25 October 2012

34th Inf. Div. Association Celebrates 65-year Reunion

By Sgt. 1st Class Ashlee Lolkus
34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division Public Affairs
Minnesota National Guard
Released Oct. 24, 2012

JOHNSTON, Iowa – Red Bull soldiers and supporters gathered during the 34th Infantry Division Association’s 65th Annual Reunion hosted by the Des Moines, Iowa Chapter at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston, Iowa, Oct. 5-6, 2012.

Minnesota National Guard Col. (P) Benjamin Corell, the 
2012-2013 association president and 34th Inf. Div. 
deputy commander for support, adjourns the 65th Annual Reunion. 
The association, originally established in 1946 shortly after World War II, was a grass-roots organization started by young men who fought together in North Africa, Tunsia, Anzio and other battlefields during the war. Through the years, Red Bull soldiers across the country have gathered annually to reminisce of old times with comrades sharing stories of their service to get a chuckle, or haunting stories of the battlefields on which they once fought.

“I joined in ’93. I didn’t even know there was an association,” said Iowa National Guard Col. Ron Albrecht, outgoing president of the association. “The first reunion I attended was in Waterloo, Iowa, with the Ironman chapter where over 3,000 participants attended at the Sullivan Center. The speaker was former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Vessey. I learned more about the history of the 34th Infantry during that reunion than I ever knew existed.”

During Albrecht’s time as president, he worked to get today’s Red Bull generation interested in the association. Nearing the end of his own military service, Albrecht hopes the association can continue to serve our past and present Red Bull Soldiers.

“This new generation needs to carry on the tradition,” said Albrecht. “The purpose of the association is to take care of Red Bull Soldiers: where they are, where they are going, how their families are. Many Soldiers get out and miss the camaraderie. That is where the association comes in, the Iraq war veteran explained.

“This is another way for them to be a part of the military. It’s not about rank. It’s about us ... as soldiers,” he said.

World War II Red Bull veteran, Ben Kroll, of Charles City, Iowa, shares the Red Bull pride with many reunion attendees.

“So many divisions never had reunions, but not the 34th,” Krall said with a slight smirk as he reminisced of past reunions. Krall, who served as an ammunition truck driver in Company F, 2-133rd Infantry Regiment, said he was honored to wear the unit patch. Kroll served with many units throughout the war and even participated in the invasion of Italy, but his loyalty was always with the Red Bulls.

“I still want to do something, to do my part,” he said. “I joined because I wanted to. I love the division for all they have done: Twenty-one won the Medal of Honor, for all those that passed before me, for what these warriors went through, for their bravery. Oh, they were tops!”

Regrettably, World War II Red Bulls are becoming sparser at reunions. This year there were seven World War II veterans in attendance. The generation is becoming so sparse that the Tri-State Chapter of the association announced their deactivation during the reunion. The Tri-State Chapter, based out of Amsterdam, N.Y., served the Red Bull veterans located throughout the East Coast.

Where one falls, another will pick up. During the association’s official business meeting, Minnesota National Guard Maj. Jason Burley, the 34th Inf. Div. public affairs officer, announced the establishment of the Commander’s Chapter, which is the first active chapter in Minnesota for nearly 20 years. In addition to the establishment of the new chapter, Burley motioned the Commander’s Chapter to host the reunion scheduled for 2014.

“The Minnesota Chapter of the 34th Inf. Div. Assoc. is very excited to be the host of the 2014 reunion,” Burley announced. “We are very much looking forward to providing a world class event and following the precedent set by the Des Moines chapter.

“Soldiers of the 34th Inf. Div., and the issues that affect them will be the driving force behind the activities and priorities of the Minnesota Chapter. We're excited about the future of the chapter.”

Red Bull soldiers and supporters nationwide are encouraged to participate in association activities in order to build camaraderie and support past and present members and their families. Individuals interested in becoming members can visit the association website to obtain registration materials. The 34th Infantry Division Association can also be found on Facebook here.

For previous coverage of this event on the Red Bull Rising blog, click here and here.

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