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Search for 83rd Infantry Division veterans under way

• Jul 31, 2017 at 10:00 AM

The 83rd Infantry Division, which was born in Ohio 100 years ago and served in both world wars — including in the hedgerows of Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge — is coming home to honor its roots and native heroes.

The search for area 83rd veterans or their descendants to be included in the four-day, downtown event will continue right up to its culminating public memorial service in The Old Stone Church, Public Square in Cleveland at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“The 83rd has deep and broad roots in Ohio, and we’d like every one of those veterans and their families to be acklowledged in what is shaping up to be a really special Cleveland reunion,” said John Markuns, president of the 83rd Infantry Division Association, which will have over 180 attendees from a dozen states and four countries. “It’s been amazing to have so many reach out to us already, and we know there are more out there.”

Originally nicknamed the “Ohio Division” when established at Fort Sherman in 1917, the 83rd has counted 85 of its members from Cuyahoga County on the Fountain of Eternal Life at Veterans Memorial Plaza, each having given their lives in service to their country. These names are being listed at www.Clevelandvetsmemorial.org. Every name will be read aloud during Saturday’s memorial service. Following the church service, attendees will process to a public wreath laying ceremony at the Fountain of Eternal Life in Greater Cleveland Veterans Memorial Plaza (formerly Mall A). Ohio World War II veterans are also expected to be among the roughly 10 members of the 83rd to attend in person. This rare gathering constitutes one of the largest of surviving “Greatest Generation” veterans anyone could expect to see in 2017.

Anyone who served with the 83rd, or who believes a family member may have, is strongly encouraged to contact the association at jmarkuns@aol.com. More information on the 83rd Infantry Division Association is also available at www.83rdassociation.com.

The reunion takes place Aug. 2 through Aug. 5. Highlights of the festivities leading up to Saturday’s memorial service include:

• Public exhibit at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel highlighting the 100-year history of the 83rd and those who proudly wore - and continue to wear - its black and gold insignia, which features the letters “O”, “H”, “I” and “O” in a monogram pattern.

• A series of workshops and presentations, including World War II and 83rd veteran Tony Vacarro introducing a showing of the HBO documentary, “Under Fire, the Untold Story of Pfc Tony Vacarro”.

• Attendance at the Indians-Yankees game Friday night at Progressive Field.

The 83rd Infantry Divisions’s history is one of vital roles in conflicts that determined the fate of the world. It was established in July 1917 with headquarters at Camp Sherman, Ohio, and its 332nd Infantry Regiment saw combat action as the only American unit in Italy during World War I. Rechristened the “Thunderbolt” division when reactivated for World War II, the division landed on the beaches of Normandy in June 1944 and saw combat action for the next 244 days from Normandy, Brittany, the Ardennes, the Rhineland and Central Europe. It was less than 38 miles from Berlin when Germany surrendered, the closest of any American unit.

The division was reactivated as the 83rd Army Command in 1967 with Army Reserve status. From then until September 1997, the Ohio-based reservists were deployed to Vietnam, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, Panama, Honduras and the Persian Gulf. The 83rd was reflagged as the 83rd U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Training Center at Ft. Knox, Ky., in November 2013.

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