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Drew Brooks: 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment has complex history

May 22, 2016

All American Week is part reunion, part homecoming.

It brings veterans of all 82nd Airborne units, past and present, together for a week-long celebration of paratroopers.

For some of those veterans, however, their old units no longer exist. Or they have been folded into other commands.

Then there's the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which has a complex history in and out of the 82nd Airborne, to say the least.

Formed as part of the build up of the division during World War II, the 508th served in the division through Vietnam and Grenada.

But after those conflicts, the regiment's name and history made a tour of sorts with the Army around the globe.

The regiment became part of the 193rd Infantry Brigade in Panama and then part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy.

That's where it served until 2006, when the unit's 1st and 2nd battalions were reflagged at Fort Bragg as part of the activation of the 4th Brigade Combat Team.

That brigade was short lived, lasting less than a decade, but it made a huge impact, earning the nickname "Deployment Brigade" for its near constant missions to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, the regiment is split between the 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams in the 82nd Airborne.

But a growing group of veterans like Chris Harris is doing all it can to keep the history together.

Harris is part of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association, a relatively young veterans group celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year.

Harris said many of the association's members will be on hand for All American Week.

And their visit is more than just a walk down memory lane.

Harris said the association, which strives to preserve, honor and educate others on the regiment's history, is working to ensure all fallen 508th paratroopers are included on battalion memorials on Fort Bragg.

Meanwhile, he said the group was growing, up to about 550 members, and gathering a mix of veterans and active duty.

Harris said he hopes All American Week can be a stepping stone to more growth and a successful reunion later this year in Charleston, South Carolina.

For more information on the group or the upcoming reunion, go to 508pir.org.

Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at brooksd@fayobserver.com or 486-3567.