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    Iron Division’s Boalsburg shrine, memorial service one of a kind

    Iron Division’s Boalsburg shrine, memorial service one of a kind

    Photo By Master Sgt. Doug Roles | Smoke from an artillery salute rises above the 28th Infantry Division shrine as a...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. Doug Roles 

    28th Infantry Division

    A military historian who served as guest speaker for the 28th Infantry Division’s 2024 Annual Memorial Service on May 19 told current and past soldiers, Gold Star family members and visitors that both the event and its location are unique. Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Heft, a Maryland National Guardsman who is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, returned to his Pennsylvania Army National Guard roots for the 94th year of the May gathering at the division shrine in Boalsburg, Pa. that honors the fallen.
    Heft, who in 2019 joined National Guard Bureau to lead a field studies team before joining the center, said he remembers attending his first Boalsburg ceremony as a young private. He was assigned to carry the guidon for Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment and had to stand in formation in the rain.
    “I remember being astounded at the number of soldiers standing in this field, the flags and guidons of over a hundred formations I had never seen or heard of before,” he said. “Coming to Boalsburg and looking out across the grounds I realized that being in the 28th Infantry Division went far beyond my one weekend a month at the Kutztown Armory. It meant being a part of something bigger, the legacy of the Iron Division.”
    Heft explained to the audience that after World War I veterans of the 28th returned from the Western Front and built a place of remembrance. WWI soldiers who served in a machine gun troop raised by Theodore Boal began having reunions on the farm grounds of the Boal estate. Those reunions were the precursor to the building of the shrine and the annual, division-wide service.
    “Having served in many places across the Army, I can promise you no other organization has a place like this. Boalsburg is a site and story unique to our unit,” Heft said. “No other organization has a place like this. This site, this memorial, and this tradition we all take part in is built by the veterans of this division and maintained and expanded generation after generation by us alone.”
    “Each generation of soldiers in the Iron Division has come here, at one point or another, and expanded the shrine,” Heft said.
    A highlight of the annual ceremony is the laying of wreaths in honor of the service of the 28 ID units in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Global War on Terror. This year, retired Lt. Col. Cory Angell and retired Command Sgt. Maj. John Jones with the 28 ID Association placed the wreath at the Boal Altar, the center feature of the shrine. The ceremony concluded with the playing of Taps and an artillery salute.
    Maj. Gen. Michael Wegscheider, division commander, told the audience that he is committed to making the division the Army’s best unit. He said that, ultimately, his hope is that there would be no more names added to the roll of the Iron Division’s honored dead.
    “Unfortunately, in the environment we live in, that is not certain,” he said. “If the unspeakable happens, we will remember them as our most precious asset, because they are. People are the most important asset we have in the division.”
    Wegscheider asked the audience to take 15 seconds of silence to think about those who served. He also encouraged attendees to use the gathering as an opportunity to meet other soldiers and family members and learn more about their stories.
    “I ask that you interact with each other before you leave this field of honor today,” he said. “Don’t leave without talking to someone you didn’t know before you came here today.”



    Date Taken: 05.19.2024
    Date Posted: 05.19.2024 18:55
    Story ID: 471681

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