JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – June 14, 2022 marks 247 years that the U.S. Army has defended the nation. Throughout the service, commands and units are recognizing this prestigious birthday with numerous events.
The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence marked the day by recognizing the late Sergeant Major of the Army Leon Van Autreve at a wreath laying ceremony at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas. He was the fourth Sergeant Major of the Army and a highly decorated Soldier who participated in the invasion of Port Lyautey, Africa, and also served in Vietnam. Van Autreve joined the Army in 1941 from Delphos, Ohio, and retired in 1975 with 31 years of service. He passed away in March 2002.
The ceremony was hosted by Command Sgt. Maj. Robert J. Jackson II, Commandant of the Medical Noncommissioned Officers Academy. Annually, the MEDCoE NCOA hosts this event to both remember Van Autreve’s service and honor his family.
“What I will talk about today is something that I know was very dear to Sergeant Major Van Autreve because of others,” said MEDCoE Command Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, the ceremony guest speaker.
As he reflected on memories of the time he shared with the Van Autreve family over the years, Charpentier said, “Often times we focus on the Soldiers, but we don’t acknowledge the families. Those that are behind the scenes, those that are in front those that are supporting the service member as they deploy, as they do what the Nation needs them to do,”.
He thanked the family for bridging the gap of what it means to be a true Army family across the generations.
“Our Army families are why we do what we do, and I know that Sgt. Maj. Van Autreve loved his country, he loved the Army, and he certainty loved his family,” said Charpentier.
The NCO Academy at Fort Sam Houston was renamed Van Autreve Hall in September 2002, six months after Van Autreve’s death, in honor of his contributions to the command and support to the academy’s mission.
Following a reading of the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae, a favored poem of Van Autreve, the laying of the wreath was conducted by Chapentier and Jackson, to honor Van Autreve for his dedicated contributions to the noncommissioned officer corps, the U.S. Army, and our Nation.
Concluding the ceremony, the Medical NCOA Advanced Leader Course cadre lowered the Nation’s colors, while a bugler played "Retreat" followed by "To the Colors"; a fitting end to MEDCoE’s recognition of the Army’s Birthday.