By Kevin Shannahan
Over 60 Army veterans of the 1BN/52nd Infantry of the Americal Division’s 198th Light Infantry Brigade and their families gathered from all over the United States to Natchitoches for their 22nd annual reunion held at the Natchitoches American Legion and VFW post Thursday, April 25th. The Americal Division, formed in the Pacific theater in 1942, fought in Vietnam from 1967 to 1971.
This year’s reunion will mark the unit’s first time in Natchitoches. Americal division and Vietnam veteran John Masson and his wife, Donna, both long time advocates for veterans, organized the event. Those attending hail from every corner of our nation. The record this year for farthest to travel goes to veteran William Lee of Wasilla, Alaska who served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. The Americal division is also something of a family affair for Mr. Lee. His father, Howard Lee, was an original member of the unit and landed on Guadalcanal on Oct 12, 1942 with Co I of the 164th Regiment of the Americal division. Twenty-eight years later, his son was fighting in Vietnam in the same division.
The reunion kicked off Thursday evening with a welcome from Natchitoches Mayor Lee Posey and other area dignitaries and will continue through Sunday. The veterans and their families will get to experience our area’s unique history and culture during their visit. They will tour Melrose Plantation and have a crawfish boil-from crawfish they gathered themselves at local crawfish ponds. The visitors will also have an opportunity to take photos along the newly renovated Natchitoches riverbank and Beau Jardin gardens. There will also be a memorial service at the Natchitoches Veterans’ Memorial Park to commemorate those Americal soldiers killed in battle or who died since the war,
The Natchitoches Parish Journal welcomes the men of the Americal Division and their families to our community. We hope you and your families enjoy your stay here.