The inspiration for involving the descendants with the Association began in 1987 when William B. Wright (604-HQ) headed a movement called the Spirit of the Tenth. Five years later, finding that many descendants were expressing an interest in becoming members of the Association, Bill Boddington (86-A) reintroduced the concept of descendant membership, but IRS regulations limited the process.
To overcome this IRS constraint, then-president Dean Carmichael in 1996 organized an exploratory committee of Hans Thompson (85-K), Hugh Evans (85-C), Jim Barr (85-HQ-3), and descendant Kate Raabe (Max Raabe, 86-MED) to work with the descendants in the formation of an auxiliary group.
Vigorously spearheading the legalities to bring this vision into focus was attorney Martha Hays, granddaughter of Major General George P. Hays and daughter of Lieutenant George J. Hays (87-B). As a result, the 10th Mountain Division Descendants, Inc. was officially formed as an auxiliary of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division at the 1998 Fort Drum Reunion in Watertown, New York, with Kate Raabe serving a two-year term as the first Descendant President.
Patricia Finn Thornton served as the second Descendant President and held office from 2001-2006. Her father, Captain Frederick Finn, commander of Company L, 85th Regiment, was killed in action.
In 2006, the Executive Board approved the current slate of officers with Val Rios now serving as the third Descendant President. Val Rios is serving his second term, 2010 to 2012. His father, Cruz Rios, served with the 87th Regiment, Company K.
Since its beginning, the organization has grown steadily in numbers and in the diversity of its programs. The organization maintains a database that lists the identified descendants of the World War II 10th Mountain soldier.
Besides supporting undertakings of regional chapters, the National Association, and the Foundation, descendants have embarked on meaningful projects of their own. Six main areas are:
1. On Belay Project: The Committee gives support to veterans, their wives or widows as well as wounded 10th Mountain Light soldiers in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC;
2. Oral History Project: The Committee, in cooperation with the Resource Center, videotapes the histories of veterans and their wives;
3. 10th Mountain Division Descendant Scholarships: An annual scholarship is awarded to a high school senior based on meritorious service to the 10th Mountain Division.
4. Gold Star Project: The Committee seeks descendants of soldiers killed in action and then provides information, contacts, and support.
5. National Reunions: The Delaware River Valley and Washington DC Chapters have volunteered to run the 2013 National Reunion.
6. Return to Italy Trips: Descendants will continue to organize and run the trips to the 10th Mountain WWII Italian areas of interest.
Presently the Board of Directors consists of 21 Descendant Chapter Directors, plus 6 At-Large Directors. These representatives work closely with the Chapters, many acting as Chapter Presidents. Reaching beyond their own organization, descendants also hold positions on the Boards of both the National Association and the Tenth Mountain Foundation.
Descendants come from various backgrounds and from all parts of the country; however, their beliefs and their purposes are the same. They believe that the wartime and peacetime contributions of men of the 10th have an enduring significance for the world of today and tomorrow. The Descendants’ purpose is to keep the knowledge of this legacy alive by forging links to their historical past.
Descendants will accept these challenges by continuing the World War II veterans’ projects, by supporting Chapter, National, Foundation and 10th Mountain (Light) activities, and by creating new educational activities and humanitarian projects that celebrate and enact their values of honor, responsibility, comradeship and love of the mountains. Through these actions, the legacy of the WWII 10th Mountain soldiers will live in perpetuity.