By Ann Rundle
SAN MARCOS — Joining the 36th Infantry of the Texas Army National Guard has become a family tradition for the Stakes clan.
D.W. Stakes was with the 36th during World War I in Europe. His son H.C. Stakes was with the 36th in North Africa, Italy and France during World War II and in Korea as a military advisor to the Korean Army. H. C. Stakes’ son Carlyle Stakes of Cuero was in the 36th for nine years in the 1960s and ’70s. And last month Carlyle Stakes’ son Cullen Stakes, a 22-year-old junior at Southwest Texas State University, joined the 36th unit.
“I’m proud of him,” Carlyle said. “He didn’t have to do it. He’s the sole survivor, the only child. But he insisted, and I’m real proud of him.”
Cullen said he “just wanted to carry on the tradition and join the same unit.”
“I could have joined any other National Guard unit, but in July when I was just thinking about maybe just going in, I was dead set on joining the 36th,” he said. “If I was going to do it, I was going to join the 36th for sure.”
Cullen also has been a cadet in Southwest Texas’ ROTC program since August.
“The National Guard is basically a way for me to get experience in a unit while also still a cadet, and to get experience doing the day to day things that a unit does while I’m still in ROTC. Then, once I graduate from college, with a commission, I’ll have the option to go active or to just stay in the National Guard, and I'll probably go active,” he said.
Carlyle noted that not only is Cullen the fourth generation to join the 36th but, when he graduates, he will be the fourth generation to be an officer in the 36th. Carlyle was a captain, H. C. was a colonel, and D. W. was a major. Cullen will be commissioned as a second lieutenant when he graduates in May of 2005.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I've always wanted to be in the military,” Cullen said. “I think it was based off hearing stories about my grandfather and my dad. I think probably the seed was set at a young age. It’s always been in the back of my mind to do it, so I did it.”
And he said he hasn’t been disappointed with his decision.
“The more I get into it, the more I see things, the more I want to do it, the more I like it. It’s the perfect place for me,” Cullen said.
In the National Guard, Cullen is with the Alpha Company, First Battalion, 141st Infantry. He said the 141st Infantry is the same regiment his father and grandfather were in. The 141st is a division within the 36th.
“I was just excited that I could get into the same unit, that it’s still around and everything is still that way,” Cullen said of the 36th Infantry of the National Guard. “It’s very special. It seems like there’s a lot of history there.”
Cullen is a 1999 graduate of Victoria High School. His mother is Hedy Stakes of Victoria.