I have just returned from the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment reunion at Fort Bragg. What a fantastic trip! We had such a great turnout with Veterans from all the conflicts including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama. Since this is the home of the 82nd Airborne, the participation from active duty soldiers was off the charts as well. The Family & Friends of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment outdid themselves with this fantastic event. Special thanks go out to Lou, Rock, Donna, Troy, Ellen, and Gene for all their help putting this together and making sure it ran smoothly.
The reunion lasted four days and there were some notable events. First, we started off by visiting the General Lee Museum in Dunn, North Carolina. General Lee was the “father” of the airborne and his home was converted into a very nice museum. Next, we were able to watch active-duty soldiers do a parachute jump in Fort Bragg on the anniversary of the 82nd Airborne’s birth. We had lunch on base with the active-duty soldiers and then toured the 82nd Airborne Museum. That night we had a social and happy hour honoring all active duty soldiers which was well attended. The following day we visited the Special Forces Museum, which detailed the campaigns of the special forces from World War II through the present. All were delighted to have Rock Merritt lead us on a personal tour. The reunion ended with a formal banquet honoring all members, past and present, of the 508 P.I.R. and the family and friends of the 508 P.I.R.
New and Old Friends
As for me personally, I met some new great friends including Don McCallister, CSM Ret., a recently retired member of the 508 P.I.R. who is now dedicated to helping wounded warriors through the Independence Fund (more about that later). Likewise, there was Jim Strickland (Vietnam), Robert Cheeseman (Panama), Claud Dunn (Vietnam), Phil Cronin (Vietnam), Carl Porter (WWII), John Coates (WWII), and all those active-duty guys including Aaron, Alexander, Hank, Brandyn, Jarvis, and Brandon. Likewise, seeing old friends like Gene, Rock, George, Ernie, Burt, and Tino was awesome as well. Thankfully, in the limited free time that I had, there was still a way to work in three oral history interviews for World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.
One of the coolest gifts that I have ever received was a small piece of the last ISIS flag flying over Mosul before it was liberated. CSM Donaldson from the 508 P.I.R., 82nd Airborne gave that to me in my hand as he was there in July during that historic moment. I was also lucky enough to win a silent auction for the 508 P.I.R. flag that Lt. Col. Browning carried with him as he jumped on the anniversary of the birth of the 82nd Airborne. All paratroopers that jumped that day signed the flag (see below), how cool is that?