The inspiration for involving the descendants with the 10th Mountain Division National 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-Association 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.
Val Rios was the third Descendant President serving from 2007 to 2012. In 2012 he proposed that all WWII 10th veterans be made honorary life members and the following year his proposal was adopted. His father, Cruz Rios, served with the 87th Regiment, Company K.
The fourth Descendant President, Stephen Coffey, served from 2013-2018. His father, Albert Coffey, served with the 87th Regiment, Company F.
Denise Taylor is the current Descendant President. She is in her second term ending in 2024. Her father was Marvin Taylor who served in 126-Engineers-D.
In 2021, under the leadership of President Denise Taylor, the tax status for Descendants Inc., was changed to a 501(3)(c). This removed the two degrees of consanguinity required to be a descendant member, thus allowing full membership to all who join.
Since its beginning, the organization has grown steadily in numbers and in the diversity of its programs. Besides supporting undertakings of regional chapters, the National Association, and the Foundation, descendants have continued or initiated meaningful projects. These include:
1. 10th Mountain Division Descendant Finn-Thornton Scholarship: Two annual scholarships in the amount of $2500 are awarded to high school seniors based on meritorious service reflecting the values, spirit and legacy of the 10th Mountain Division.
2. Return to Italy Trips: In 2007 the planning and organizing of these trips were handed over to Descendants Inc. The trips were begun by the National Association in the mid 1960’s to visit 10th Mountain WWII Italian areas of interest.
3. K-12 Education Program: This project was initiated in 2022 as a means to engage school age members with the history, spirit and legacy of the 10th Mountain Division.
4. Adopt-A-Platoon: Continuing this project, developed by Col. Mike Plummer of the National Association, deployed units of the 10th Lt. are selected to receive “care” packages.
Presently the Board of Directors consists of 11 Chapter Directors, plus 6 At-Large Directors. These representatives work closely with Chapter members, many also acting as Chapter Presidents for the National Association. 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 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 (Lt) 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 10th Mountain soldiers will live in perpetuity.