Jan. 7 event marks 175 years for the service
Monday, January 6, 2014

The public and media are invited to join the Iowa National Guard as it celebrates its 175th birthday Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the Old Capitol Museum on the University of Iowa campus.

The event begins at 10 a.m. in the House Chamber with a cake-cutting and light refreshments to follow. Currently serving soldiers from the 109th Medical Battalion (Multi-Function) will be in attendance and available for interviews. Artifacts on display were provided by the UI Pentacrest Museums, the Johnson County Historical Society, and the State Historical Society of Iowa.

While the National Guard first came into existence in 1636 when the Massachusetts General Court established that all able-bodied men join its militia, more than 200 years passed before Iowa’s National Guard was formally established in the late 1830s.

Addressing the Iowa Territorial Legislature in November 1838, Gov. Robert Lucas ratified the need for a territorial militia.

Although the Territorial Legislature agreed with Lucas, no appointments were made until 1839. On Jan. 7, 1839, the first member of the Iowa Territorial militia was appointed. Ver Planck Van Antwerp of Des Moines was named the state’s first Adjutant General of the Iowa Militia and was bestowed with the rank of major general.

The first mobilization occurred later that year when the Van Buren County sheriff expelled Missouri tax collectors from a disputed border area containing numerous honeybee hives. In all, 1,200 men mustered on the Iowa side for service in the “Honey War.”

Fortunately, before the opposing militia forces clashed, cooler heads prevailed. After delegates met from both sides, it was decided to defer the border decision to the U.S. Congress.

Starting with the Mexican War of 1846 and ending with the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iowa National Guard has participated in every major U.S. conflict.

Today’s Iowa National Guard is made up of more than 9,200 soldiers and airman serving in units across the state in 53 armories and 41 communities. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 17,000 members of the Iowa National Guard have mobilized for active duty service in 35 countries.