There are all types of reunions and each one is different than the other.
Have you noticed at the church reunions they NEVER sing the "old
songs" ? At the high school reunions all your "friends have grown so
much older and the sweet young thing in 2nd hour has already become
a grandmother. Family reunions are not much better, there are a lot of
nieces and nephews you don't know and always to many water pistols.
But a reunion of Vietnam veterans is the kind of reunion that you want
to last forever. In August 2000, there was just such a reunion in Lawton,
Oklahoma. But I am already getting ahead of myself.
It was early April that Bill Kindt and I talked about a reunion for the 8th
Bn 4th Arty and immediately enlisted the help of John Norman and Chuck
Miller. This initial meeting was followed with update meeting every two
weeks until the reunion date of 27-29 July 2000.
The first order of business was to establish a date and come up with a
monetary figure for registration fee. The committee agonized over these
two decisions as we knew it would not be the best time for some people
and the monetary amount would probably come into question. When these
two decisions were made the committee members paid their registration
fee and established a bank account. Letters were prepared and sent to the
"few " men that we knew about.
The very next week we were contacted by Charles White who in turned
put us into touch with Bill Prichard and John McComb, and these men
began the monumental task of establishing a web site and began to collect
names and addresses of men that we had lost contact with. Without these
men and their computer expertise we could not have pulled it off.
As we began to make contact with resources throughout the community
we began to get request for "time and space" to advertise their goods. We
did not want the event to be commercialized so we made the decision that
none would be invited. This was a very awkward position for us as there
were worthy causes that could and maybe should have been mentioned but
after our decision there was no looking back are second guessing.
As the registration began to arrive we soon realized that major decisions
and commitments had to be made and we were once again faced with a
budget deficit, but agreered that if the moneys did not come in then we
would take up the slack to insure we had a quality reunion. The country
club had to be locked in for our banquet and the ideal of a "book" began
to take shape. Busses (at the tune of $300 bucks a day) had to be
reserved, caps ordered, and a multitude of misc. expenses had to be
After the plans were made and commitments to "sources" paid, all we
could do is wait for the big day. And on Wednesday July 26 the first men
began to arrive. From the first to the last registration everyone seem so
excited and the activities began.
The first night some of the early "birds" went to dinner together and got
a "jump" on everybody with our stories and lies. On Thursday when the
majority of people arrived and began to swap more stories it was a
constant back slapping, tears and laughing and genuine love was shown to
friends of 30 years ago.
Bill Kindt invited everyone to his home on Thursday night , paid for, and
cooked fish for over 100 people, it was so much fun watching the reaction
and interaction with every body, The evening ended too soon as our
church busses had the responsibility of trying to get everybody back to the
hotel for a little rest as Friday was going to be a big day.
On Friday morning the busses left the hotel early and traveled to the
retirement ceremony at Fort Sill. We were by far the largest group there
but the general's aide must have let the ball slip and the much awaited
recognition for our group never came. Later some expressed
disappointment and I can assure you that the committee members were
more disappointed than anyone but mistakes are made. "Spilled milk, wipe
it up, and go on."
We had a very informative briefing by members of the sponsoring unit and
then a noon meal in what we use to call a "mess hall" now its fine dining
and the food was great. The soldiers have it to easy (ha), after the meal it
was a trip to the motor park and hands on briefing by the MLRS crews.
Hot??? Oh my, I thought I was going to melt . The afternoon climaxed
with the retreat ceremony at post headquarters. Have seen it many times
but it still makes me proud.
The most unpleasant part of the reunion was Friday night when we had to
make some decisions about if, when, where and who will plan the next
reunion. I was not very good in the leadership role of conducting the
meeting and hope no ones feeling were hurt as I tried to let everyone have
input. It appeared that the meeting could draw into a the middle of the
night, but finally we were able to decide by vote on several questions.
1. We would have another reunion in the year 2002.
2. Five men volunteered to serve on the reunion committee. This
committee is composed of Carl Lanier, Isaac Smith, John Norman, Larry
Nelson, and John Stonerock. Later Carl Lanier was named chairman.
3. Another group of men volunteered to serve on a committee to form a
nonprofit organization so we can become better organized. This
committee is composed of Charles G. White, Bill Prichard, John
McComb, Curley Bordelon, and Doug Sult.
At the conclusion of the meeting it was announced that another meeting
would be held on Sunday morning for those individuals who wanted to
take a tour back to SE Asia. More about that meeting later.
The next morning the busses departed for "points of interest" in the local
area. Would you believe it was actually cool on top of Mtn Scott, as we
were above the clouds. The side trip to the Holy City was well received
and everyone seem to enjoy the new musuem at the Wild Life Center.
From thewre we ended up at the local cafeterias where we were honored
by the marquee and had our own dining room. The meal was great and
then we journed back to the hotel for a little free time before the banquet
on Saturday night.
The banquet was held at the country club and the food was delicious and
everyone was seen going back for seconds and third to a great buffet. The
highlight of the evening was to hear from several of the ex battalion
commanders. Their insight, recall, and personal messages caused smiles,
laughter and tears to be shed. Entertainment had been lined up but the best
was saved to last, as our flag began to talk. At the conclusion to this
moving tribute to our flag then a tribute was given to our Lord by a lovely
lady with a most beautiful voice who concluded our program with the
Lords Prayers. Intermingled with all the activities were door prizes given
away that were donated by the generosity of the men of the battalion.
Sunday morning there was a meeting of the people interested in the tour
and it appears that there are 20-30 people who requested more
information . If you read this and are interested in this trip please let me
know as this is still in the talking stages.
More tears were shed as good byes were said and soon the hotel was
emptied. Bodies were gone but the spirit was rekindled as we met as
brothers in combat but departed as "friends forever".
Joe L. Talley