Soldiers of Army Company M reunite every year to reflect on mission, life
They brought out the old black-and-white photos again.
As they do every year.
One was taken in 1950.
It shows nearly 100 young men, dressed in fresh military garb, some smiling, some stern. New recruits ready to board a train.
“I wasn't nervous,” Bill Dick says. “Young fellas don't hardly get nervous like that. It's the old people that get nervous.”
Dick is 85.
Every year, he summons the men from that photo — the men of Army Company M, 110th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Division — to his rural Latrobe home for a reunion.
And every year, the number of attendees shrinks.
“We lost two this year,” Dick says. “We're all getting pretty old. We have a lot of ailments. It's hard to get everybody together.”
Two of the remaining have Alzheimer's disease, and one of them couldn't make it this year. The other did, and he seemed to be having a good day, Dick says, and that was a good thing.
There are no planned activities. They greet each other, sit down and talk.
They talk about the time Dick fell asleep on that train, headed for Camp Atterbury in Indiana, and how the men he had known since he was a boy stuffed his pockets full of ice.
“I woke up all wet,” Dick says, chuckling at the memory. “Oh, we had fun.”
They talk about shipping out to Germany on a peace-keeping mission. How they ran constant maneuvers, including that one time they set off on a 200-mile hike through the countryside.
They talk about the friendships they made with locals, about the escalating tensions with Soviet troops, how their company included “clowns and serious guys” and every type in between.
And they talk about that old photo from 1950.
They point at faces, most of them memories, and they wonder what happened to everyone.
“It brings back memories of when they were younger and they had their whole lives ahead of them,” says Susan Piccolo, Dick's daughter. “When he knows it's coming, it gives him something to look forward to.”
Unspoken at the reunions is that this year might be the last.
But they all know.
Dick has diabetes. And he says he's “probably one of the better ones in the crew. I have no complaints.”
So he'll plan another reunion next year.
Knowing it might not happen.