Virginia National Guard celebrates 406th birthday

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, and Col. Paul Griffin, director of the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff, cut a cake in honor of the 406th birthday of the Virginia National Guard May 14, 2013, at the Joint Force Headquarters in Sandston. The Virginia National Guard traces the heritage and traditions of selfless service to the founding of the Jamestown Settlement May 14, 1607, where Capt. John Smith organized a militia to defend the colony. There has not been a day since without a military presence in Virginia to defend freedom at home and overseas. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia National Guard’s senior enlisted leader, and Col. Paul Griffin, director of the Virginia National Guard Joint Staff, cut a cake in honor of the 406th birthday of the Virginia National Guard May 14, 2013, at the Joint Force Headquarters in Sandston. The Virginia National Guard traces the heritage and traditions of selfless service to the founding of the Jamestown Settlement May 14, 1607, where Capt. John Smith organized a militia to defend the colony. There has not been a day since without a military presence in Virginia to defend freedom at home and overseas. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — Senior leaders, Soldiers, Airmen and civilians employees gathered to celebrate the 406th birthday of the Virginia National Guard with a cake cutting May 14, 2013, at the Joint Force Headquarters in Sandston.

The Virginia National Guard traces the heritage and traditions of selfless service to the founding of the Jamestown Settlement May 14, 1607, where Capt. John Smith organized a militia to defend the colony. There has not been a day since without a military presence in Virginia to defend freedom at home and overseas.

Prior to 1652, formal military organizations were formed as needed and disbanded after the threat passed, and then the House of Burgesses passed a bill that each county would organize militia companies into a regiment. The oldest continuous service regiment in the Virginia National Guard is the 116th Infantry, dating from 1742. The 1st Virginia Regiment was raised July 17, 1775, in Williamsburg as a state militia unit and later for service with the Continental Army, and its lineage lives on today in the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion.

Virginia National Guard service dates back to the American Revolution through the American Civil War to World War I and II. The 29th Infantry Division saw service in World War I, and Soldiers of the 116th Infantry spearheaded an attack in October 1918 during what was known as the Meuse Argonne Offensive. During this attack, Sgt. Earle Gregory of the 116th Infantry earned the Medal of Honor, the first Virginia Guardsman to receive the award.

During World War II, Soldiers from the 29th took part in the massive invasion of Normandy France that began the morning of June 6, 1944, to be known forever as “D-Day.” More than 800 members of the 116th Infantry were killed, wounded or missing during the assault on Omaha Beach, but their courage and bravery helped create a foothold that allowed follow on forces to continue the assault. Two days after D-Day, Tech. Sgt. Frank Peregory of Company K, 116th Infantry from Charlottesville, became the second Virginia Guardsman to earn the Medal of Honor when he single-handedly killed or captured 30 enemy soldiers defending a trench line.

More recently, Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen served during Operation Desert Storm and since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, more than 15,000 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen have served on federal active duty in support of Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Soldiers and Airmen helped maintain security in the United States and further the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as serving in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Ten Virginia Soldiers have lost their lives to hostile enemy contact during the Global War on Terror.

In the last 12 years, more than 7,300 Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen have responded to numerous floods, hurricanes, snow storms and other natural disasters to support state and local authorities provide assistance to citizens of the Commonwealth as well as citizens in neighboring states in their time of need.

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Historical research courtesy retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 John W. Listman, Jr., Virginia National Guard Historical Society

Read more Virginia Guard history:
http://www.vnghs.org/vngahistory/vanghistory.html