Time running out for 'Old Hickory' unit to be honored for WWII service
Posted December 29, 2017 6:40 p.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2017 6:58 p.m. EST
As America's Greatest Generation ages and dies, the time to honor those who remain grows short. Of the 16 million men and women who served in World War II, fewer than 558,000 were still alive at the end of 2017.
Major General Greg Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard, is trying to do just that for the members of the 30th division, nicknamed Old Hickory.
"They're worth it," he said. "Those are our guys. It's not only the lineage of the North Carolina National Guard that gives me a vested interest, it's a personal interest."
The 30th turned 100 years old in 2017. Many of those who fought in World War II are nearing that age themselves. Lusk wants to see the unit honored before it is too late to matter.
"They never quit," Lusk said. "I made the vow to them, as long as there is one of them alive to receive it, then I'm going to exhaust all efforts we possibly can to see it though."
Roger Casey Sr. is one of those veterans. He enlisted in 1944, and he was sent to fight with Old Hickory as a replacement for men lost.
"I was an ammunition bearer," Casey said. "I finally was promoted up to first gunner. I thought I was hot stuff then."
The men of the 30th were key to the end of the war in Europe. They pushed inland from the beaches of Normandy and made their fame at the battle of Mortain.
"We had an outstanding division," Casey said.
Casey was awarded the Bronze Star, and many of the men he fought beside earned individual medals as well. But some believe the entire division deserves to be recognized, and are pushing the Army to award them the Presidential Unit Citation.
"I personally think we owe this to them," Lusk said.
"We were always proud of the 30th, and we would be even more proud if we got that citation. It's just something I'd be mighty proud of," Casey said.
There have been attempts in the past for the unit to be given this award, but those attempts failed. The latest effort brings in new evidence and research. The application for the award should go in front of an Army board within the next few months.