Today our blog post is from Maj. Gen. James McConville, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). As the 101st Airborne Division celebrates 70 years of history, Maj. Gen. McConville reflects on their great history and dedication.
Back in June of this year I had the honor and privilege of representing the over 23,000 men and women of the 101st Airborne Division at a memorial dedication in Normandy, France for the late MAJ Dick Winters of the fabled Easy Company, 506thInfantry. While I was there, I had the chance to talk to some of the last remaining veterans of that historic unit. As I listened to their stories, I have learned that veteran’s stories are like a good wine; they get much better with age. It was great to hear them laugh about the old times and speak reverently about those who did not return.
As I stood there and listened to their memories…my heart swelled with pride because I saw in their eyes what I see every day in the Soldiers that serve in our storied Division…I saw the spark. I saw the spark that defines a Screaming Eagle…that spark that focuses on accomplishing the mission, no matter what the cost…that spark that says to their buddies on the left and right, “You can trust me, I’ve got your back”…that strength and courage that …as we sing in our Division song… “strikes the spark that will ALWAYS make men free.” I can ensure you that the current generation of Screaming Eagles are no different than those from the greatest generation. Whenever the need has been greatest and the fighting the most fierce, the 101st Airborne Division has answered the call.
Within a month of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Rakkasans and TF Destiny were called upon to answer our Nation’s need…and in fact they are in the process of deploying now for their sixth rotation. During the decade since 9/11, Screaming Eagles have deployed time and time again into harm’s way. Another great generation of Soldiers has been born and more heroes have been made.
If you have ever visited our Division Headquarters, you may have noticed it’s shaped like a “V.” On the first floor of the southern part of the “V” there is a long hallway appropriately named “The Screaming Eagle Aerie” – or literally the Eagles Nest. Within that corridor are the names of the over 7,000 Screaming Eagles that have given the “last full measure of devotion” since the division was activated in August 1942.
I frequently walk down this hallway, sometimes as I head to meetings in McAuliffe auditorium…sometimes to speak with members of our staff…but sometimes simply to remind me of the tremendous sacrifice that our Soldiers and families have made since our activation 70 years ago…to remind me of what a privilege it is to serve in this Division with all those who are willing to go into harm’s way and if called upon to risk their lives to provide for the security of our Nation and to protect the freedoms we all enjoy.
I don’t know exactly what will be required of our Screaming Eagles in the future but there is one thing I do know: when the Nation needs the very best; they are going ask for and are going to send the 101st. And I know that extraordinary young men and women of the 101st will continue to step forward, living up to the legacy of those who have gone before them, so that others might enjoy freedom, security and prosperity.
So as we pause on this day to reflect; we reflect on the proud history of our Division, our Army, and this great Nation. We honor those who have given so much and we give thanks for those who continue to serve. I would ask that you please keep our Soldiers who are deployed in harm’s way in Afghanistan in your thoughts and prayers and may God bless you and our Nation.
For more great content from the 101st’s “Week of the Eagles” celebration, visit: