“From Anzio to Baghdad,” members of the state’s Army and Air National Guard have served a vital role in the nation’s armed services,” Maj. Gen. Harry Wyatt III, Oklahoma’s adjutant general, said during a state Capitol ceremony that honored the 45th Infantry Division.
Dozens of uniformed members of the guard gathered in the state House chamber to be recognized during a joint session of the Legislature.
More than 2,500 members of the National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade — the successor of the 45th Infantry Division — are serving in and around Baghdad. Hundreds more, including 800 from the 45th FIRES Brigade, are set to deploy this fall.
Units from the Oklahoma Air and Army National Guard have served steady deployments since the conflict in Iraq began five years ago. Following this fall’s deployment, more than 4,000 guard members will be in Iraq in the largest deployment of the state’s National Guard since the Korean War.
“Whether you agree with the war or not is not the point,” Wyatt told members of the House and Senate. Patriotic guard members are meeting the high standards set by their predecessors in battles in Europe and Korea, he said.
“The Oklahoma National Guard today is reaching out and touching that bar,” Wyatt said.
Gov. Brad Henry said that while the National Guard is providing critical support for the nation’s mission in Iraq, guard members are also vital to the state’s response to natural disasters.
“As Oklahomans, we give more of ourselves,” Henry said.
The state experienced nine presidential disaster declarations last year. Henry said guard members have responded effectively to grass fires, ice storms, tornadoes and floods.
“There are no better ambassadors for our state than the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard,” Henry said. “You are indeed a source of pride.”
Created in 1923, the 45th Infantry Division remained on active duty for five years during World War II. The division was in combat for 511 days and captured 103,367 enemy prisoners, fighting in Sicily, Italy, southern France and Germany. The division also liberated the Nazi death camp at Dachau.
The division fought in Korea in four campaigns during 429 days of combat, including engagements at Old Baldy, Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge.
The division was retired in 1968 and reorganized into three separate commands: the 45th Infantry Brigade, the 45th Field Artillery Brigade and the 90th Troop Command.