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REFLECTIONS

ATTENTION!!
AT EASE!!
Those are two military commands that military service men and women everywhere learn to follow. The first order calls the military to attention. The second order tells the soldier to be relaxed and at ease.
I had not heard these two commands for sometime until recently on a recent Saturday, I rubbed shoulders again with former members of the Albert Lea National Guard, Company A, 135th Infantry.
The sixth annual Company A reunion took place at the Leo Carey American Legion Post 56 in Albert Lea. Company A was part of the Viking Division.
Thanks to First District Commander Mike Parry of Waseca, I became aware of a reunion planned for April 16. I met up with Parry at a recent Legion birthday party held at the Blooming Prairie Servicemen's Club.
My service in the National Guard spanned six years from 1965 to 1971. During that time, most of my duty was with the Company A unit led by First Sergeant Joe Parry, Mike's late and great father. I served as the First Toad's company clerk.
On our convoy trips to Camp Ripley in Little Falls, I drove a 151 Jeep carrying myself and First Sergeant Parry.
An estimated 40 former Albert Lea guardsmen gathered to spin some yarns "about the good old days."
It was an enlightening experience to relive those days of the 1960s and early 1970s.
I joined the National Guard in Rochester, hitching onto a Headquarters unit. I lived in Albert Lea at the time and worked for the Albert Lea Tribune as a reporter and eventually as sports editor.
While editing sports news, I got to meet Mike Parry, who was a member of the Albert Lea High School football team that won a state championship.
As I signed in at the reunion at a desk containing some mementos of Guard service, I looked for familiar faces.
It was difficult to compare a face of 1967 with a face of 2022.
On this reunion day, I did find five former guardsmen who served the Albert Lea National Guard unit during the same time I served.
I reminisced with Cliff Wood, Ernie Klukow, Brad Hammer, Bob King and Omer Hamer.
Klukow was a "second Louie" of second lieutenant to be official. He informed me that he attained the rank of colonel before he retired from the Guard.
Col. Klukow remembered me and said he recalled me having to "spit shine" a loving cup that represented the Eisenhower Trophy given to the outstanding National Guard Unit in Minnesota.
The trophy was presented to the Guard at a regular drill. Our unit drilled 72 times a year because we were serving during the Vietnam era. This compared to 48 times during regular service.
To celebrate the honor, some of our guardsmen led by Gabriel (Gabby) White bought several cases of beer and filled the trophy with suds.
Klukow also remembered the time he and I were part of the Albert Lea that became mired in the woods of Camp Ripley because of relentless monsoon rains.
I remember one of our unit Jeep drivers getting his vehicle stuck up to the front wheel wells. We had to use winches on our trucks to pull out our vehicles that became stuck.
Col. Klukow and I also remembered our Guard unit being activated on April 30, 1967 because of a severe tornado that claimed five lives. Our unit was mainly called to prevent people from looting damaged properties.
Judy and I were dating when my Guard unit was activated. Before I parted that night, I proposed marriage. The rest is history.
Klukow and I also remember in the late 1960s, having to practice riot control because of riots in Minneapolis. Our drills were very real because we used Lea College students as rioters. Thankfully, we were never called to quell the riots.
Master Sergeant King told me that he was the person who organized a drive to have rings for servicemen who served over 20 years. First Sergeant Parry received Ring No. 1.
Photos of the Albert Lea National Guard history were shown on a dining room wall. I recognized many of the soldiers who were pictured.
My mortality was tweaked when I realized that I am one of the real old timers of Company A. I look forward to attending Reunion No. 7.

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