In 1985, three World War II veterans who each earned the Combat Infantry Badge for their service, conceived the idea of an organization to honor and connect other members of their elite group. Robert W. Wisecup, Paul N. Baker, and Richard A. Soesbee worked together to found the Combat Infantrymen’s Association, connecting all the Army veterans who received this honorable distinction.
Their persistence, drive, and fortitude paved the way to what is our present organization. Notably, the men used personal finances to fund most of the early expenses of founding the group.
On October 19, 1990, The Combat Infantrymen’s Association was officially formed and incorporated. The first officers were: Robert W. Wisecup, National Commander; Paul N. Baker (deceased), National Executive Officer; and Richard E. Soesbee, National Adjutant.
The first national office is now housed in Asheville, NC.
After moving to rented office space in Asheville, NC, the organization finally had more room to expand.
Paul N. Baker was named National Commander, Paul H. Matraaga was appointed National Executive Officer, and Earl A. Rubley was appointed National Quartermaster.
Rubley and the present National Commander, Howard R. Head (Walhalla, SC), began building up inventory of memorabilia. Their diligent work paid off, and sales of memorabilia continue to be a vital part of the operations. Currently, the quartermaster is self-supporting, and pays all expenses for the national office, including rent.
Robert H. Meuser (deceased) was appointed National Commander.
Sept. 8 – 10: First annual reunion of the association held in Asheville, NC, hosted by Quartermaster Rubley and Phillip W. Cochrane (Escanaba, MI, Company).
Sept. 7 – 9: Second annual reunion held in Hickory, NC, hosted by Leonard J. Capoziello (HQ Company, Columbus, OH) and Charles W. Slentz, Sr. (HQ Company, Byesville, OH).
Sept. 5 – 7: Third annual reunion held in Columbus, OH, hosted by Capoziello and Slentz, as in the previous year.
Howard R. Head was elected National Commander. Carl E. Lombard (C Company, NY) was elected National Executive Officer.
On October 1, Glenn H. Towe (Walhalla Company, SC) was appointed as National Adjutant. The first order of business was to set a course of action for the following two years.
To inform members of association activities, The Blue Badge newsletter was created, edited by Larry R. Eckard (Hickory, NC), and mailed in late November.
A second office was opened in Walhalla, SC.
In January, all records were computerized for easier communication with companies and members.
In July, National Headquarters moved to a larger office in Asheville, NC.
Sept. 25 – 28: Fourth annual reunion held in Columbus, OH, hosted by William R. McClain and Leonard J. Capoziello. At the reunion, the Adjutant was directed to rewrite the constitution and by-laws into more understandable language for presentation at the next general membership meeting.
August 27 – 30: Fifth annual reunion held in Columbus, GA.
In January, the new constitution and bylaws were approved and posted in The Blue Badge. A vote by the general membership determined current officers remain for a subsequent term.
1999 – 2011
During this time, the association worked toward increasing membership, including the addition of many Vietnam Veterans.
October 22, 2011: Vietnam Veteran, Bill Cross was elected as National Commander.
Ohio Headquarters Company was formed with Commander Chris Callen named as first State Commander. Among the dignitaries attending was Ronald Rosser, Medal of Honor recipient (Korea), who was sworn into the association by Commander Callen. Governor John Kasich’s Veterans Services Director presented the CIA with an official State of Ohio Proclamation.
Earl Kennedy, Past National Commander, temporarily took the position of Finance Officer.
Jerry Jodrey of Ohio became the new commander and was sworn in at the Columbia SC annual meeting in October.
Dina Coffey, daughter of Larry Eckard, was hired to manage administrative duties.
At the annual reunion in Orlando, FL, Jerry Jodrey was elected National Commander. The updated CIA by-laws and Constitution were passed at the reunion.
Capt. John Brown (Ret.) and Chief of Staff, Colo. Nick Hubbell (Ret.) attended Veterans Day observances at the Tomb Of The Unknown Solder (Washington, DC). Pictures of the placing of the wreath are here. (add link)
State Commander Chris Callen (OH Headquarters Company) led a monument dedication in Sunbury, OH. Many city officials, including Mayor Tommy Hatfield, attended.
Callen raised funds for an outdoor memorial of all the Fallen Heroes remembered in the Ohio Offical War On Terror Memorial Park, also in Sunbury.
The first webinar meeting was held between Callen and Commander Chaudhary, discussing increasing efficiency of the association, and what changes need to be made to remain a viable organization.
An updated CIA website was rolled out in January. It was hoped the new platform would facilitate interaction between members and allow direct access to forms, documents, and information.
Ready To Become A Regular, Individual or Business Support Member?
In addition to regular membership we welcome Individual and Business Support members. Support members can help with the overall operations of our individual units and promotion of our Association. Although they cannot vote or be elected to office they offer great support to our local units. Many members sign up their family and close friends as Support members.