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10th Mountain Division Descendents reunion held in Pagosa Springs

Staff Writer

Photo courtesy Karin Kohake Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, a legendary WW II fighting unit that trained in Colorado, and their descendants gathered recently in Pagosa Springs for a series of three events, including a Saturday picnic in Yamaguchi Park. The reunion was the fourth of its kind, but the first held in Pagosa Springs.

Photo courtesy Karin Kohake
Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, a legendary WW II fighting unit that trained in Colorado, and their descendants gathered recently in Pagosa Springs for a series of three events, including a Saturday picnic in Yamaguchi Park. The reunion was the fourth of its kind, but the first held in Pagosa Springs.

The 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army is a WW II fighting unit that trained in Colorado and was instrumental in liberating Italy from the Nazis.

The division formed in 1943, and was identified by the Army as an elite ski force needed in the mountainous areas of Italy.

“A total of 15,000 soldiers were trained in mountain climbing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, cold-weather survival, weaponry, and more at Camp Hale, located on Tennessee Pass, near Leadville,” a press release for a recent Pagosa event states.

Now, roughly seven decades later, that division is remembered, not only by its remaining members and contemporaries, but also by the descendants of those who served in the division in WWII.

On Aug. 16-18, the 10th Mountain Division Descendants, Inc., Rocky Mountain Chapter held its fourth reunion — a three-day gathering that took place  in Pagosa Springs for the first time and  welcomed several generations to the area.

Events included a welcome party, family picnic and family dinner.

Two WW II veterans attended the festivities: Orville Tomkey, who lives in Cedaredge and Dick Wellington, who lives in Durango.

Other attendees included Pagosan Karin Kohake, daughter of veteran George Loudis, who helped organize the events, as well as a variety of descendants reaching to the third generation.

The three previous Descendant’s gatherings were held in Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs and Colorado Springs.

“It was a cool weekend,” Kohake said of the event.

And, in the end, the event wasn’t limited to the WW II veterans and their descendants from just the Rocky Mountain Chapter.

A family with a veteran father who passed away in January saw the sign for the event outside the Quality Resort and dropped in at the picnic, Kohake said.

Another, younger veteran of the 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry Brigade caught wind of the festivities and joined in with his wife.

“It was so nice to have the young and the old,” Kohake said.

Camp Hale is now a recreation area under the oversight of the U.S. Forest Service, but still plays home to an annual ceremony over President’s Day weekend.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on September 5, 2013.