04-07-2014 10:06 AM
Since the citizen soldiers of the Army Reserve first mobilized to secure the U.S.-Mexican border in 1916, these brave men and women have fought in military theaters from Europe to Afghanistan, and provided disaster relief and humanitarian aid at home and abroad. Army reservists have deployed to help civilians around the globe, acted as peacekeepers in the Balkans, assisted victims of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and protected aid workers in Somalia.
In commemoration of the founding of the Army Reserve on April 23, 1908, USAA takes a look back at the history of these citizen soldiers and pays tribute to their courage and sacrifice.
World War I: America's Ace of Aces
Approximately 170,000 Army reservists deployed during World War I. One of the most famous reservists of all time was Eddie Rickenbacker, a onetime race car driver and the future chairman of Eastern Air Lines. Rickenbacker flew a total of 300 combat hours, reportedly more than any other U.S. pilot in the war, and downed 26 enemy aircraft — another record.
World War II: The "Purple Heart Battalion"
Composed mostly of second-generation Japanese-Americans, the Army Reserve's 442nd Regimental Combat Team holds the honor of being the most decorated combat unit in Army history. Twenty-one of its members were awarded the Medal of Honor, and 9,486 received Purple Hearts. The regiment as a whole earned an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations for its heroics, including the dramatic rescue of the “Lost Battalion,” the 141st Texas Regiment, which was surrounded by German forces in the Vosges Mountains in 1944. Despite a devastatingly high casualty rate, the motto of the 442nd was "Go for Broke."
The Korean War and Vietnam: "Courageous Gallantry"
The Army Reserve continued to play a decisive role in later conflicts. The Korean War saw more than 240,000 reservists called to active duty, while another 6,000 served in Vietnam. Their tales of individual valor are numerous, but some will always stand out as "above and beyond the call of duty."
One such story is that of 25-year-old Loren Douglas Hagen, the leader of a small reconnaissance team who found himself deep in Viet Cong territory on Aug. 7, 1971. When an enemy rocket destroyed one of the team's bunkers, Hagen refused to leave his men behind. He crawled through hostile fire, including rockets and grenades, to search for team members, sacrificing his own life in the rescue attempt. For this "courageous gallantry” and “extraordinary heroism," 1st Lt. Hagen was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Desert Shield and Desert Storm: Key Logistical Support
In addition to combat duties, Army Reserve soldiers have often provided vital logistical support to active Army and U.S. allies. Their contribution was especially notable after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when more than 84,000 citizen soldiers deployed to offer crucial skills as doctors, engineers, linguists, mechanics and other specialists.
Afghanistan: Selfless Action
Sometimes a single act of valor can save countless lives. On Feb. 20, 2007, Reservist Jason Fetty was attending the opening of a new emergency room at Khost City Hospital in Afghanistan when he noticed a suspicious man moving through the crowd. Fetty led the man away from the crowd and sustained shrapnel wounds when the suicide bomber managed to detonate his vest, but his intervention allowed for the evacuation of all those in attendance, including the governor of the province, who was the bomber's primary target. For his actions that day, Fetty was awarded the first Silver Star earned by an Army Reserve soldier in Afghanistan.
More than a Century of Service
Since its humble beginning with just eight men one year after its creation, the Army Reserve has grown to an indispensible force more than 200,000 strong today. In just the period since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 182,000 reservists have answered the summons to defend freedom in the war on terror. Many have served two or even three combat tours.
We at USAA express our deepest gratitude for their service.
No Department of Defense or government agency endorsement.
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.