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Combat engineers and infantry soldiers with the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade, go on the attack during training at Fort McCoy, in June 2000.

RON JOHNSON

One of the most storied military units in American history was organized 100 years ago this week, and hundreds turned out for special ceremonies at Camp Williams last Tuesday to commemorate the occasion. We add our congratulations. 

The Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Division was formed on July 18, 1917, as the United States prepared to enter World War I. Its 10,000-plus soldiers went on to distinguished service in what was supposed to have been the war to end all wars.

The French were so enamored with the division's military exploits on the battlefield, which included several penetrations of staunch enemy lines, that after the war they named the 32nd "Les Terribles." It was after the war that the 32nd adopted a shoulder patch depicting a red arrow penetrating a solid bar and thus earning the nickname the "Red Arrow Division," one of the most recognizable in the U.S. military.

Alas, that war wasn't the end of all wars — as we all painfully know. Barely two decades had passed before Wisconsin's National Guard division was again activated to go to war. It wound up in the South Pacific and served 654 straight days of combat, the most of any U.S. Army division.

Its soldiers earned 11 medals of honor, 157 distinguished service crosses, 49 legions of merit, 845 silver stars, 1,854 bronze stars, 98 air medals, 78 soldiers medals and 11,500 purple hearts.

Its last call-up as a division was to serve as support during the Berlin Crisis in 1961. This time, fortunately, there was no war.

Under a massive Army reorganization in 1967, the division was converted to a mechanized infantry brigade, but retained the Red Arrow designation and its proud heritage.

In the years since, several of its units have been called to active duty numerous times for the nation's continuing wars in the Mideast, serving in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

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And as a National Guard unit, Red Arrow soldiers have also served their state to help fight floods, fires and other disasters.

It's a pity that in a hundred years this country and the world haven't figured a way to make war obsolete. But, since we haven't, congratulations to the men and women of the proud Red Arrow division for their service and continued sacrifices for us all.

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