More than 100 Army Reserve soldiers, including some from Wichita, are in France this week to commemorate the closing days of World War I.
The war ended on Nov. 11, 1918. France and its allies are remembering the 100-year anniversary of the armistice with a series of events.
The Army Reserve personnel are taking part in events this weekend to remember the Meuse-Argonne campaign, the final Allied offensive that led to the end of the war. One of the units that fought in the campaign was the 89th Infantry Division, which is now the 89th Sustainment Brigade based in Wichita.
Nearly 700,000 National Army soldiers from the United States fought in World War I. They later became the Army Reserve.
“That’s really where the Army Reserve started,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Palzer, commanding general of the 79th Sustainment Command. He is leading the contingent of soldiers in France this week.
“As a nation what we really learned is that we could no longer fight our nation’s wars with a standing army. We needed to be able to call upon a reserve force, a ready federal reserve force, to go fight and win these large wars of our nation.”
Palzer said there are about 200,000 reserve soldiers on duty today. He said many are serving in countries around the world.
Most soldiers in the reserve train one weekend a month and two weeks during the year. They also are eligible for extra training throughout the year.
In addition to honoring the nearly 4 million U.S. Army personnel who mobilized during World War I, the reserve soldiers also will get a chance to see the legacy of the war up close.
“It’s always important to study history,” Palzer said.
“The danger of these events, as they become so distant in our memories, they become abstract and we fail to recognize the need to be ready. We can’t allow that to occur.”
Tom Shine is director of news and public affairs at KMUW. Follow him on Twitter @thomaspshine.