By Staff Sgt. Grant Matthes (1st BCT, 10th MD)September 21, 2015
Every 18 months, a group of veterans who formerly served with the 22nd Infantry Regiment gather to share memories and bonds built during times of conflict.
Members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment Association decided to reunite Sept. 11 at Fort Drum to spend time alongside current Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI).
"We have one (reunion) in the spring, and 18 months later we'll have a fall reunion," said Brad Hull, a former rifleman in the 22nd Infantry Regiment. "Every year is too often, every two years isn't often enough, so we adopted what the World War II vets that preceded us followed as far as the schedule of having reunions."
Approximately 150 veterans who served in the 22nd Infantry Regiment during World War II and the Vietnam War participated in the gathering.
"I think it's good to carry on history, as it gives you a perspective of how much has changed in a short-time period," said Sgt. Nathaniel Barstad, a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, B Company, 2-22 Infantry. "We had the opportunity to hear some of their stories about what they went through and what they had to overcome."
The reunion consisted of a golf tournament, a tour of the 2-22 Infantry memorial and headquarters on Fort Drum, a ball / dinner and face time with 2-22 Soldiers over a three-day period.
"We wanted to see our guys at Triple Deuce," Hull said. "Three years ago we went to Fort Carson, Colo., and visited the guys from 1-22 (Infantry) and got to see their bay of impressive equipment. I love seeing the new young guys and letting them know that we care about them."
The first 22nd Infantry Regiment reunion of World War II and Vietnam veterans took place in 1996 in Kissimmee, Fla.
"I've been doing this for about 20 years," Hull said. "I started locating guys in 1994-1995, I went to the very first reunion, and I've been the registrar keeping the database on people and sending out the newsletters, so I'm very involved."
Hull stressed the importance and significance of the reunions and hopes that the tradition will be carried on for years to follow.
"It's important for (Soldiers) to know that there's an organization who wants you, supports you and to eventually take over when we get too old to put the reunions on ourselves," he said.
Hull was among familiar faces, as there were 15 members with whom he served in the Vietnam War. Retired Maj. Bill Lechner, Hull's former commanding officer in Vietnam, was among those who attended the reunion.
"I was a little hesitant coming back to the group not knowing how it was going to be received, but when they had the reunion in Atlanta, and I lived in Atlanta, I had no choice but to come," Lechner said. "It's a good outlet."
Current members of 2-22 Infantry set up static displays featuring current weapons systems staffed with Soldiers who are experts on the equipment to explain the characteristics and usage.
"The biggest thing that impressed me are the young troops," Lechner said. "My troops were good troops, don't get me wrong. They were good, they fought hard, they all did good stuff, but technical knowledge they didn't have -- they didn't have to have (it). But now the technical knowledge that these young troops have to have is just unreal."
Lechner spoke about changes he sees from the Army he once knew and the Army as it is today.
"The majority of these men were young 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds who got out of the service after Vietnam and didn't have an opportunity to be accepted back into society or have the society understand what they've gone through," Lechner said. "That's one thing the reunion does: these guys come in and all of a sudden realize that they weren't the only ones that had nightmares or horror stories or troubles adjusting to civilian life, so when they talk to the others, they found out they went through the same thing."
Both junior and senior Soldiers throughout 2-22 Infantry were able to interact and exchange stories during the visit.
"I think it's good for the younger Soldiers to interact and see the actual faces of people in history rather than just learn about them," Barstad said.
After spending time together, both former and current members expressed their utmost pride in the unit they served under regardless of when they served.
"Being part of Triple Deuce is not just your contract time or period of time before you (make a permanent-change-of-station move)," Barstad said. "It's a Family, and you will continue to be Family even after you're out of the Army. So to see all these men and women willing to come back and get involved with the current unit is incredible."