Reunited Brothers in Arms
You’ve probably seen a sign or a posting that says when 2 veterans meet again regardless of the timespan they were apart they pick up where they left off or talking about an event or series of events that validated their shared experiences.
In 1967 I joined the army on the buddy-basic plan where two of us went to basic training, then split up for advanced training, but never saw him again during active duty.
In 1968 I headed overseas to Southeast Asia with another guy from my advanced training class for what was to be my first assignment. In 1970 I departed that first assignment with at least one other guy I had been stationed with.
In 1970 during a brief break-in-service I ran into the guy from basic training as he picked up his wife who worked at the same place I was at the time, and then never saw either of them again.
During my 22 years of military service I encountered several guys who had been where I had been, at the same time and one had been my platoon leader as a 1st lieutenant in 1969-70. I had the privilege to meet him face-to-face for the first time in 1983-84 in Europe where we were both stationed, just not in the same unit.
After retiring from the military in 1990, I began searching in 1996 for other guys and in 2002 was able to connect with quite a few more, which was good because starting in 2007 I noticed they were dying way too early. In 2021 I began sending out targeted letters to select individuals hoping for a “hit” on someone I had been looking for.
Early this year (2022) I got a phone call from the guy I had went overseas on that first assignment. I was elated because we had finally made contact and I learned what unit he had been assigned to and how long he had been there and we left about the same timeframe but never crossed paths until now.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a guy I had been assigned with overseas on that first assignment 1969-70. After exchanging information, photos and activating dormant memory cells it turns out we left Thailand on the same day. He was heading for a new assignment and was on the airplane over the ocean when he looked out the window and saw one of the engines begin smoking really bad. He became worried because he couldn’t swim. Someone seated next to him said at this point not being able to swim was not important, maybe concentrate on surviving the crash should the plane go down. They were able to make an unscheduled landing to fix the mechanical issue with the engine.
On the other hand I was heading home from the army with my wife who had never flown before but was leaving her family, friends and country for the uncertainty of the unknown that lay ahead. I bring this up because so often we lose track of guys we knew or were close to and sort of give up those ties we had formed. It’s hard to talk to family or friends about those times because frankly they weren’t there, or were involved with their own life situation and didn’t pay attention to what we were dealing with at the time, or the other way around.
We hold reunions, wear our veteran caps, shirts, vests or jackets not to impress those we meet but to identify where we’ve been so others can share their stories, gloss over photos or search through official documents to find that spark for our own memories. Something magical happens and we are 18 year olds heading out on an adventure of a lifetime – once again! – I am the Real Truckmaster!