This article describes how we old timers felt at last year's reunion. It came in an e-mail I received from a childhood friend.

Occasionally, I venture back to one or another military post, where I'm greeted by an imposing security guard who looks carefully at my identification card, hands it back and says, "Have a good day, Sir!"

Every time I go back to any Military Base it feels good to be called by my previous rank, but odd to be in civilian clothes, walking among the servicemen and servicewomen going about their duties as I once did, many years ago.

The military is a comfort zone for anyone who has ever worn the uniform. It's a place where you know the rules and know they are enforced -- a place where everybody is busy, but not too busy to take care of business. Because there exists behind the gates of every military facility an institutional understanding of respect, order, uniformity, accountability and dedication that becomes part of your marrow and never, ever leaves you.

Personally, I miss the fact that you always knew where you stood in the military, and who you were dealing with. That's because you could read somebody's uniform from 20 feet away and know the score.

Service personnel wear their careers on their uniforms, so to speak.When you approach each other, you can read their name tag, examine their rank and, if they are in dress uniform, read their ribbons and know where they've served.

I miss all those little things you take for granted when you're in the ranks, like breaking starch on a set of fatigues fresh from the laundry and standing in a perfectly straight line military formation that looks like a mirror as it stretches to the endless horizon.

I miss the sight of troops marching in the early morning mist, the sound of boot heels thumping in unison on the tarmac, the bark of drill instructors and the sing-song answers from the squads as they pass by in review.

To romanticize military service is to be far removed from its reality, because it's very serious business -- especially in times of war. But, I miss the salutes I'd throw at senior officers and the crisp returns as we crisscrossed with a "by-your-leave" sir.

I miss the smell of jet fuel hanging heavily on the night air and the sound of engines roaring down runways and disappearing into the clouds.

I even miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality that enlisted men gripe about constantly, a masterful invention that bonded people more than they'll ever know or admit.

I miss people taking off their hats when they enter a building, speaking directly and clearly to others and never showing disrespect for rank, race, religion or gender.

I miss being a small cog in a machine so complex it constantly circumnavigates the Earth and so simple it feeds everyone on time, three times a day, on the ground, in the air or at sea.

Mostly, I don't know anyone who has served who regrets it, and doesn't feel a sense of pride when they pass through those gates and re-enter the world they left behind with their youth. Face it - we miss it......Whether you had one tour or a career, it shaped your life.

 

My take on the 2011reunion 
by Rafael Morales, Webmaster

I just want to make a statement to those Vietnam Vets that are coming out of the woodwork. When I heard about the reunion last year I thought long and hard about going and even longer and harder about talking to the troops presently in the Unit. I was not sure that I wanted to wake some demons from my time in Vietnam. When I stood in front of today's Truckmasters I was a little nervous at first, but soon got over it and you couldn't shut me up. I went to Vietnam from Ft Bragg where the Unit was stationed and lost contact until I found it in Facebook about 40 years later.

It's a long trip from Miami to Ft. Riley but it was worth every moment. These young people in the Unit gave me so much love and affection that I felt I had finally come home. My brother veterans at the VA exercise group that I belong to said that I came back from Ft Riley looking like the happiest camper in the history of the US Army. People will notice it. In Ft Riley you will meet the best soldiers the Unit has ever had and you will meet a band of brothers that will bond with you like you have known them all your life.You will have a real sense of closure when you see that the 24th is home safe and sound. Hope to see you at the Reunion.