By Spc. Sophia LopezNovember 5, 2010
CORAOPOLIS, Pa. (Oct. 24, 2010) - Former and current Soldiers along with their family and friends gathered for a reunion dinner in the Redwood Ballroom at the Doubletree hotel here, Oct. 23. The reunion is an ongoing tradition of the Associates of the 99th Infantry Division, Inc., which started in 1993. However, the 99th Inf. Div. itself has held national reunions since 1950 after serving in World War II.
"Men who serve in combat together form a bond that lasts a lifetime," said retired Col. Paul Platek, president of the Associates of the 99th Inf. Div., Inc. He said the friendship and camaraderie is the real reason the reunions went on after the end of the war.
The evening started with social hour where guests mingled and reminisced. Harry McCraken was no exception. He was a 99th Inf. Div. WWII veteran who was also one of the original founders and first Vice-President of the Associates of the 99th Inf. Div., Inc. Currently the Chairman of the organization, McCraken recalled a time when Gen. Karol Kennedy was commander of the redesignated 99th Regional Support Command. New facilities had been constructed here to house the 99th RSC, and it needed a name. McCraken suggested it be named after Tech. Sgt. Vernon McGarity, a Medal of Honor recipient who served under the 99th Inf. Div.
"I didn't think it would work because he was still alive, but she just said 'I work at the Pentagon. I can make this happen,'" McCraken said laughing. Kennedy liked the idea and so the Army Reserve Center was named in 2002. The 99th RSC eventually moved their headquarters to Fort Dix, N.J., and the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command replaced the unit in September 2008.
The commander of the 316th ESC and guest speaker for the night, Brig. Gen. Peter S. Lennon, addressed the group explaining the structure and mission of 316th ESC as the local military unit.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for me to meet some real heroes," said Lennon to the many veterans in attendance. Lennon expressed his admiration for the 99th Soldiers and lineage and was proud of the 316th connection to them through not only assuming command of their headquarters building here, but also through the many former 99th Soldiers who transferred into the 316th ESC. A few of those Soldiers were in attendance as well.
Dressed in either suits, green Class A dress uniforms or the newer Army Service Uniforms, many former 99th Soldiers dined alongside current 316th Soldiers.
"It is an honor to see you senior officers wearing the uniform so proudly," said Lennon to the retired gentlemen.
After dessert was served and Lennon had finished speaking, he was awarded a certificate of appreciation for support of the 99th Inf. Div. Association and the Associates of the 99th Inf. Div., Inc.
Former 99th Soldiers included members of the 99th Inf. Div., 99th Army Reserve Command, 99th Regional Support Command and 99th Regional Readiness Command all of which are redesignations of the same unit.
The Associates of the 99th Inf. Div., Inc., have hosted reunions about every other or every three years. They have also assisted in many 99th-related projects such as the installation of a stain glass window inside the Soldiers and Sailors Museum in Oakland which commemorates 99th RSC Soldiers and the construction of a memorial featuring every 99th campaign since WWII. The memorial will eventually live at the Soldiers and Sailors Museum once their garden is complete.