The William Jordan Verbeck Award
At its Nineteenth Annual Reunion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
in 1966, The 24th Infantry Division Association began a new phase in
its history by implementing the William Jordan Verbeck Award.
This award, symbolized by a large silver bowl that is called the “Verbeck Bowl,” was conceived to encourage excellence, to emulate the values of William Jordan Verbeck.
Verbeck took command of the 21st Infantry Regiment at noon on November 7, 1944, during the battle for Leyte, PI, and later became the 24th Infantry Division’s Chief of Staff.
Association President Edmund F. Henry, said: “Verbeck demonstrated
in myriad ways–and consistently, from his Division days of ’44 and
’45 to the day of his death on November 4, 1965–an unparalleled love
for, and devotion to the Division. It was an obsession with him, a
“The name ‘Verbeck’ is synonymous with ‘Excellence’ in many areas, and for many things,” said President Henry, “but to Taro Leafers, particularly, the name represents special excellence in all matters germane to the 24th Infantry Division, and its appurtenant parts.”
The Award also had another objective-to replace, in part, the tradition of proclamations and plaques that were the custom prior to 1966.
As former members of the 24th Infantry Division, we may become members of the Association, thereby remaining a part of the Division. Our service in the 24th Infantry Division in war and in peace ensures us the opportunity to each strive for excellence as we enter service in the Association.
Though no longer with us, General Verbeck remains among us in spirit. He is here in the form of a large silver bowl on which are engraved the names of all the awardees. Men who have striven to excel in sustaining and advancing the memory of all those men who are joined to all of us by their service and sacrifice as a member of the 24th Infantry Division.
Even though the surface of the silver bowl contains an engraving of the name “Billy Johnson,” the 2007 and 38th recipient of the Verbeck Award, the need for excellence does not vanish.
For without a vision and a desire for excellence by today’s members, the 24th Infantry Division Association will wither and die.
Although demographics is a force that could eventually overtake us, it would be folly to believe that lowering our standards and values will brighten the future of the 24th Infantry Division Association. Over the years, the life of the Association seemed to hang in the balance at times.
Following his election to the Association’s Presidency at the
1963 convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Verbeck wrote: “Like all of
our energetic past presidents before me, I shall grapple with the
problem of trying to determine why the tens of thousands of men
whose service in the Army was in the 24th Division are not now
members of this Association. … We could assume that the majority of
ex-Taro Leafers do not know of our Association, but that would not
explain why hundreds of former members of the Association have let
their membership lapse. It is my problem now and I shall see what I
can do about it.” (TARO LEAF, Vol 17, No. 1, p. 9)
Decaying membership, a problem Vebeck recognized in 1963, is still a major problem for the Association today. While it may be elusive and beyond the grasp of a single individual, I believe that with teamwork, we can overcome this hurdle.
It was fitting that the first name engraved on the Verbeck Bowl was that of Kenwood Ross. He never gave up, and kept the Association alive in difficult times. The other names on the Verbeck Bowl are of those men who strived to achieve excellence in all that the Association undertook.
With the addition of Billy Johnson’s name, the surface of the large silver bowl, the tangible symbol of the Verbeck Award, became completely filled, and the Association grappled with the question: “What should be the future of the Verbeck Award?”
After using the lamp that had helped it find and advance into the future, it would have been tragic for the Association to extinguish the lamp now, to toss it aside and struggle along the uncertain path without light and vision the Verbeck Award represents.
Fittingly, at its September 21, 2007, meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, our Association’s Board of Directors decided to continue the “light” that has guided the 24th Infantry Division Association for the past 41 years. It approved the addition of a wooden base to support the original silver bowl, and that would provide an attractive and efficient means to carry the names of those who are to follow, those who demonstrate the values and excellence of William Jordan Verbeck. Issued: 2 Oct 51; Revised: 9 Oct 07, Larry W. Gay, Historian (retired 2010).