506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association
The 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association (Airmobile – Air Assault) is a charitable veterans' organization composed of present and past members and affiliates of a historic U.S Army regiment, the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment. For much of its distinguished history since it was formed as the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II, the regiment has been associated with the 101st Airborne Division.
Today, the membership of the association includes veterans of the regiment from its origin in 1942 through current active duty soldiers and includes veterans from its time as part of both the 101st Airborne Division and 2nd Infantry Division.
Organization and status
The 506th Association Bylaws were adopted by association members in April 2000, and the Association was incorporated in the State of California in September 2000, being subsequently granted tax-exempt status, both as a Section 23701W veterans organization from the State of California in February 2001 and as a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Section 501(a) in May 2001. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service recognized the Association as a Section 501(c)(19) War Veterans organization.
The Association sponsors a broad program of charitable projects beneficial to active duty and veteran soldiers or their families, including academic scholarships, packages for soldiers deployed overseas, and financial assistance programs for the families of soldiers killed or wounded in action.
In supporting these activities, it also brings veterans and active duty troops together. The association hosts a large website dedicated to the history, accomplishments and people of the regiment. The Association is an all-volunteer organization with approximately 3,600 rostered members. The Association operates independently of the 101st Airborne Division Association, but maintains close working relations with that group and with other related veterans’ organizations. The Association holds member reunions every two years at locations around the country to help renew the bonds among members.
The mission of the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association:
- Preserve and honor the memory, the history, and the esprit de corps of those who have served in the 506th Parachute Infantry and its successors—the 506th Infantry (Basic Training), the 1st Airborne Battle Group/506th Infantry; the 506th Infantry (Airborne); the 506th Infantry (Airmobile); and the 506th Infantry (Air Assault).
- Maintain a database of 506th Veterans and assist members in locating those Currahees with whom they served.
- Sponsor periodic reunions that nourish and perpetuate the camaraderie and the Currahee spirit among 506th veterans of all eras.
The Vision for the Association:
- The association welcomes all Currahees who have served in the regiment from activation in 1942 to the present and into the future.
- It further recognizes that each 506th Veteran has the right to participate equally with all other Currahees in Association activities.
- The Association prohibits any form of discrimination.
Consistent with its status as a War Veterans organization, the association accepts as members:
- All those who have served or are serving in the 506th.
- Individuals who have served or are serving in units attached to or supporting the 506th.
- Spouses or other family members of any individual who served in the 506th.
- Individuals who have a special connection or association with the 506th.
We stand together – then, now and always
The association’s motto is derived from the regimental motto of Currahee! – Cherokee for “Stand Alone,” which in turn came from the name of the mountain in the World War II paratrooper training center at Camp Toccoa, Georgia.
The 506th Airborne Infantry Association (Airmobile-Air Assault) had its beginning in the inspiration and effort of a small group of men. Two Vietnam War veterans from the 506th - the late Bob Acklen (B&C, 3rd Bn-1969/70) and Gene Overton (C, 1st Bn-1967/68) - had a dream that all Currahees would have a way to maintain contact with those they have served with. In addition, they wanted interaction between active duty troops and veterans. In this way, they could see that it would be possible to preserve the history and traditions of the regiment, and remember and honor those who had given their lives in the service of our country. During the fall of 1995 they began to gather the names and addresses of former Currahees on a roster.
In December, 1995, the first newsletter was mailed to about 450 Currahees across the United States. By May 1996 the mailing list had grown to 800 veterans, and plans were well on the way to have a gathering of Vietnam-era Currahees at Fort Campbell, Kentucky during the 101st Airborne Division's Week of the Eagle Celebration (July 11–13, 1996) in conjunction with the division's reunion of Vietnam veterans. The first major step towards realization of the dream occurred during that Week of the Eagle Celebration. Approximately 88 Currahees attended the event, and on July 13, 1996, 53 of them attended a general organizational meeting held on Fort Campbell at the Wilson Theater. This reunion was the first significant event to involve all generations of Currahees from their earliest days at Camp Toccoa, since previous get-togethers were largely directed at the veterans of the World War II period. In spite of the various and contradictory directions the Army took in its reorganizations, the regimental identity had persisted as a strong and a constant bond, and its history had been a source of pride to many in attendance across the decades.
As the group came together, they were presented with a vision of an ongoing association, a tax-exempt charitable veterans' organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and legacy of the Currahees, and to bringing veterans together with active duty soldiers. The suggestion was enthusiastically received by the assembled veterans. The task of forming the Association into a tax-exempt veterans corporation was assigned to four veterans who made up the original Charter Committee.
The concept was further refined in organizational meetings held at succeeding reunions in 1997 and 1998. At the latter event, the first organizational elections were held. A Board of Directors and Association officers were elected to direct the affairs of the organization. The Charter Committee wanted to know if all Currahees were of the same mind in wanting such an association, because most in attendance at Wilson Theater were from the Airborne Battle Group era or Vietnam era. In order to ascertain if the World War II era veterans were in agreement, Association representatives attended the 101st Airborne Division Association's 1996 Reunion in St. Louis, Missouri on August 8–10, 1996. At a 506th Unit Meeting held Saturday, August 10, the founders informed the forty to fifty WW II era Currahee veterans attending the reunion about the formation of the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association, declaring their intent for it to be open to all Currahees, from the Regiment's beginning in 1942 to the present.
After much talk about the differences between this new Association and the others with narrower missions, it was agreed upon by an overwhelming majority of the World War II Currahees that they would support and participate in the 506th Infantry Airborne Infantry Regiment Association. They agreed that this was the way for the legacy they started to continue.
The 1997 Currahee Veterans Reunion in Knoxville, Tennessee, was again held in conjunction with the 101st Airborne Division Association's reunion. The veterans attending included 68 Currahees whose service spanned the entire period of existence of the regiment. The largest group of troopers was 39 from the World War II era, followed by 25 troopers from the Vietnam era.
All of the above occurred in just over one and one-half years since the 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association had formally been in existence. By the time the Association was formally chartered in California in 2000, the direction it was to follow was becoming clear. The 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association had become a reality. Reaching out beyond the Vietnam War era, this Association would be open to Currahees of all eras and divisions, and be free from discrimination of any kind.
At about the same time, the Association had approved the development of the Currahee website (http://www.506infantry.org), which came online in November 1996). Immediately, a growing number of Currahees joined the millions of other people on the Internet. The website grew in size and value as it evolved from a communication vehicle into a website of historic and contemporary documents, pictures and maps amounting to more than 4,000 pages of information and 3,000 photographs and maps. It has become a welcome and prominent service of the Association, visited by nearly 60,000 visitors a year for popular or scholarly research.
An extensive Quartermaster function was created to sell Currahee-marked apparel, flags and mementos to members and the public. A creative, popular and financial success, the QM store has become a strong anchor point for the association's economic health. A formal newsletter called The Currahee! was published more or less regularly from the early days of the organization. By the end of the first decade, it had grown to include news for and about Currahees in each issue. More recently, the website was complemented by a Currahee blog, or web log [(http://www.506infantry.blogspot.com)], which provided another avenue of communications to and among veterans and active duty troops. The Association today
During this period, and in response to an extended tour of duty doing peacekeeping along the DMZ in Korea and to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Association strengthened its ties with the active duty 506th units. New programs were started up which provided significant and tangible assistance to our soldiers and their families. In the period from 2004 to 2009, the total amount awarded by the Association in scholarships, grants and unit support totaled more than $55,000. The principal award programs are:
- An educational program was created, awarding scholarships to Currahees and their children. This Scholarship Fund was established with seed money from SFC(R) Joseph F. Foster, Jr. (HHC, 2nd Bn,1969–70) and SSG(R) Melissa D. Snock (Associate Member).
- Members' generosity allowed the association to help provide financial assistance to wounded vets and the survivors of those killed in action. The Widows, Orphans and Wounded Soldiers (WOWS) fund was established by a gift from Thomas G. Lee (CSC, 1st Bn,1987–88).
- The Packages program sent "CARE" packages of morale-building food and relaxation materials for troops on combat assignments.
- Unit recognition programs distributed flags and other symbols of support to combat units to reinforce their feelings of being appreciated and of being part of the Currahee legacy.
- Beginning with the deployment of the 506th to Iraq and then to Afghanistan, a group of dedicated Currahee veterans have headed up an effort to visit wounded veterans in hospitals across the country while recovering from wounds. Still others have taken on the solemn responsibility for carrying the respects and sympathies of all Currahee veterans to graveside ceremonies for Currahees killed in action.
Beyond these formal programs, the Association has also made a difference in the lives of many families in smaller ways. Rarely does a month go by without some communication from veterans, friends or family members with poignant stories of needs met with the assistance of people in this organization:
- Old friends are reunited after many years, relieving uncertainty and anxiety about their life status.
- Survivors are able to gain needed closure about the combat death of a loved one by communicating with comrades-in-arms; these, in turn, are finally able to share with the families of lost friends their feelings and sympathies.
- Former servicemen are able to get needed confirmation about their experiences to qualify for benefits and assistance for which they are well qualified, but for which documentation is missing.
- As students and scholars pore over the wealth of information on the 506th website, more information about the Vietnam experience of GIs has led to opportunities for recognition and appreciation of veterans. In some cases this has been helping to heal the pain from the reception they got coming home and the misunderstandings about Vietnam that have persisted for decades.
The strong relationship with active duty troops continues to this day. The Association has had an active link to the units deployed in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan as the Association's Active Duty/Veteran Liaison. This strong relationship between veterans and active duty troops spawned two new support initiatives: the financial backing of the Currahee Rendezvous '09 and the current fundraising effort for a monument to the 1400+ soldiers of the regiment that were killed in action from Normandy in 1944 through Afghanistan in 2009.
The vision that directed the creation of the Association remains intact - reverence for the distinguished history of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and its successors as a regimental entity; unwavering support for the current generation of Currahees; and continually strengthening the bonds among all veterans through communication and support activities.
- 101st Airborne Division website
- IRS veterans organizations
- Organization Projects
- 506th Assoc Report, 2009.