Shutting Down A Military Unit Rich In History

110th Artillery, Rooted In The Revolutionary War, Had Feet On The Sands Of Normandy

August 09, 2009|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,

When Ferd H. Reuwer served in Maryland's 110th Field Artillery in the early 1930s, they still used horses to haul cannons around the unit's training site in Pikesville.

The horses were phased out in 1935, but the National Guard unit carried on, storming Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944, turning out for the riots in Baltimore after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and guarding Washington after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The proud history of the 110th, which traces its roots back to the Revolutionary War, came to an end on Saturday morning when members rolled up their red and gold flags and sheathed them for good. The unit's deactivation after 94 years in Pikesville is part of an overall reorganization of the Maryland National Guard.

Reuwer, 99, was the oldest in a bustling crowd of former unit members who gave the 110th an emotional send-off. "He feels like this is partially his home," said his daughter, Sharon Reuwer.

The oldest artilleryman is a little hard of hearing but smiled brightly as younger guardsmen paid their respects.

"It's not often that we get to meet someone who was here when the horses were around," said Lt. Col. Matthew L. Packard, the unit's final commander.

"I'm happy to be here," Reuwer replied. After surveying the unit's modern camouflage uniforms, he added, "I still like the old khaki ones better."

Members of the 110th still call each other "red legs," a reference to the red-striped pants worn by artillery gunners in Napoleonic days. They finish statements with the motto "As the oak," a nod to the stout trees that shroud the Pikesville Armory.

The rich history of the 110th sets it apart from other guard installations, said retired Brig. Gen. J. Donald Haynes, who commanded the unit from 1984 to 1988. He and others hope an artillery unit will return to Pikesville some day. If that's impossible, they at least want to open a small museum for the 110th.

"If you look around, you'll see all the monuments, the names of those who died in service, the pictures and artifacts," Haynes said. "You don't see that in most guard outposts. This deserves to go on."

Walter Heline, 88, lived a major part of that history as a forward radio operator on D-Day. "All I remember is that there were so many American planes up there that you couldn't see a single German one," the Baltimore native said. "Other than that, you're just lucky to get off the field."

Heline has watched the numbers dwindle at reunions of the 110th but said he bikes and roller skates to keep himself spry. "This is where I started 69 years ago," he said, looking around the Pikesville grounds. "And I'm still here."

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