The Importance of Reunions

Being the unofficial platoon historian my platoon brothers won’t believe this one…but there is a date I can’t remember. It was the day in 2003 that I got a one word internet message that went like this “Duck”? The story doesn’t start there though. That is the beginning of the “To Be Continued” No it began in 1992 when the First Platoon Renegades, 10th MP Company, 10th Mountain Division deployed first to Egypt, then to Florida for Hurricane Andrew, two day turn around trip to VA, followed by two trips to Somalia and one to Haiti.

We spent months together mostly deployed, all living in a one room bat/rat infested building with our cots only a few feet away from each other. We knew each other in ways that only brothers could. We had seen the best of each man and the worst all the while extending out the hand if necessary. Often we fought with each other, most of the time though we fought for each other. A typical Saturday morning in the barracks consisted of surveying each others fat lips or black eyes that was followed by “Do it again tonight?”.

I am one of those veterans, you see them all the time, but mostly at the local 4th of July parade or any Applebee’s on any Veterans day. Am I proud of my service? That would be putting it mildly. Then again I didn’t have a typical military experience. I did some of the most incredible things that I never could have imagined doing, but that is a completely different blog post. Like almost everyone else I know¬†everyone has that ONE special thing or place. It could be an activity like playing an instrument, fishing, cars or sports, something that invokes feelings of fondness for a different time. I can be found almost anywhere in town wearing a hat, shirt, or yes, Chad, that leather jacket,that contains a 10th Mountain Division Patch. That is my “Something”. That very something that invokes thoughts of stupidity, I mean who the hell repels out of a ninth floor window of a hotel using a fire hose, which is usually followed by a warm fuzzy feeling of missing my platoon brothers.

As military service goes soldiers don’t stay in one place for too long unless your name is Johnny V! And so we moved on and lost touch with each other. Still I had the 10th Mountain Division coursing through my veins. We were the first to receive the 10th Mountain Division combat patch since WWII. That combat patch alone got me out of trouble more times than I can count.

Flash forward to an unknown date in 2003 and a message: “Duck?”. My Platoon Sergeant found me on another Somalia Veteran web page. A week later it happened again with one of my Team Leaders. We decided to track down as many guys as we could from the platoon and we found everyone except two members, one we couldn’t find and the other we believe took off to Alaska. As we found more guys a reunion was planned for 2005 in San Antonio, TX. I can not even begin to describe the emotions I was experiencing, but it was mostly excitement. It was all so overwhelming.

The night before the actual reunion started was just Carl, Aaron and I sitting at Dick’s Last Resort on the River Walk. It was as if we had just said goodbye back at Fort Drum. There was the usual pleasantries of catching up over ten years of each others lives. Then the conversation went to “Do you remember that night that….”, some of which had us laughing uncontrollably while others took us right back to the event in question. During the reunion another team leader came up to me to thank me for doing this. The standard response is as follows “A. Thank Mike and B. I do what I do for very selfish reasons…I could not wait to see my brothers again.” It was decided that every two years we would pick a city, meet there and act like we were 21 again. There were only about ten of us at that first reunion. For me it was one of the most memorable times and I look back on each with gratitude and longing for the next one to get here.

So the first reunion ended and I will admit leaving was tough. Occasionally there were trips made between reunions and as always we pick up right where we left off. We stayed in touch and as the cycle goes about six months out from the next reunion the phone rings nonstop as we shore up plans and make last ditch attempts to get everyone there.

Each reunion is different. Not to break out my inner hippy, but healing happens at each one in different ways for all in attendance. For some reason, be it the history we have or the things we endured, these men are the best men I have ever known and I feel my best around them. We can be ourselves and talk about things that my civilian friends will never understand. In a time that most people no longer define family traditionally, I had found mine. They are my family. They are my brothers. Someone once asked me if I could do it again would I? There is no simple answer to that question. Mature responsible me would say no way in hell, but the reality is I would on one condition: That I go back with the same exact platoon.

Looking forward to 2019 gentlemen!