By Sgt. Johnathon Jobson, Task Force Marne Public AffairsNovember 25, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division honored its 92 years of service to the nation by recognizing combat service through a traditional "Patch Ceremony," on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Nov. 21.
Combat veterans and first-time deployers were the honorees during the ceremony. The Marne patch was even affixed to the right sleeve of Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, with his 30 years of service, along with deputy commanding generals Brig. Gen. Patrick Donohue and Brig. Gen. Tom Vandal.
The wearing of patches, officially known as "Shoulder Sleeve Insignia - Former Wartime Service" is to denote Soldiers who have participated in combat operations. It dates back to World War I, when it was worn to boost unit morale and show pride in the Soldier's unit.
"It's not just a patch; it's not just covering the fuzz on your right shoulder," said Maj. Gen. Cucolo, the 3rd ID and Task Force Marne commanding general. "It is the 3rd Infantry Division patch, and you ought to be proud you get to wear it. Sure, you deserve it, but you need to feel honored and proud you get to wear one."
Sitting in the audience waiting for their part to take place were Soldiers who arrived in Iraq to take out a dictator and now they are back for a fourth time to hand over operations to the Iraqis. Four-time 3rd ID deployers affixed the Marne patch on the sleeves of first-time deployers.
"It was the first time I have ever patched someone," said Warrant Officer Robert Streeper, the Air Movement Request officer-in-charge with the TF Marne G3 (Operations) Air section. "It felt good to be recognized, especially by people who have not been over here before, and to be out in front of my peers while doing it."
During World War I, a small group came up with the Marne patch idea - three white lines on a blue field.
"We had completed our stand on the Marne River, earning our nickname; had two Medal of Honor recipients; participated in three major campaigns; more than 3,500 were killed and more than 12,000 wounded," explained Maj. Gen Cucolo. "A symbol for that effort and sacrifice was important."
The three lines stand for the major operations in which the division participated in during World War I. The blue field symbolizes American valor, the same as the blue field on the American flag; instead of stars there are the three stripes, Maj. Gen. Cucolo explained.
For the Soldiers on their first deployment, receiving the combat patch was a very humbling experience.
"I am excited to be with the 3rd Infantry Division. My dad served with them in Germany before I was born, so it's pretty cool to continue our Family legacy a little bit," said Spc. Abigail Waldrop, a broadcaster for TF Marne Public Affairs. "The 3rd Infantry Division has accomplished so much in its history. To be a part of its mission now is really an honor and I'm proud to be able to wear the Marne patch."