The annual convention was held Aug 22, 23, 24 at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
- Three new Companies were formed within the last 10 months, which were huge accomplishments for our organization: The formation of the CIB Company 102 -Orange County, CIB Company 103 – San Antonio, and CIB Company 104 – Wisconsin.
- A professionally looking Convention Book memorializing our 2019 convention was re-instituted this year. It is available on the internet.
- Our Scholarship Program was re-instituted this year. 1st place winner was Joshua Forsythe – grandson of CIB member Robert Towles; 2nd place winner was Erin Coffey – granddaughter of CIB member Larry Eckard (former Blue Badge editor)
- Our original Logo was reinstated and Trademarked, which will be used for contract/ads. Our name “Combat Infantrymen’s Association” was also successfully Trademarked with the help from our staff.
- Computer Chats among e-Board members was created for better communication.
- The position of Director of Legislative Affairs was created to keep our membership informed on issues related to combat warriors. This will facilitate scheduling of appointments with elected officials during the time we are in a host city for conventions.
- The position of National Business Officer was created to assist in developing a working budget and to develop long range plans.
- The redesign of our Blue Badge newsletter was completed thanks to the help of our contract staff.
- The Webpage was redesigned.
- Our e-Board agreed to reverse a longstanding policy that now allows the Blue Badge Newsletter to be and emailed once per year to those members who don’t have an email address.
- Our communication has also been improved through an active presence on Facebook.
- The decision to hold the 2020 Convention in Orange County, California was the first time in the associations history that a convention will be held on the west coast.
Fred Taylor who resigned after one year because of family health issues. The Board of Directors would travel to Washington DC for the 2018 Convention and determine the leadership for filling Fred Taylor’s vacancy.
The Board met upon arrival and before the day was over they had chosen Al Serrato of California as National Commander. Earl Kennedy Past National Commander and Senior Trustee presided at the convention during this transition period. As usual and based on the outstanding work of Larry Eckard the convention ran well and accomplished several things. Jennifer Knowles became the First President of the Support Group and Rodney Williams became the new Membership Officer.
The organization was preparing for a national election and continuing to improve in the conduct of day to day business. It had become necessary to outsource some administrative work because of a lack of volunteers. The Finance Officer Mr. Robert Hickey of New York who was also a CPA resigned. Mr. Hickey had basically been the eyes observing the day to day financial work. The National Commander Bill Cross was the day to day administrator with the title of National Commander and Associate Finance Officer. A call went out for a new Finance Officer and only one person was willing to step forward, Earl Kennedy Past National Commander. Earl informed Cross that he would take the position temporarily. Kennedy who had retained access to the banking accounts began to more closely scrutinize banking activity. A bookkeeper had been employed by Cross to keep records in addition to the instantly created bank records. Everything appeared to be in order from observing the internal banking records but Kennedy wanted to see the written bank register records maintained by Cross as he (Kennedy)prepared to take over the day to day transactions. The bankbook ledger records were found not to be maintained on a daily basis by the Associate Finance Officer and the bookkeeper was engaged to reconstruct the bank registers properly. Kennedy could not see any financial misappropriations but immediately began the process of preparing for the final accounting prior to the change of command.
Immediate financial issues became apparent. The determination by attorneys contacted advised that the association would be better off to pay the old slander lawsuit bill of $15,000. This caused an immediate financial hardship as they also struggled to bring Blue Badge printing and mailing cost under control. By August they had decided that the Blue Badge would cost a member 6.00 per year if the member chose a mailed copy. Printing and mailing costs were also cut by 50% by finding another printing company. The total cost of the Blue Badge had been eliminated. A new CO would soon be chosen and it appeared that the only eligible candidate in accordance with the bylaws was from Ohio.
Earl Kennedy who had taken over the Finance Officers duties in April of 2013 had previously advised Bill Cross that he needed to examine all of the IRS reporting data for accuracy. Kennedy learned in August that Cross had received a letter from the IRS taking away the charitable status of the National Headquarters. Cross had earlier been working with the bookkeeper to make certain that the Divisions had properly filed and that everything was in order. It was soon learned that a couple Divisions needed to file and that one had lost the charitable status, Division #6. Cross, Kennedy, Jack Wagner the Division CO and Dan Sankoff, Division Adjutant went to the bank and placed the Division 6 accounts into National’s accounts. Little did they know at the time that National was also in trouble with the IRS. Cross had spoken with the IRS while the bookkeeper was present at some earlier time period based on an IRS letter which he had received. The IRS apparently told him that everything was fine and that the records would be fixed based on their phone conversation. Cross did nothing further and the bookkeeper an experienced person who worked with charities agreed that the phone conversation cleared the record. A letter came to Cross from the IRS dated August 19, 2013 revoking the charitable status. Kennedy learned of this in an email from the bookkeeper and contacted Cross. Kennedy set up a meeting with a professional accounting office to sort through the situation. It was learned that the revocation could be corrected but only at a significant cost and considerable work. Cross would soon leave and it would take some time to fix this problem. They were soon made aware that the previous Finance Officer who was trusted to perform these duties had not done so. Authorities from New York, home of the last finance officer, were contacted and an investigation started. The association had been mailing all of the monthly finance data to this individual. The CIA now needed these records returned. The individual sent an email stating that he would send the records but he never did. Finally, a lawyer was hired to help retrieve these important records and a Police Officer informed Earl Kennedy that if the records were not returned the individual would be charged. This situation was ongoing at the time the new commander took over. Jerry Jodrey of Ohio became the new commander and was sworn in at the Columbia SC annual meeting in October.
The annual meeting conducted very little business except for lowering dues and removing three past officers who had cost the organization problems by their actions or lack of actions. Kennedy had informed Jodrey that he would not stay on as National Finance Officer and Jodrey was attempting to locate replacements. After only a few weeks into the new command it became very apparent that the new team would need help in understanding the business of the organization. Cross had hired Dina Coffey the daughter of Larry Eckard to manage some of the administrative duties of the association. It did not take long to realize that this was a much needed and positive business action. The association was faced with the difficulty of attracting volunteers which caused to few members to do all of the work. As 2013 came close to the end many questions remained on the future business activities of the organization. One promising situation creating optimism was that the Chief of Staff Nick Hubbell retired Colonel had chosen to remain on the staff. Nick Hubbell served for two years.
October the annual reunion was held at Nashville, Tenn. The reunion ran smoothly with average attendance and only a few business issues took place. One item of business was the election of James Bourgeois for National Deputy Commander. Bourgeois had to run for re-election because of not being able to succeed himself automatically. A contentious issue was discussed concerning Bourgeoi’s past legal action against the CIA. Member Wayne Watts stated that Bourgeois was owed $15,000 by the association. This was debated with a general conclusion that the past officers had failed to protect themselves with an Officers and Directors Liability Insurance Policy, including Bourgeois. The question was debated about who if anyone should pay Bourgeois and the conclusion was that the National Commander would seek more information before a decision was made. Legal consultation took place in Fort Myers Florida. Commander Cross and others in attendance were informed by the attorney that based on the evidence examined the CIA membership was not responsible.
Another item of past history was concluded with the Felony Conviction of the past Finance Officer for theft of money from the CIA. He was sentenced to four years in prison with the sentence “stayed” as long as he repaid the money. He will also be a felon for the rest of his life. The early on investigation was conducted by Earl Kennedy and Robert Hickey National Finance Officer and CPA who then turned over their findings to the local police department in Marinette, WI.
On 22 October at Myrtle Beach South Carolina a new National Commander was elected. Bill Cross a Vietnam Veteran assumed command. The C11SC local Murrell’s Inlet unit of Division# 7 provided excellent hospitality and demonstrated their professionalism throughout the entire reunion. They furnished an outstanding honor guard and Adjutant Gary Ramsey, also National Webmaster performed with precision in the closing ceremony of honor. The Myrtle Beach annual reunion was very successful and Commander Kennedy was praised by many for his work of re-establishing the financial system and creating harmony and improved communications based on his reorganization of the association. Streamers for all passed commanders were installed on the flag and the meeting concluded with a very positive future outlook.
The new constitution and bylaws were approved by the membership and posted in The Blue Badge of January. A vote of acclamation, by the general membership was made so that the current officers remain in office for another term. This was done to maintain the continuity of the association.
No one in the association receives a monetary compensation for services rendered. All services arc performed by volunteers. There are no paid employees, this is another one of the great attributes to our members. Earl A. Rubley compiled this history from existing records and, from his memory of day to day association with one or more of the "Founding Fathers”.
Past National Commanders are listed here thru 2018:
- Robert Wisecup-* 1985-93
- Paul N Baker-* 1993-94
- Robert H Meuser-* 1994-96
- Howard R Head-*
- Carl Lombard-*
- Dr. Ed Zebrowski-*
- Dr. Robert Towles
- Jack Wagner
- Ray Yamrus
- Earl W Kennedy
- Bill Zalph Cross 2011-
- Jerry Jodrey
- Nick Hubbell
- Fred Taylor-Resigned after the first year.
- Al Serrato 2018
- Al Serrato 2019
- Al Serrato 2020
Almost all of these National Commanders and their staff’s worked hard and moved the organization along a steady increase in numbers of Combat Infantrymen. The most recent Commander Earl W. Kennedy reorganized the entire association and improved our electronic capabilities by creating one of the best websites of any veterans organization. Mr. Kennedy also improved and rewrote the bylaws increasing financial security with modern banking procedures and increased reporting requirements from the field units. During Kennedy’s term donations to charities increased significantly and the association’s financial status improved at the same time.
The loss of many of our WWII veterans has increased and created a vacuum that is readily felt throughout our organization. Our volunteers continue to work hard and are extremely dedicated to all of our Combat Infantry Heroes.
The fifth annual reunion of the association was at the Holiday Inn Center, Columbus, Georgia, 27-30 August 1998.
In January we computerized all records making it easier to maintain files and communicate with companies and members. In July, National Headquarters moved into new quarters at 70 Woodfin Place, Suite 323, Asheville. North Carolina. This was a step up with less rent, two rooms, one for the office and the other for the quartermaster. The fourth annual reunion of the association was at the Radisson Hotel., Columbus, Ohio, 25-28 September, 1997. William R. McClain and Leonard J. Capoziello hosted the reunion. The adjutant was directed to rewrite the constitution and by-laws, in understandable language, and present it for approval at the next meeting of the general membership.
The third annual reunion, of the association was at the Radisson Hotel. Columbus, Ohio. 5-7 September 1996. Leonard I. Capoziello and Charles W. Slentz St. hosted the reunion. Robert H. Meuser, National Commander and Paul H. Matranga, National Executive Officer, did not stand for re-election and Howard R. Head were elected as the National Commander. Carl E, Lombard (C Company, New York) was elected as National Executive Officer. Major Richard E. Soesbee, Adjutant/Chief of Staff resigned. On 1 October, Glenn H. Towe (Walhalla, SC Company) was appointed as National Adjutant. The first order of business was to set a course of action for the next two years that would move the association into the present day world. The first item was to inform the membership of the association activities. This was done by 2 newsletters, written by the adjutant, printed by Office Depot, and hand addressed at National Headquarters.
This was mailed on 30 November 1996, In December 1996 the commander and adjutant met with Larry R Eckard in Hickory, North Carolina and asked him to be the editor of The Blue Badge. He accepted, and the current Blue Badge was born. He suggested a schedule for us to follow, since then we have published and mailed The Blue Badge to an all members on a quarterly basis.
Enough equipment was moved from the National Office in Asheville, North Carolina to Walhalla, South Carolina, to enable Commander Head and Adjutant Towe to work there instead of a five hour road trip from Walhalia to Asheville each day.
The second annual reunion of the association was at the Holiday Inn, Hickory. North Carolina, 7-9 September 1995. Leonard J. Capoziello (HQ Company, Columbus, Ohio) and Charles W. Slentz Sr. (HQ Company, Byesville. OH) hosted the reunion. During this first 10 years the association went through many growing pains. There was a serious lack of communications between the National Headquarters, companies and members. There was an excessive amount of secrecy at the national level which impeded the normal flow of communications. Very few Blue Badges were printed during this period. Some renewals were not notified when to pay their dues, this resulted in a large number of members lost. During this period there was a very grievous error.
Paul N Baker resigned as National Commander and Robert H. Meuser (deceased) was appointed National Commander. The first annual reunion of the association was at the Radisson Hotel, Asheville. North Carolina, September 8-10,1994. Earl A. Rubley and Phillip W. Cochrane (Esacanaba, MI Company) hosted this reunion.
The association made a major move, office space was rented on Haywood Road West Ashville, North Carolina, and with more space available the association began to expand. Paul N. Baker became the National Commander and Paul H. Matranga was appointed National Executive Officer. Earl A. Rubley was appointed National Quartermaster. Earl A. Rubley and the present National Commander Howard R. Head (Walhalla SC Company) put the quartermaster sales of the Association’s memorabilia put it in high gear. They bought and paid for merchandise out of their own pockets and were refunded after sales were made. They worked diligently, building up the inventory until it became a viable and vital part of the association’s operations. At the present time the quartermaster is self supporting and pays all the expenses for the national office, to include rent.
The Combat Infantrymen's Association was formed and incorporated officially on October 19, 1990 in North Carolina. The first association officers were Robert W. Wisecup, National Commander, and 1985-93: Paul N. Baker (deceased). National Executive Officer, 1985-93: and Richard E. Soesbee, National Adjutant, 194546. The first national office was cramped quarters carved out of roe den of the Soesbee home located on Dunwell Street Asheville, North Carolina.
Marked the beginning of The Combat Infantryman’s Association. Three men, all World War veterans, each having earned the Combat Infantry Badge began discussing the possibility of having an "elite" organization. The three men, now known as the "Founding Fathers”, were Robert W. Wisccup, Paul N. Baker and Richard a Soeshee. They began with only their fortitude, drive and persistence to pave the way to our present. There was very little monetary means available; so much of the early expenses came from the pockets of these three men.