Text and photos by Mark Kurtz, NCPR contributing photojournalist
Whiteface Mountain hosted the 10th Mountain Division at a rededication ceremony at the base of the mountain this past Wednesday afternoon. Whiteface is dedicated to the World War Two veterans of the 10th Mountain Division and this rededication ceremony has been taking place annually since 1988. The ceremony also honors the veterans of the modern 10th Mountain Division, which is based at Fort Drum.
I went to this event was not as a photographer for NCPR, but as a “descendant” of a 10th Mountain Division soldier. My dad served in the 10th in Italy during World War Two. Over the years I listened to him tell stories of his experiences in the army but they were mostly fun stories, talking about the training at Camp Hale in Colorado and referring to some of the antics he and his army buddies pulled on occasion.
Much less often did I hear stories of what he experienced in combat, although he did describe the day, somewhere near Mt Belvedere, he spent on his stomach with a piece of shrapnel in his lower back as artillery shells were landing all around him. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that medics were able to get to him. He recovered pretty well and went on to a life that included skiing, as a large number of 10th Mountain vets did. The post war ski industry got its start primarily from men that served in the 10th Mountain Division.
My dad passed away 8 years ago, one of the hundreds of World War Two vets that were dying every day…it was that time in their life. There were a few World War Two vets at the ceremony, all in their 80s and 90s now, and several “10th Mountain descendants”. This ceremony wasn’t a time of story telling from a long ago time, it was one of remembrance.
We listened as the guest speakers remembered the veterans, and heard Brigadier General Richard Clarke, Deputy Commanding General for Operations, 10th Mountain Division tell us about the modern day 10th and its deployments all over the world since its reactivation in 1985.
Today, the 10th is the most deployed division in the US Army. General Clark singled out three soldiers of the 10th and told their stories of significant heroism in battle. SSG Charles Stevens and SGT Chris Onge had each received the Bronze Star and SPC Devon Gibson had received the Army Commendation Medal for their actions.
Certainly the most somber moment of the service was the Roll Call when former (now retired) Division Command Sargent Major James Redmore read the names and waited for the reply, first from a 10th Mountain Division WW 2 veteran that was at the service and then from current 10th Mountain soldiers also at the service…and then from a WW 2 soldier, from whom there was no reply and a current 10th Mountain soldier, also from whom there was no reply, both having been killed in action, one in Italy in 1945 and the other in Afghanistan in 2012.
As a civilian, having never been in the military, I am always left in awe with what these men and women do.
After the Roll Call a sharp, loud sound of the rifle volley salute followed immediately by the simple sound of taps being played by a lone bugler was a powerful reminder of what our servicemen and women have sacrificed…for us.