116th Infantry Regiment holds 52nd Annual Muster

Col. Joseph A. DiNonno, commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, provides an update on the brigade during the annual 116th Regimental Muster Nov. 9, 2019, in Staunton, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Maj. Jenny Hartsock)

STAUNTON, Va. – Veterans of the 116th Infantry Regiment and Soldiers of the Virginia National Guard’s Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team gathered for an evening of camaraderie at the 52nd annual muster Nov. 9, 2019, at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, Virginia. The theme of this year’s program was Remembering our History, the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Col. Joseph A. DiNonno, commander of the 116th, also provided a brigade report on the previous training year.

“As commander of the Stonewall Brigade, it is my honor to present to you the state of the brigade – and the state of the brigade continues to be good,” DiNonno said. “Since our gathering last year, the brigade has enjoyed a considerable uptick in OPTEMPO and training days as we continue our glide path to the Army’s premier consolidated training event at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana in 2020.”

In addition to the state of the brigade address, DiNonno also presented the 2019 Superior Unit Award was awarded to the Charlottesville-based Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment. The runner-up for the award was the Fredericksburg-based Charlie Company, 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion.

Col. Joseph A. DiNonno presents the 2019 Superior Unit Award was awarded to the Charlottesville-based Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment Nov. 9, 2019, in Staunton, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Maj. Jenny Hartsock)

DiNonno emphasized the importance of this year marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day and described it as “a day that changed the tide of WWII and that continues to evoke awe, respect, and an almost mythological status among the great battles in world history. He and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Stanley, the 116th IBCT command sergeant major, were present at Omaha Beach on June 6 of this year.

“I cannot adequately convey the humbling experience as many watched the sun rise over a vast beach at low tide,” he said. “Hundreds of French and other European citizens, and even a couple of Germans, dressed as American Soldiers from 1944 and paraded American Jeeps, amphibious vehicles, and even a tank, continuous local and national news coverage of events, speeches, presentations, honors, and in some cases reunions underscored how the sacrifices of that day and of all the days of WWII are remembered. There are moments in life that are bigger than ourselves and that resonate long after we are gone, that are worth fighting for, dying for, celebrating and remembering.” 

This brigade holds a rich history from that day and many other days, DiNonno said. 

“The opportunity to share with those who were there fade each year and it is incumbent upon the current and future members of this organization to preserve our history as we continue to make history,” he said. “Some of the strongest bonds are forged in the crucible of continuous adversity.  The Stonewall Brigade is coming off an outstanding year of realistic training and platoon validation under continuous and sustained adversity in a decisive action training environment during XCTC in July.”

A candlelight ceremony was held in honor and memory of their departed comrades, conducting a roll call of those regimental members who passed in 2019, and held a moment of silence and played taps as a tribute to all the regiment’s fallen warriors.

The Muster was started by members of the Regiment as a way to maintain the friendships they forged in military service and to preserve the distinguished history of the Regiment. Every year, another generation of veterans and their supporters continue to gather annually for the same purpose: maintaining friendships and preserving history.

“I want to acknowledge the sacrifice of our Soldiers and their families for two of the most demanding training years in recent memory for the brigade,” DINonno said at the close of his remarks. “It is the support of our families and loved ones that allow us to dedicate ourselves to this profession. I hope everyone takes advantage of the time this weekend to share memories with friends old and new as you enjoy the camaraderie of your brothers and sisters of the Stonewall Brigade.”