Yes, the Charleston Outlaw reunion was indeed fantastic. Not just because of the planned dinners, travel venues, welcome bag gifts and the other trappings that accompany reunions. It was because no one knew everybody but everybody knew somebody !
Knowing somebody you knew half a century ago, and being able to again share a little bit of ourselves with each other, even for a few days, is why the reunion was fantastic! You could hear it in the laughter from all around the Hospitality room. And you could SEE it in the many hushed tones of conversations between those “somebodies” from all those years back.
We all know that you can’t sit down with a non-veteran and talk of your experiences from your Viet Nam service. There is a bonding among those who served together, especially in a combat environment, that non-veterans can never be a part of. Sometimes words like “bonding” and “healing” may seem like clichés, but those feelings are real when a group such as the Outlaws get together after so many years. And, it makes for a fantastic experience!
Everyone reacts to their military service in different ways. Some hold their feeling in and find it difficult to express those feelings. Reunions provide a way for those feelings to express themselves just by being with someone who was a part of your younger life. Verbalizing our memories, with someone we know who we shared that military time with, can help bring out many suppressed feelings.
Certain things are likely true for all of us who spent time in Viet Nam. Probably none of us had altruistic intentions when we went off to war. We went because we had elected to serve our country when it called. However, serving in Viet Nam gave us the honorable title of “veteran”. Most of us probably developed a better knowledge of what the word “patriotism” means, and we feel a higher degree of that patriotism. Most of us, inside, have a feeling of im- mense pride when we see our countries flag pass by in a parade, or flying on the court house lawn, because “we served”. We wear the caps, badges, pins on our “veteran” caps to show the pride we have displaying our “veteran” status.
The reunion Hospitality Room proved to be a fantastic gathering place. Far more laughs than tears. And, seeing those once-young men who now share the experience of going through frustrating body configurations we never thought we’d have. But we found we were among friends, even though we did not know everyone, but we knew someone.
Many Charleston attendees were veterans of earlier Outlaw reunions. From a show of hands at the Farewell Dinner, it appeared that 30- 40% of attendees were first-timers, which speaks well for the future of the VLOA and more fantastic future reunions.
Yes, the Outlaw reunion was indeed FANTASTIC. Let’s do it again in 2020 in San Antonio.