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7th ID concludes centennial celebration

Maj. Gen. Willard Burleson, retired Lt. Gen. William Harrison and others unveil the Light Fighter statue in front of the 7th ID’s headquarters. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Last Friday, the 7th Infantry Division ended its celebration of a century of service to the nation.

During the event, which was held in front of Harrison Hall, Maj. Gen. Willard Burleson, 7th ID commander, spoke to the spirit of the division.

"The Light Fighter statue over there is a visual commitment to history," he explained before dedicating the sculpture.

The statue first graced the main gate on Fort Ord, California, during the 1980s.  When the post closed in the early 1990s, the statue moved to what was then Fort Lewis.

In the early 2000s, the Light Fighter headed north to Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where it remained until being returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord this year.

"It will always be with the division and its colors," continued Burleson.

The division and its colors first appeared Dec. 6, 1917, at Camp Wheeler, Georgia. By 1918, the unit was nicknamed the Hourglass Division.

During World War II, the 7th reclaimed American soil on the Attu Atoll from the Japanese Army and then forged forward to Kwajalein, Leyte and Okinawa. Following Japan's surrender in 1945, the division remained in Japan and Korea.

With the onset of the Korean War in 1950, the 7th was one of the first units to meet the Chinese and North Korean threat. Gen. Douglas MacArthur nicknamed the division the "Bayonet Division," since it would stab into the heart of Korea.

After the conflict, the 7th remained in Korea until 1971, when it returned to the United States and was deactivated.

Reactivated in October 1974 on Fort Ord, the division was re-designated as a light infantry force in October 1985. The first so designated, then Maj. Gen. William Harrison led the division.

"I am the world's finest light infantry soldier," begins The Light Fighter Creed.

Those words were tested in 1988 in Honduras and in 1989 during Operation Just Cause in Panama.

The 7th remained stateside until its inactivation in 2006.

But the idea of light and agile refused to go away, and in October 2012 the Hourglass Division was reactivated on JBLM.

Moving into the 21st century, the division has the lead in forging America's alliances in the Pacific and most recently served in Afghanistan in 2015.

"The time capsule over here will be placed under the statue," continued Burleson, during last Friday's event. "It protects the history and honor of the 7th; it will weather the test of time."

Among its many contents, the capsule contains a letter written by Burleson to the division's future commander in 2067. While not disclosing the missive's content, Burleson said that the 7th will always be about its soldiers, their families and those who have served.

With that in mind, Burleson then turned and re-enlisted 100 soldiers on one of the division's most historic days.

"We are proud of those who have gone before us and uphold the traditions of the light infantry," continues the creed. "Our actions reflect pride in country, flag, uniform and ourselves."

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