Combat veterans of historic cavalry unit receive long-overdue awards

FORT HOOD — A Korean War veteran and 12 Desert Storm veterans of “Custer’s Own” 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment “Garryowen” received recognition for their combat service in a long-overdue ceremony Friday at the unit’s headquarters on Fort Hood. The veterans were awarded their gold spurs, a U.S. Army cavalry tradition inducting the former troopers into the Order of the Spur.

The gold spurs indicate the troopers served in combat with a cavalry unit and are worn at ceremonial functions, according to Lt. Col. Kevin Bradley, the squadron’s commander.

The unit is a part of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. “It’s easy to say it’s an honor (to recognize the veterans), but it’s what they deserve,” said Maj. Jason Walsh, squadron executive officer. “It’s doing the right thing.

I know what it’s like to serve, they served, and we’re connected by that bond. ” For former Pfc. Jess Freeman, receiving his gold spurs was nearly 70 years overdue.

The Korean War veteran served with the squadron in battles such as the Pusan Perimeter, one of the first major battles of the war in the fall of 1950. “It wasn’t any fun when we went over there, but it sure was nice when we finally came home,” Freeman said, adding that it felt “really good” to know his old outfit had not forgotten him. All the Desert Storm veterans were members of the unit’s Echo Troop, which was later reorganized as Comanche Troop following Desert Storm.

The squadron led the 1st Cavalry Division’s assault into Iraq at the beginning of the ground war, Bradley said. “They went 250 kilometers in 24 hours, leading the charge into Iraq, destroying multiple enemy positions along the way and capturing about 500 prisoners,” Bradley said. For those veterans receiving their spurs, the event held a lot of meaning.

“It’s an emotional event and I think it’s long overdue — it’s been 27 years,” said former Cpl. Julio Marin, who currently works with the National Desert Storm War Memorial. “When we heard the colonel (Bradley) was going out of his way to take care of us old veterans … It’s a very special day, for a lot of us.”

After awarding the spurs, Bradley reminded the troopers that they were always welcome to return and visit as they would always be a part of the unit.

“It is an absolute honor for us to be able to do this today, to honor your service in combat with the gold spurs,” he said.

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