Headlines Around the Upstate
Elite S.C. military unit celebrates 204th birthday
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
July 18, 2011
CHARLESTON, SC - The Washington Light Infantry (WLI), one of the nation's oldest – and today most exclusive – militia units, will turn 204-years-old this month.
Named in honor of Gen. (Pres.) George Washington, the WLI was founded in Charleston on July 22, 1807.
Gone are the days following its establishment when the unit's responsibilities included serving as both a guard-of-honor for visiting dignitaries (such as escorting the Marquis de Lafayette into Charleston) and as an armed force, fighting first in the Seminole Wars and up through World War I (the WLI also served as a S.C. Army National Guard company during World War II). The WLI today exists as a unique military/social organization and charitable association with strong ties to The Citadel (the WLI was directly involved The Citadel's founding) and a shared history with the National Guard.
Though perhaps not as a unit, the WLI has had a presence (members serving in the various branches of the U.S. armed forces) in every American war since 1945. At least two WLI members – U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston and U.S. Army Sgt. Francis S. Currey – are recipients of the Medal of Honor. And Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, the adjutant general of S.C., is an honorary member of WLI.
"The WLI and its members not only demonstrate, but set the example of what we know to be the finest qualities found within the American spirit," says Maj. Gen. [Jim] Livingston.
Maj. Gen. Henry I. Siegling agrees.
"We are composed of great Americans who have risen to the challenge every time our country was challenged," says Siegling, WLI advisor to the Joint Services Det., S.C. Military Dept. "But as we support and donate to lots of charities, we have evolved to the point that we are much more than just a military organization."
Located on Meeting Street in Charleston, the WLI armory today serves as both a meeting hall and a repository of military pieces and artifacts dating back over two centuries.
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