Dwindling Heroes

Military reunion planner Bud Galow faces a sad problem each time he prepares for his World War II battleship USS Tennessee reunion. Instead of having a “problem” of accommodating more people, he loses people each reunion. His mailing list has dwindled over the past 10 years, in fact, the late June reunion drew only 160 of the 200 people expected. Dwindling numbers doesn’t prevent remaining members from having a good time reminiscing when they get together.

The group formed a lifelong bond almost six decades ago. The USS Tennessee was the only ship of four to escape sinking at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Less than four years later the crew survived another disaster when they were struck squarely by a kamikaze plane and caught fire in waters off Okinawa. In both instances lives were lost and others affected for life. One member is still scarred by burns received 55 years ago. They are all grateful to have survived their struggles.

At this year’s reunion the group took a bus tour of war memorials around Washington DC, including the US Navy Memorial to honor fallen friends. Brooks Breece, a former marine, led the tour and kept the mood light with jokes and quiz games. He realizes these men and women can’t cover as much ground or stand heat as they once did, so his tour has minimum-exertion, but maximum sightseeing.

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