I attended the 90th Division Association Reunion in St. Louis this past weekend. The reunion was my first experience with a military association and I was not sure what to expect. Norm Richards, the researcher at the NPRC who helps with my research and my client work, suggested I attend. He said it would give me an opportunity to go through the records here, meet veterans, and talk about my books. In Stories of the Lost, I tell the story of 90th Division man James Privoznik.
I showed up alone and was welcomed into the 90th Division family immediately. Not long after I checked in I was ushered to the bar accompanied by Al the cameraman for the association. We met Norm and a few others in the bar and a good time was had. New friends immediately appeared out of nowhere as old friends reunited. It was wonderful. I also had the opportunity to meet a French http://blog.generationsbiz.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1209&action=edit&message=1Historian who helped me with my 29th Division story, Christian Levaufre. We were sitting at dinner and I had heard his name repeated and Norm introduced us. After a while I couldn’t stand it any longer and finally pulled my book out to see if I was correct that I had emailed with this man. Yes I had! Christian and his wife and family are very active in France honoring the history and sacrifice of the 90th Division and others. It was such an honor to finally meet this man.
On Friday I spent most of the day in the main room pouring over Morning Reports, Chaplain diaries, medical journals, books, and meeting other people as they strolled in and out of the room. Two veterans spoke about their experiences in a POW camp during the afternoon. And a banquet was held in the evening where Christian spoke about a new 90th Division monument erected in his town.
Saturday I spent the morning in the main room looking at records and talking to several people. The afternoon was quiet. I had lunch with Al, then Frank, a WWII veteran joined us to talk a while. Then my friend Christian from Chicago, who now works in St. Louis, met me and we were able to talk for several hours before the evening banquet. Again we ended up in the bar after dinner and I almost closed it down with the group. I had the opportunity to speak with several people, laugh, and have a good time.
Sunday morning the Association held a Memorial Breakfast. At this we had a short sermon and honored the men who had passed away in the last few years. Taps was played and the flag folded. It was very moving. Before I left one WWII veteran thanked me for the work I was doing, the books I’m writing, and the teaching and assisting others to help them find information and write the stories. He said it was important. I was very humbled by his words. We should continue to dig and talk to our family and write the stories of those who have gone before. This is our duty and one way we can thank all our veterans for their service so we can live our lives in freedom and peace.
As I sit here writing, I keep thinking about all the military associations and reunion groups like the 90th Division Association. When you conduct military research, these types of organizations should be on your radar to reach out to. Why? Well not only will you meet some really great people and get to speak with veterans but there are usually records. The 90th Division Association has a historian, Norm Richards, who I spoke of above. Norm has collected copies of almost every Morning Report available for the division. He also has unpublished diaries, journals, binders with short stories, notes, and photographs. None of these things have been digitized but are available if you attend the reunion or contact him about your 90th Division ancestor.
One issue associations like this face is the same one genealogical societies face. The old guard is aging and they need new blood to step up and start filling in the gaps. New blood is needed also to bring processes into this day and age. The 90th Division is working on these issues. I’m sure many other associations deal with the same things. As the WWII veterans die, who will be around to honor their legacy? How can we encourage the families to attend? How can we get the younger people involved?
As the Memorial Breakfast drew to a close yesterday, the outgoing and incoming Presidents and another member of the board stated the 90th will begin to change and adapt to continue meeting the needs of its members. It will continue to honor the traditions of the Tough ‘Ombres and remember their heritage. It is up to the members to help them do that. If you know of someone, or are someone who has or is serving with the 90th Division Tough ‘Ombres, please consider joining their Association.
If you have not yet joined a military association for your family, consider doing so. We owe it to those who fought and died to remember them and their history.
© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Woodridge, ILTweet