By Sgt. 1st Class Kap Kim
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
Almost every year, since the 1st Cavalry Division Association was conceived in 1944, members of the "First Team" have gathered in locations throughout the United States to share experiences, meet new members, and to just keep the tradition of the 1st Cavalry Division alive.
This year, in its 62nd annual meeting, more than 700 association members, with Stetsons, and their guests gathered June 3-7, in Killeen.
During this reunion, the members had the opportunity to help welcome home some returning soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, as they came home from a 12-month deployment to Iraq.
For retired Maj. Allen Brown Jr., who, in 1972, as a young enlisted soldier, was a assistant machine gunner, with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, being able to welcome home soldiers "properly" from combat was nice.
As an added bonus, veterans also got to go to the Killeen's Rodeo Grounds as it held its 62nd Annual rodeo. There, the First Team veterans received a chance to visit with members of the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Detachment who helped kick off the festivities. They also had a number of meetings and get-togethers through the five-day event such as a living history demonstration at the First Cavalry Division Museum and a private Horse Detachment demonstration just for the association members.
Steve Russell, who served in both Headquarters and Headquarters and Charlie companies of the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division almost 40 years ago, said the best thing about the reunions is being around the current troopers.
During last year's reunion in Jacksonville, Fla., near his home of Longwood, Fla., Russell said he spent time with the 1st Cavalry Division's honor guard and commanding general, Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger.
"They make it real," said the former major. "They looked at us like we were heroes. Of course, they are ours. It is just fun being around guys who keep the tradition alive; it makes us feel young."
Most of the Korean and Vietnam war vets kept commenting about the age of this generation's senior noncommissioned and field grade officers.
"I sat with a staff officer who looked too young to be a colonel," Russell joked with another Vietnam veteran. "When we were in, they were all old."
In 12 years as an Army officer, Russell had numerous units, but he said he always had a place in his heart for the cav.
"There are two reasons: It was the only unit I was in combat with, and it's not that we sat around waiting for combat, but that's what we trained for," he confessed. "And the second reason is … that patch - it just draws you in. The Cavalry had a tremendous reputation. In 1969, the unit to be with was the 1st Cavalry Division. It's where I wanted to be; I wanted to be in the best and anyone who serves in the Cavalry is serving in the best."
Russell, who has worked as a financial advisor in Florida, said that hosting the reunion in Fort Hood gives it more of an "Army feel."
"Ever since I've gotten out, I've never worked with someone from Vietnam -no one else experienced what I experienced - no one went through what I went through," he said. "I wanted to come to Fort Hood because it has the Army feel … sort of like being back with the Army again."
During the formal banquet June 6, Col. Jeffrey Sauer, the 1st Cavalry Division's Rear Detachment commander, bragged to the association members in attendance about the length of years and tours he's served in the Cavalry. When he commented about his proverbial Cavalry tattoo, the crowd responded with cheers and "hooahs."
"I'm very humbled to be in front of you all and to be able to talk to you," Sauer added. "Reunions, like this, are about capturing that one story, that one tidbit, that one funny story that makes us fall out of our seats laughing about being in some far away, nasty, foxhole … but we can talk about how that was the best because we were with family."
For more information about the 1st Cavalry Division Association, go to www.1cda.org.