12/05/2011 | By Capt. Jennifer K. Cotten 95th Training Division (IET), Public Affairs Officer
The reunion provided an opportunity for current Soldiers, retirees, veterans, and family and friends of the 95th to come together. From left to right, Nancy Bubb, daughter of Col. (Ret.) John Komp and friend of the 95th, Staff Sgt. Cesar Ortiz, 2/354th, 95th Training Division (IET), and Komp, a 95th WWII veteran, pose for a photo before dinner festivities. Photo courtesy Col. (Ret.) John Komp.
NEW ORLEANS — The 95th Infantry Division Association members met in New Orleans August 3-8 for their 62nd reunion. The Association, originally a WWII organization, has expanded its ranks by actively recruiting 95th soldiers from all eras and chose New Orleans as a locale that has something for veterans of all ages.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) James E. Archer, former 95th commanding general and current president of the Association said, “95TH Division Soldiers who have served in the past decade have played a material role in the defense of our Nation and built upon the legacy of the Iron Men of Metz and the reunions have provided an impetus for the survival and mission of the Association.”
Attendees were able to visit The National WW II Museum which offered a unique 4-D experience entitled Beyond All Boundaries, or they could break out on their own to visit other local attractions like an airboat adventure through swampland to catch a glimpse of alligators.
By night, with accommodations at the quaint Inn on Bourbon, Ironmen and their families and friends were able to step outside their hotel and “let the good times roll” on Bourbon Street where local street acts provided lively and fun entertainment.
On Saturday evening, guests were entertained by Bill Dana, a comedian, actor and screenwriter, who is most well-known for his character, José Jimenez which appeared on such shows as The Ed Sullivan Show and the Steve Allen Show. Dana is also a WWII veteran who served with the 66th Infantry Division.
Dana said, “As a WWII combat infantry veteran I wish to commend the 95th Division Association for their devoted work in service to the division’s veterans and families. Your patriotic efforts have ensured that the memory of those who have put their minds and body on the line for their country will not be forgotten.”
Archer, the organization’s first non-WWII president said, “As the founding generation gradually passes into history, the survival of the Association depends upon the continuing involvement of spouses, descendants, and current and recently retired Soldiers of the Division.”
Even as younger generations of 95th soldiers emerge, WWII veterans like Walter Blenko, Jr. proved it’s never too late to get in on the act. Blenko, a long-time member of the Association, had never attended a single reunion in the previous 61 years.
Blenko said, “I had no difficulty in relating to any of the people present in New Orleans and found myself welcomed as if I had been there from the beginning.”
Although Blenko may have arrived in New Orleans expecting to reconnect with his WWII buddies, he soon learned he had the opportunity to share experiences with younger veterans.
“It was a great pleasure to learn that members of the younger 95th generation have adopted the Association as their own and give every indication of continuing the activities of the Association and perpetuating the memory of the Iron Men of Metz. The younger generation seemed to be immensely proud of us and I, for one, reciprocate that feeling about them,” Blenko said.
Interaction with our WWII Veterans has added to the education and training of current Soldiers who are sent into harm’s way and all Soldiers and their family members who share a common interest in preserving the legacy of the 95TH Division past and present are invited to join the Association, said Archer.
Plans are underway for next year’s reunion which will be in Pittsburgh, Pa. More information can be obtained about the 95th Infantry Division Association on the Association’s website at https://95divassociation.com/.