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Combat Infantryman's Association serves community

Washington chapter meets monthly in Lakewood

Combat Infantryman’s Association Commander Jake Robinson presents a certificate to JROTC Cadet Anthony Venicia recognizing him as an “outstanding future infantryman” during the Auburn High School Military Ball May 13. Photo courtesy of Jake Robinson

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"I averaged about a purple heart a year; it's an award that doesn't take a lot of brains to get," Jake Robinson said with a chuckle.

Robinson is a retired Green Beret with two decades of service under his belt. He did multiple tours in Vietnam and was wounded several times. He's also the commander of the Northwest region for Combat Infantryman's Association.

Founded in 1985 by a trio of veterans and officially incorporated in 1990, it's a national group of combat veterans. To become a member, a veteran must have documentation that they've received the Combat Infantryman's Badge.

The Washington chapter meets at the Golf Club House at the American Lake Veterans Affairs center every third Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. "It's a bunch of old guys - Vietnam types," said Robinson.

Robinson said that he'd like to bring in veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it would bring new energy and fresh perspectives to the group. While he said the group currently spends a lot of time re-hashing old war stories, they also make community service a core part of their mission.

The Combat Infantryman's Association is a longtime supporter of the Washington Soldier's Home in Orting. Established in 1891, it was the first of three homes built for Washington state veterans and is currently managed by the Washington State Department of Veteran's affairs. For the last three years, the Combat Infantryman's Association has sponsored attendance for home residents at Tacoma Rainier's games.

The Orting Soldier's Home has a wish list of items. This year, the Combat Infantryman's Association contacted Terry Nisbet, the home's recreational therapy director, to find out which items topped the list. After a round of discussions, the association bought a new TV set to mount on the home's wall. Robinson and fellow association members John Chestnut and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Ted Jackson delivered the TV set May 16.

Over the years, the passing of old veterans has taken its toll on the association. "The loss of many of our WWII veterans has increased and created a vacuum that is readily felt throughout our organization," according to a page on the association's national website.

Robinson said he'd like to bring young veterans into the group, but recruiting new members has been a challenge.

Post-9/11 veterans make up less than one percent of the American population, and only a portion of that one percent qualifies to join the association. Though many servicemembers that served in Iraq and Afghanistan are combat veterans, only a portion of them are actual infantry veterans who've received their Combat Infantryman's Badge.

But while the association wants recent veterans, it's also made an effort to engage future veterans. On May 13, Robinson and Jackson attended Auburn High School JROTC's military ball where they awarded Cadet Anthony Venicia, an "outstanding future infantryman," with a $500 scholarship and certificate.

For more information on the Combat Infantryman's Association's community service project or the organization, e-mail Commander Jake Robinson at

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