Minus Nine Days - 155th to be Honored Thursday
According to The Clarion Ledger, the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, which chronicles conflicts from the early 1800s to the present wars in the Middle East, will soon be home to a monument honoring thousands of soldiers who braved the battlefields of Iraq.
A monument dedicated to the Mississippi National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team will be unveiled Thursday at the museum at Camp Shelby just south of Hattiesburg.
Camp Shelby opened in 1917, and tens of thousands of soldiers, including the 155th, which spent most of 2005 in Iraq have trained on its 136,000 acres.
The brigade was made up of 3,500 Mississippians and marked the largest deployment of Magnolia State soldiers since World War II -an era in which 100,000 soldiers trained at Camp Shelby.
The brigade -with members from Pennsylvania, California, Washington, Texas, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina, Vermont, Utah, and Arkansas - was attached to the II Marine Expeditionary Force.
The monument will join the museum's roughly 17,000 artifacts that include an exhibit honoring Mississippi's 26 Medal of Honor recipients and the 44 Medal of Honor recipients who served or trained at Camp Shelby. The monument will be placed so it faces markers dedicated to World War II, said museum director Chad Daniels.
"One side will be World War II and on the other side will be the global war on terrorism," Daniels said. "The placement is important. The 155th has a lineage with the 31st Infantry Division from World War II, also known as the Dixie Division, which is directly across the street from where the 155th monument is going to be."
The 155th deployed from Camp Shelby in January 2005. Fourteen Mississippians died in Iraq. Purple Heart medals were given to 123 soldiers for combat injuries or deaths. Other medals that went to members of the brigade include 328 Bronze Stars, 2,000 Combat Badges and one Silver Star, said Maj. Gen. Harold Cross, Mississippi's adjutant general.
The monument "commemorates the service of the Mississippi National Guard personnel and the other service personnel that served with them in Iraq," Daniels said. "It's something that when these fellas come back they can show their children and their
relatives, 'Here is something I was a part of."'
The museum opened four years ago on a base with a fascinating history. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the first Japanese-American to serve in Congress, trained at Camp Shelby with the Japanese-American 442nd Regiment. It became one of the most decorated units in the war.
Camp Shelby was also a prisoner of war camp that housed thousands of Germans during World War II.
Today, the camp is training soldiers for duty in Iraq and other crisis areas. Nearly 20,000 soldiers have trained there since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Retired Gen. Emmett H. "Mickey" Walker, a decorated World War II veteran and former head of the National Guard Bureau under President Reagan for whom the museum is dedicated, has said the facility at Camp Shelby rivals any military museum in the world.
The monument dedication will coincide with the annual Mississippi National Guard Retiree Day, which gives former soldiers a chance to reunite and see the changes being made at the base, said Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tim Powell.