Copyright 2007: Richard Guthrie. All rights
reserved. (copy permission at bottom)
Dick's insightful descriptive narrative on what it's like attending one of
our reunions...specifically the 2007 Reunion at Fort Benning, Georgia. The men of
Dick's Command from years ago in 1967 were often seen late into the night in front of the
Host Hotel...standing or seated on the benches...beers in hand...lifelong bonds being
"Jim!.. Hey, there's Ell-Tee!.."
"God, it's good to see you again!"
"How's that grandson of yours?"
"Your wife doing OK?"
"Your son get back from Eye-Rack all right?"
Each new arrival was warmly greeted, Im sure of that. Otherwise, the opening
reception was a blur. The space throbbed with words, a confusion of boisterous greetings,
snatches of four-decades-old stories about near misses, unexpected tragedies, chance
victories. Each was unpacking his duffle bag and men rushed at each other anxious to blurt
their recollection of the last time theyd met or to provide the answer to one of the
countless riddles our shared history condemns us to wrestle. Hugs and slaps on the back
punctuated each new encounter. Draft beer coaxed from the keg lubricated tongues until the
hard stories came out as often as the funny or happy ones.
Travel-weary and jet-lagged I broke away from the habitual crowd assembled on the front
porch and headed for my room. Washing up and climbing into my pjs I felt I was
winding down and groggy, plenty ready for sleep. Once the lights were out though, my head
swam with the continuous loop of scenes inspired by the conversations. Im still
fighting battles four decades old when dawn lightens the Georgia skies.
At the future National Infantry Centers WWII Company Street, eyes welled up in tears
as we heard how future generations will pay tribute our Americas Infantrymen.
Somewhere, Walt Tracy pulled me aside.
You know, a story I always meant to tell it was back in Nam in December
67. As the Support Platoon Leader you know, I never really knew where our companies
were operating or what exactly they were doing. Anyway, I was up at ENGLISH doing S-4 work
and ran into an Australian Lieutenant Colonel there. He was all excited when he found out
I was from First of the Fiftieth. He couldnt wait to tell me about being in a
helicopter above B Company. He said hed seen armies from all over the world operate,
but hes never seen a mechanized company that could function like that!
Walt, we had the greatest soldiers in the world. My throat tightened and I was
unable to say more. I suspect that the Australian may have been watching on that terrible
10th of December that ever since has been the heaviest boulder in my duffle bag.
That evening were flattered beyond words when the Major General, Commandant of the
infantry Center greets each of us with a handshake and warm words. Friendlys BBQ is
better than ever. Back at the motel, the old front porch crowd welcomes new
reinforcements, and lights out comes late.
The following morning we feel the full weight of our duffle bags as Taps plays
for our dead and we put a wreath at their monument in front of Battalion Headquarters. We
marvel at the new conference room todays Fiftieth Infantry has built to honor our
shared history. Some of our members leave mementos for display there.
We learn about Fort Benning of tomorrow, and marvel at the quality of the officers
Watching Foxtrot Company come in singing cadence for their turning blue jerks
us decades back to our own youth. And the mess hall conversations with todays
trainees keep us back there. Were especially touched when a lad tugs his
Legacy Card from his breast pocket and we discover the name hes
memorized is of a friend, another rock in our duffle bag.
The crack-crack of M-16 firing triggers images of other days and sends some of us looking
for a change of subject. We find relief in conversation with the youngsters on the
ammunition detail. Theyre happy to talk nonstop about their training adventures and
Drill Sergeants as they fill magazines.
The bus rides begin to feel routine once again and each trip is a chance to catch up with
an old friend, strengthen ties all around.
The banquet includes the habitual silent auction and 50-50 raffle. The certificates we
present to members of the current battalion staff seem inadequate in light of the terrific
support theyve given us, but I cant imagine what else we might have done.
Im left choked speechless with emotion when Jimmy Segars surprises me with a guidon
of Company B, 1/50th Infantry. I had admired it at a concessionaires shop, and was
going to go back and buy it later.
The gang is reconvened on the front porch. A few bars of impromptu Doo-Wop music taper
off: Hey Walt, tell these guys the story you told me about the Australian Lieutenant
Fridays Graduation ceremony is a bittersweet climax. The announcer acknowledges old
vets, and the crowds applause eases the weight on our shoulders as we stand and
swell with pride. Then come gripping music, dazzling action, startling pyrotechnics,
stirring speeches. Parents and wives, sweethearts, little brothers, Drill Sergeants,
commanders all celebrate. Those civilian kids have been transformed and theyre proud
of it. The unspoken damper on the celebration is the knowledge that some of these
magnificent youngsters -- trained, motivated, conditioned, and indoctrinated as they are -
soon will pay dearly to keep our nation on its current course.
The regulars of the late-night front porch crowd are joined by one of the mornings
strapping young graduates. He tells us how he completed the 48-hour forced march despite a
stress fracture in his foot and its clear he still limps. His wife is excited to
move from Peoria to Fort Riley (I cant make this up).
I have a plane to catch on Saturday morning and check out before the coffee dispensers in
the lobby are filled. A new friend asks: Dick, you be back next time? As
long as I can walk Ill be back.
On the Interstate to Atlanta my head spins as I try to process the reflections triggered
over the past three days. Itll take weeks, months. I figure my duffle bag is no
lighter than when I arrived there. I may have sifted through some of its contents, but
everything it held when I arrived at Benning seems still to be crammed in there. At the
same time I feel the time spent with my brothers brought me some soothing. Lugging their
own full bags, they understand.
Maybe mine did get lighter.
No doubt about it, as long as I can walk Ill be back.
B/1/50(M) Officers Call east of
the Dam Tra-O before 12/10/67.
Left to right: Jim Wonsick, Wpns Platoon; Bob Ballard,3rd Platoon(KIA 3 Feb 68); Brian
Howie Pontuck,Co.XO (KIA 8 Mar 68); Dick Guthrie,Co.CO; Thurman Pike,2nd Platoon;
Rennerfelt, Arty FO.
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link to your web site or reprint this story AS IS with the line below included: Reprinted from the 1st Bn (Mech) 50th Infantry website http://www.ichiban1.org/
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