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Vigil at Iron Mike

4th ID veterans honor infantrymen

Veterans of the 4th Infantry Division will hold a 12-hour vigil at the base of Iron Mike, Friday. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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At the intersection of 41st Division Dr. and Tacoma Ave. on Joint Base Lewis-McChord stands an 18-foot statue.

Representative of an early Vietnam-era infantryman, he holds high in his right hand an M14 in a "follow me" pose.

Commonly referred to as "Iron Mike," the sculpture recognizes and memorializes the service of those who have served and continue to serve in the infantry.

The role of the infantrymen in American history cannot be underestimated, and they play a key role in the history of JBLM's 100 years of service.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 4th Infantry Division, veterans of the division will hold a 12-hour vigil at the base of Iron Mike.

The vigil will be Friday, Nov. 17, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  All 4th Infantry Division alumni are invited to stop by Iron Mike at 1 p.m. for a group photo.

The 4th Infantry Division was formed Nov. 17, 1917, at Camp Greene, North Carolina.

The division first arrived at then Fort Lewis in May 1956.

A decade later, the 4th deployed from Lewis to Camp Holloway, Pleiku, Vietnam, in September 1966 and served there for four years.

In 1963, Col. Robert Green, commander, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, suggested to Maj. Gen. Claire Hutchin, commander, Fort Lewis, that a monument honoring infantrymen since the post's inception in 1917 should be built.

Green liked the idea, and two soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division -- Spc. Juan Guerrero and Pfc. Pekka Kauppi -- designed the monument.

A year later, the statue graced the entrance to the Nelson Recreation Center.  

In order to give Iron Mike, and the soldiers it honors, better visibility to those entering the post, it was moved in 1992 to its current location just inside the base's Liberty Gate.

In a 2013 dedication ceremony of a plaque honoring the Combat Infantryman's Badge, then JBLM commander Col. Charles Hodges said, "You always forget that it's the infantryman who bears the brunt of combat operations, from World War One to now."

For more information regarding the vigil, visit JBLM's Facebook page.

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