An Edmond soldier wounded in Iraq will be awarded the Purple Heart during an annual ceremony recognizing the 45th Infantry Division at the state Capitol.
Former members of the 45th Infantry Thunderbird Division and current members of the Oklahoma National Guard will be honored Tuesday during a joint session of the Legislature beginning at 9:30 a.m. on the floor of the House chamber.
The annual 45th Infantry Division and Oklahoma National Guard Appreciation Day pays tribute to the sacrifices made by all members of the renowned 45th Infantry Division especially during World War II and Korea.
In recent years the day has been expanded to include the men and women who currently serve in the Oklahoma National Guard.
This year, Pfc. Jeffrey R. Kerchee, of Edmond, will be awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received on Feb. 11, 2007, while deployed in Iraq with the 1345th Transportation Company, Oklahoma Army National Guard.
The 45th Infantry Division was formed shortly after World War I and was initially composed of National Guard units from four states; Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
The division was among the first four divisions mobilized during World War II. In 511 combat days, the 45th fought through four countries from Sicily to the foothills of the Bavarian Alps.
It sustained more than 20,000 combat casualties, making it one of the five hardest hit divisions in the Army. Eight Thunderbirds received the nation’s highest honor for bravery — the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In September 1946, the 45th was reorganized into an “all Oklahoma” Division. Four years later, the Division was again called to duty for Korea. It was the first National Guard Division to enter combat. The soldiers of the 45th served in four battle campaigns and 429 days of combat. One Thunderbird received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in that war.
In February 1968, the 45th Infantry Division was deactivated and replaced with three brigade-sized elements, which compose the Oklahoma National Guard to this day — the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 45th Fires Brigade and the 90th Troop Command.
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