Final General MacArthur Honor Guard Reunion
San Diego, California September 25-28, 2011
James Jess’s farewell speech, closing the last reunion of the Honor Guard.
Shakespeare’s Henry V called his soldiers “We Band of Brothers.” After almost seven decades of association that seems an appropriate designation for us. There is a mystic bond of brotherhood that binds us. We meet for the last time at the rim of the Pacific. Sixty-seven years ago a few of us here today mustered at the other rim of the Pacific. We began on the steamy, humid island of Luzan at the end of a war. A few of us here today remember the deactivation of the unit in the middle of another war on the rocky barren Korean peninsula. Most of us here today recall the interim years when we volunteers bearing arms in the service of our Republic and our General. We were young, tall, slender and green as grass. Whether that service was at the Atsugi quartermaster depot or required parachuting on to the Rock to retake Corregidor’, each of us served where he was asked–honorably. Entitlements and benefits flowed from that service. We used the 52/20 Club for beer and beach. The G.I. Bill to pay for taxidermy school or loan to buy a 5 grand tract home. The V.A. gave me a hearing aid that cost more than my pay for my tour of duty. But an unexpected entitlement arose from our service, the Honor Guard Association. The camaraderie espirit de corps, the friendship and spiritual affinity we call brotherhood that continued for the decades after our discharge. From randomly selected diverse individuals the Honor Guard Company evolved into an almost DNA compatible group. We matured and with our families met together all over this great nation. From Norfolk to San Francisco, from Rochester to San Diego, we mustered in St. Louis, Nashville, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Branson, and Las Vegas, a great one in San Antonio and an almost one in New Orleans. The audible of each cities name evokes memories of the light of those days we shared. We look backward at these yesterdays with a smile.
It is with profound sadness that we strike our colors and go not so gently into the night, but our Republic has never endured a night without a dawn, so our children unfurl the same flag, (With more stars), that we proudly bore in foreign lands. Other generations of volunteer soldiers will continue that duty we accepted and passed on.
We are hobbled octogenarians with growing infirmities. We have the pleasure of recall, that as exuberant young men with hearts touched by fire, we were, in a small way, participants in the long distinguished military history of this nation. That tradition of excellence extends before the Declaration of Independence with volunteer militias.
The first regular Continental Army volunteers enlisted for one year only and were billeted at Valley Forge. You recall from our Philadelphia reunion that their barracks were a lot less comfortable than the American Embassy. It was Christmas time and the Continentals had been defeated at Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Their enlistment was up on New Years Day. These short-time volunteers won a victory at Trenton on Christmas day, and were inspired to continue their service to the Republic which then allowed us to serve and pass on to other volunteers opportunity of service.
I am privileged to have known and to have served with you.