Reuniting And Opening Up With Old Friends

WagsphotoBy Bob Wagner, AAP Columnist

Thanks to all of you who asked about missing me last month. It does the heart good to hear from folks who take the time out of their busy schedules to read whatever foolishness I’ve plopped on the pages of our town’s newspaper.

The reality is… I played hooky. I goofed off. I did what we all yell at our kids about: waiting ‘til the last minute. Then suddenly, the lights go out, everyone goes home, and you are sitting on the bench in the dugout, with no one to play with. Not so this month. I have hours to go before my plane leaves for Albuquerque. I will sit with my friends from 48 years ago, retelling old lies, and trying to remember what it felt like to be 19 years old, and invincible.

I have written about this before. Like veterans of combat from centuries before, we came home, shut up, and got back into life. If we opened up anything, it was a can of beer. Talk about those days was shared with guys who had also been there, done that. And not much of that, either.

Now, 40 years later, it’s okay to look back. The years have dulled the aches and pains. Reunions are good for this. One of my best friends from my short stint in our chopper unit, Tommy Bynum, summed it up best, about our reunions.

He said he checked into the hotel, unpacked, then wandered down to the lobby to sign in for the convention. He paid some dues, picked up a name tag, the obligatory t-shirt, and a can of beer. He opened the door to the adjoining meeting room and looked inside. None of his old friends were there… but all their grandfathers were.

So, for a week, I’ll hang with the boys, now grandpops. We’ll stay up past ten o’clock some nights. We’ll retell stories of foolishness and fears, now far enough removed from reality to allow us a good night’s sleep afterward.

Names lost to the rolls will be added up, as more and more old soldiers fall by the wayside to advancing age.

We’ll marvel a wee bit that we can even remember half the names we see, and sometimes recall a face to go with the name tag. Our wives sit off to one side, sharing their own version of combat stories, while we old men sort through memorabilia, photos, and written stories, recalling special thoughts.

I watched my dad do the same, far into his eighties. Then, near the end, there weren’t enough guys left to do a reunion, or a quarterly magazine. His memories of Germany, and the Bulge, and the Remagen Bridge were still fresh in his brain. But he shared little, if any, with his son. Even though a fellow combat veteran, I was still a generation removed. Different war, different time. I can just imagine a kid from today’s army trying to explain a drone attack to a WWII vet like my dad. Sounds like “Star Wars” to me, too.

So 70 years after Dad’s war, 48 years after my time, and 20 some after my kids storm in the desert, it still goes on. No matter how much it changes, it stays the same.


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