
That connection to the past and celebration of accomplishments came in the form of two large paintings. One painting capturing the division's current mission depicts the five brigades that fall under Task Force Spartan, which the 35th oversees, painted by Sgt. First Class Lloyd Anderson.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Carol Sprawka completed the painting representing the division's past - a portrait of Spurrier.
"I'm honored to be a part of this," said Sprawka. "This is part of our history. As I did some research to complete this painting, I learned a lot about the 35th that I didn't know. So hopefully, someone will see the painting and be encouraged to learn about it too."
During the invocation at the dedication ceremony, 35th Inf. Div. Chaplain Maj. Richard Dunn remarked that it is the hope of the division that the facility will assist future units in their ongoing efforts to promote national security and regional stability.
"We ask, Lord, that this room, dedicated in Staff Sgt. Spurrier's honor, will long serve as a consecrated space for planning, shaping and reporting on future operations, many of which remain known only to you at this time," said Dunn.
Following the invocation, both Anderson and Sprawka received coins from 35th Infantry Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Victor Braden, for their efforts.
While the division may not be certain of the future, digging into Spurrier's story did uncover a small, previously forgotten piece of their legacy. Spurrier's records reveal that his time serving in the Army, dotted with episodes of confrontations with senior leaders and periods of absence without leave, is not a story one would expect to result in the achievement of such a prestigious award.
However, the classic tale of the underdog is one that many in the division see as a fitting representation for the current division.
"He was certainly no boy scout," laughed Bush. "But he was an unconventional figure who was able to think on his feet, adapt to a changing environment, and make the best of a situation."
"I think he is a great example for all of us and his story still speaks to how the division operates today in many ways," said Bush. "I would like for people to think of the 35th division that way today - that we can get the job done, we are going to do it in a way that surpasses everyone's expectations."
Staff Sgt. Junior J. Spurrier's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 18 (March 15, 1945)
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Junior James Spurrier, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company G, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, in action against the enemy at Achain, France, on 13 November 1944. At 2 p.m., Company G attacked the village of Achain from the east. Staff Sergeant Spurrier armed with a BAR passed around the village and advanced alone. Attacking from the west, he immediately killed three Germans. From this time until dark, Staff Sergeant Spurrier, using at different times his BAR and M-1 rifle, American and German rocket launchers, a German automatic pistol, and hand grenades, continued his solitary attack against the enemy regardless of all types of small-arms and automatic-weapons fire. As a result of his heroic actions he killed an officer and 24 enlisted men and captured two officers and two enlisted men. His valor has shed fresh honor on the U.S. Armed Forces.