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    Fort Sam Houston celebrates WWI centennial

    Fort Sam Houston celebrates WWI centennial

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Tomora Nance | (center) Retired Master Sgt. Vernon Schmidt, a 91 year old surviving member of the...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Tomora Nance 

    U.S. Army North

    FORT SAM HOUSTON, TX—The year is 1917. It’s approximately three years after the onset of World War I, also known as the “Great War.” Most of the world’s economic, great powers are already involved in a taxing warfare in terms of money and loss of lives—both civilian and military. However, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. ended its non-intervention policy, and Congress declared war on Germany entering into the Great War after the breach of international law through unrestricted submarine warfare, the publicized Zimmerman Telegram and the sinking of several U.S. merchant ships.

    With a small military force, the Selective Service Act allowed the U.S. government to increase its force through manning of the Army. Over 4 million men and women from the U.S. served in the armed forces. Not only did the manning forever change the Army, so did the structure with the inception of divisions. One of those divisions was the 90th Infantry Division.

    Fast forward 100 years.

    Several Soldiers and civilians gathered Aug. 25 for Fort Sam Houston’s WWI Centennial Ceremony honoring the 90th ID inside the historic Quadrangle here for an outdoor ceremony.

    As this year marked the national commemoration for the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI, military bases across the U.S. are celebrating their storied unit’s involvement and accomplishments in ceremonies. And, Fort Sam Houston is no different.

    “I’m so honored to be able to witness this ceremony; it was very humbling and emotional to witness the unfurling of the division’s colors,” said Jeanie Travis, daughter of retired Maj. Gen Robert H. Travis, the last commanding general of the 90th ID. “I grew up respecting the Army because it was a part of my everyday life as a small child. And when I read the history of the division, his [her father’s] stories come back to me.”

    For Travis, her father’s commitment to the Army and the country has become a major part of her family’s heritage.

    Travis said after doing some research she realized that not only was this the 100th anniversary of WWI but this was also the 100th anniversary of the 90th ID.

    Travis wasn’t the only direct connection to the 90th ID.

    “This is exciting and a real honor for me to represent my division,” said retired Master Sgt. Vernon Schmidt, one of the last surviving members of the 90th ID’s WWII veterans who is 91 years old. “Today, there were a lot of good things said about the 90th [during the ceremony], and I’m so proud that I have just a little part of serving in the 90th in combat; it’s just a thrill to be here.”

    During the ceremony, after the 90th ID colors were uncased and unfurled, Schmidt walked up to the division’s colors and placed a streamer on it to signify one of the many achievements held by that unit during WWI.

    “I feel blessed today; this has been a real neat occasion for me,” said Schmidt, with red-watery eyes.

    The uncasing and commemoration ceremony occurred 100-years to the day that the 90th Division activated at Camp Travis, what is now Fort Sam Houston.

    Although Fort Sam Houston’s inception pre- dates WWI era, Camp Travis was acquired during the war as a mobilization camp for units deploying in support of the war.

    “The 90th Infantry Division was actually organized here at Camp Travis and was later integrated into Fort Sam Houston after the war, in a way, part of Fort Sam Houston is 100 years old this year,” said Jacqueline Davis, director of the Fort Sam Houston Museum. “So, having the commemoration at Fort Sam Houston makes sense because this is the unit’s origin.”

    The unit was even given the nickname the “Alamo Division” because of its proximity to San Antonio’s historic landmark. However, that wasn’t the only nickname the unit received. They were affectionately dubbed “Tough ‘Ombres” loosely based on the letters in their unit patch.

    “The patch has a ‘T’ and ‘O,’ which stands for Texas and Oklahoma because the majority of men that formed the division came from those two states. However, over the years, they were dubbed the “Tough ‘Ombres,” which signified their Hispanic linage, and their revered fighting abilities,” said Davis.

    After the ceremony, all guests were invited to attend the reception inside the Fort Sam Houston Museum.

    Davis, who has been working with the museum for more than 25 years, described the special displays at the museum that was erected in honor of the 90th ID’s involvement in WWI.

    “We’ve had several family members donate to the museum, so [the museum] has several artifacts from the 90th ID WWI Soldiers. I am most excited about the patches worn by the division’s Soldiers because of the handiwork it took to create [the patches], which were sewn directly on to the uniform,” said Davis, as she pointed to the WWI uniform with the 90th patch sewn-on the sleeve.

    Although the 90th ID was inactivated, its lineage is carried by the 90th Sustainment Brigade, a reserve unit headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.



    Date Taken: 08.25.2017
    Date Posted: 08.25.2017 17:57
    Story ID: 246090

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