the final strains of “Auld Land Syne’ echoed softly into the warm
Louisville night on August 7, 2010 sounding the reunion’s end, Don
Behm’s words were proven prophetic, as the over 400 members of the
extended Thunderbolt family can readily attest. Included in that group
were 81 veterans (thanks to Jim Mockford for the group photo on a
following page) of the 11th Armored Division, along with the family
members of 30 veterans who are either deceased or whose health did not
permit them to attend the festivities. In all, 33 of the 50 states were
represented. Large family groups were everywhere to be seen, led by Roy
Duncan’s (HQ21AIB) remarkable group of 36. Other groups of ten or more
accompanied John Fague (B21AIB), Clarence Eckstein (A63AIB), Ted DeBonis
(C55AIB), Larry Falls (B491AFA), Bob Babcock (B22TK), Clifton Matthews
(HQ133ORD) and Don Behm (B41CAV). The oldest Thunderbolt present was
Sheldon Stamper (B133ORD), the youngest were Bill Phelps (D42TK) and Don
Behm (B41CAV) at 84, and the youngest person present was Alyssa Goyer, 4
month old daughter of author, and longtime friend of all in the 11th
Armored Division, Tricia Goyer. By any measurement, it was an astounding
turnout, and a reunion that will long be fondly remembered.
reunion events turned out wonderfully well. Friday’s flag retirement
ceremony at the Patton Museum was moving and conducted with military
professionalism and precision by both the old soldiers of the 11th Armored
Division and the young, Ft. Knox soldiers who were present to thank their
predecessors and to perform ceremonial duties. Not to be outdone by their
younger, camouflage wearing, brother-in-arms, the men of the 11th Armored
Division, too, donned uniforms one last time. The uniform consisted of
black hats depicting the 11th Armored Division’s shoulder patch and
battle stars and proudly proclaiming, “Patton’s Third Army -- World
War II -- Thunderbolt” President Dan O’Brien solemnly cased the
Thunderbolt colors and presented them to the Patton Museum, officially
signaling the end of the Division which had begun 68 years ago at Camp
bore witness to a moving Memorial service in remembrance of the more than
7,000 Thunderbolts who have passed away since 1942. As always, the service
was conducted in a most capable manner by Chaplain Gordon Blasius
(B63AIB), ably assisted by his son, Lee, Mally Baum
and Greg Urda. Later on Saturday, our final Dinner-Dance took
place. While definitely bittersweet, the Dinner Dance was at the same time
joyous as aches and pains were forgotten and the dance floor was electric
with the sounds of the Big Band era, complete with dancing to rival
anything seen 65 years ago. For as a Spanish poet wrote long ago, “It is
to live twice when we can enjoy the recollections of our former life.”
The final Thunderbolt reunion certainly embodied both the spirit and the
truth of those abstract, philosophical words.
all the great events in Louisville, however, the real meaning and purpose
of this and all the previous reunions is For Auld Lang Syne, which,
according to the dictionary, loosely translates into English as, “For
the sake of old times.” Or as the song’s last stanza and chorus
“And here’s a hand my trusty friend.
And give me a hand of thine.
And we’ll take a good-will draught.
For auld land syne.
For auld land syne, my dear
For auld land syne.
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.”
Thus be it then, now, and forever for the soldiers of the Thunderbolt Division.