34th Infantry Division Association hosts 72nd annual Division Reunion

Oct. 17, 2019 (CAMP RIPLEY, Minnesota) — The 34th Infantry Division’s 72nd Annual Reunion was conducted Oct. 4-5, 2019. This two-day event was hosted by the Commander’s Own Chapter of the 34th Infantry Division Association at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. On Friday, Red Bulls and their families met at Valhalla for dinner and refreshments. This reception was hosted by Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, the Minnesota National Guard’s Adjutant General and former 34th Infantry Division commander.

On Saturday, association officers and trustees met to rehearse the national meeting and review the other day’s events. The Commander’s Own Chapter, led by Brig. Gen. Lowell Kruse, offered the reunion attendees a tour of the Camp Ripley Environmental Office and driving tours of the training and range facilities. The Division Historian briefed the members on the Division’s recent deployment to Kuwait to command Task Force Spartan. This was followed by a tour of the Minnesota Military Museum and Library.

Attendees returned to the Hanger Conference Center for the Division Association business meeting. Highlights of the meeting included discussion of the new Associate Chapter in Italy and the reactivation of the Ironman Chapter in Waterloo Iowa. Each chapter has its own Facebook and web page. Association funding for a 34ID memorial at the National Museum of the US Army was a lively debate. Contributions will be accepted on the Association website, 34IDA.org, through December.

The final event was a banquet dinner with guest speaker Andy Biggio, a US Marine Veteran and author of The Rifle. Andy’s personal mission has been to locate WWII Veterans, “meet these men we have been reading about our whole lives and go see each one and interview them and learn how to live a successful life after combat” said Biggio. He began his presentation with a video he shot in Italy where he reunited a Red Bull Vet with Italian villagers who originally met 50 years ago. Andy’s great Uncle of the same name was a WWII Red Bull Vet who was recently honored in Winthrop, Mass.

The outgoing Association President, Maj. James Avrams introduced the new president, 1st Sgt. (Ret) Nick Jedlicka, and gave his closing address. Why is the Association important? It’s about the generations of 34th Infantry Division soldiers especially those “that did not come home … they didn’t have the opportunity to live to 100 years old or come to these reunions” said Avrams. “Somebody has to pick up the torch … continue with these reunions, and spread the word, and grow the message.” The purpose of the 34th Infantry Division Association is to maintain contact with our comrades, honor our fallen, compile our history, support our wounded comrades, and support 34ID exhibits in our museums and facilities.

Next year’s Division Reunion is planned to be in Johnston Iowa, Oct. 2-3, 2020. A funding grant is available to pay all expenses for a prospective member and spouse to attend.

Story and photos by Master Sgt. Daniel Ewer