JEFFERSONVILLE — Some of them haven’t seen each other for about 45 years, and it’s been like a family reunion for a group of veterans gathering this week in Jeffersonville.
Nine veterans who were stationed together in a U.S. Army artillery unit are reuniting this week from Thursday through Sunday. They all served in Babenhausen, Germany at various times in the 1970s.
Veterans Jim Steele and Jim Gilpin are Southern Indiana residents, but the rest are scattered across the country.
The reunion came about a couple of years ago when a few of the veterans connected on social media, and they started contacting others who served in the unit, Steele said. They found each other through social media, phone calls and emails.
Last year, there were five veterans who gathered in Jeffersonville for the reunion, and this year, there are nine. There are about 15 altogether who have reconnected, but some were unable to make it to the reunion.
“We’re hoping every year to get a little bigger,” Steele said.
Last year, the group of veterans attended Louisville’s annual Armed Forces Day dinner during the reunion. They originally planned to attend again in June this year until it was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so they changed the date for the reunion.
Since they served together in Germany, they plan to eat this weekend at Gasthaus German Restaurant in Louisville. They gathered Friday at the Sheraton Hotel in Jeffersonville. In the hotel lobby Friday afternoon, photos from their time in the artillery unit were scattered across a table near a cake decorated with their unit’s emblem.
Gilpin said he never thought the reunion would happen and he has enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with a group of people who are like his family.
“I didn’t realize how close I was to them back then,” he said.
The group has been remembering their time serving together in the unit as they reunite, and it’s like a “nonstop trip down memory lane,” Steele said.
“It was in a foreign country, so for most of us, it was our first time away from home, so we were real close, and quite frankly, since we got together, I think we’re as close as we were back then,” he said.
“It’s almost like we never parted,” Wisconsin resident Ed Clark said.
Rockford, Illinois resident Chuck Abramson said it’s a privilege to see his fellow veterans, including those he hadn’t met because they served at different times or in different sections of the unit.
“We’re brothers,” he said. “There’s a lot of good memories, and what’s nice about it, it’s more than memories — it’s true friendship. It’s something you can never take away. I feel like I’ve picked up 45 years ago just where I left off.”
Minnesota resident Mike Leopold said the reunion has been “mellow and fun, and you get a lot of laughs.”
“Everybody brings up something from the past that we had forgotten, so it’s been good.”
For Pensacola, Florida resident Keith Deering, this is his first time reuniting with the group, and he’s happy to see his fellow veterans so many years later.
“Who would have ever thought when we left that 40 years later we were going to get together and find each other,” he said. “It’s family. We were a family over there.”