This past weekend I attended my very first military reunion. I have received invitations to several past reunions; but always felt myself to young to attend these events. After all, aren’t they just a bunch of old salts rehashing days of past years?
I had no plans of attending. I really didn’t. It wasn’t until a very good friend of mine, the best Chief Petty Officer the Army has ever known talked me into attending, we’ll call him Pedro. I learned a lot from this reunion, a reunion which has forever changed by perspective of them. Military reunions are not just about rehashing “the good ‘ol days” of military service and remembering those no longer with us, it’s about coming together, learning from the experiences of those who served before (and after) I had at the command.
Pedro leaned on me pretty hard to attend. Of the 50 or 60 so people that said they’d be there, probably 25 – 30 actually showed. There is a unique bond between military members, a bond that that I’m proud to have. Although it has been many years since I’ve seen them (of course we had all promised to stay in touch), it seemed like yesterday – and we all laughed and harassed each other as only military members can get away with. A couple of folks that were there were…antisocial. Others were a social butterfly, and talked to everyone – Pedro is one of those, a social butterfly with no equal. He has no enemies; only friends. No problems, just solutions. He’s the go to man…he’s the Chief. Pedro embodies all of that which a Chief represents. It is my honor know and to have served with him and the other Chiefs that made such a strong “Mess” possible. My old skipper was there – and it was real good to talk with him again. He is a good man, another who only sees the bright side, even on a dark day. I could ramble on for hours of the good people; but I shouldn’t.
During the first night of the reunion, a young sailor (at the time I served in the command) came up to me and told me a story of how I had inspired him. I had forgotten all about this little event. Apparently it was a time while we were deployed in support of the Army, and he was feeling down. I pointed to the National Ensign and told him the reasons we were there were bigger than him and I, that there was a bigger purpose that we didn’t necessarily understand. And those words gave him comfort at the time being away from his family. It renewed my faith in the human spirit a little bit when he told me this story, you never know the impact you’ll have on another human being.
Of course there were the stories…flash grenades setting fire to the tents, airplane doors coming off while landing, trucks stuck in the sand, being stalked by a panther (the cat, not the tank)…. But all were told with a gleam in the teller’s eyes…recounting memories past; where the bad memories have faded, but the good have remained. Time does heal wounds, as do good people. I’ve discovered that a military reunion is not about reliving the past, the reunion is about reconnecting with friends of old and making new friends that share a common bond.
In short; I’m damn glad Pedro pestered me into going. It did my soul good.
I’ve been getting emails from my first ship to attend its reunion. I’m starting to think pretty hard about it. Maybe not this year, but I think the next reunion will find me there.