STAUNTON, Va. — Veterans of the 116th Infantry Regiment and Soldiers of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team gathered at the 48th annual Regimental Muster for an evening of camaraderie and fellowship Nov. 14, 2015, in Staunton, Va. Senior leaders also provided updates on the recent activities of the 116th and the Virginia National Guard.
The muster was held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, one block from where the brigade started Nov. 3, 1741, then known as the Augusta County Regiment, Virginia militia. The unit became known as the Stonewall Brigade while serving in the Army of the Shenandoah under Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson at the battle of First Manassas in 1861. Soldiers of the brigade were used extensively in World War I and earned a great reputation for their service at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. After many years units from the brigade were again called to federal service with multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two very special honored guests were recognized during the ceremony, Arden Earll and Charles Neighbor, who are two of the very few remaining 116th veterans of the assault on Omaha Beach. Honoring veterans such as Earll and Neighbor each year maintains the brigade’s link to its past.
In his opening statement, Col. William J. Coffin, commander of the 116th IBCT, acknowledged the sacrifices that veterans and current Soldiers of the 116th have made on behalf of their country and the commonwealth.
“We stand on the shoulders of those that have come before us, whose courage and commitment to duty were unwavering,” said Coffin. “Today, the officers, noncommissioned officers, and Soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade continue to be ready to answer the call to defend our freedoms overseas and to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth to defend our homeland and provide relief during times of disaster.”
The annual muster serves as an opportunity to formally assemble troops of the 116th, both past and present. The muster provides the opportunity to inform on the unit’s performance over the last year and what is expected of them in the future.
Coffin briefed attendees on the massive amount of accomplishments over the last training year, including the successful execution of the largest movement of supplies and equipment since World War II. This was done as part of the brigade’s annual training in Fort Drum, N.Y., where the troops faced a rigorous two weeks of training in austere conditions.
The 116th has again been called to serve the nation overseas, as we are a leader among National Guard units across the country, said Coffin.
Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, echoed Coffin’s remarks when he addressed the muster.
“I believe that we have just witnessed a dramatic shift in our Army, where indeed we, the Guard, will actually be turned to and thought of as a truly operational reserve,” said Williams. “We are at a crossroads where we are expected to do more with less, as we carry the torch of freedom.”