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October 11, 2012

Proud to serve together: Veterans reunite in London

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — They served their country during one of the world's worst conflicts.

They provided support for the land troops as World War II raged.

Last week, many of the members of the 4th/152nd Transportation Company joined together once again in London for their 21st reunion — to visit, to remember and to celebrate their accomplishments both during and after wartime.

Approximately 40 members of the U.S. Army's 4th Transportation Company and 152nd Transportation Detail gathered at Hampton Inn for a three-day reunion.

The members enjoyed the hospitality of the hotel as well as touring Cumberland Falls and other scenic sites in the area.

Charlie Martin, one of the members of the Reunion troop, was the sole member from the London area, and it was he and his daughters who scheduled the event this year.

Martin, a native of Clay County who relocated to London, said the organization meets each year in a different location, picked by one of the members, and this year, he got the honor.

Jimmy Huntington, president of the organization, explained the 4th/152nd Transportation Detail Reunion Association is comprised of officers and enlisted men from that company, whose ages range from early 70s to a few who have reached and surpassed the 90-year mark. While many of the military company have passed away, the company allows their spouses to continue as members of the organization.

"There are 88 members who are current with their dues, but we have information for a total of 225 members, some of whom are inactive," Huntington explained. "We meet every year in different places which are chosen by a voluntary member. This year, Charlie Martin chose London. This hotel (Hampton Inn) is one of the finest hotels (where) we've ever held a reunion. They are number one outstanding of the 21 years we've met."

Huntington said the reunions had previously been held in Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, Mississippi and even Las Vegas, and touted the members who continue to participate in the annual reunion to touch base with their former comrades.

"The 4th Transportation Company operated the aircraft and the 152nd did cargo helicopter and field maintenance, or were mechanics," Huntington said.

While members now reside all over the United States, this year's event brought the farthest traveler from Colorado Springs, Colo.

Larry Williams, a pastor who now lives in the historic Battle Ground, Ind., was an enlistee who did field repair of the helicopters.

"I did airframe repairs — that's anything that is on the skin of the aircraft. There was one airframe repair person in each of the four platoons," he said. "Sgt. (Charlie) Martin was the platoon sergeant."

Williams said he joined the Army after a semester of college but felt he wasn't ready to tackle that challenge yet in his life. His three years in the military helped him mature and prepare for the future, and after he completed his three-year tour of duty, he returned home and re-entered college. After that, he earned his bachelor's degree in industrial supervision and worked for 29 years at Lanis and Gyr, which made electrical meters.

"I enjoy coming to see all the old sergeants and enlistees of the flight personnel," Williams said. "We had a real camaraderie in the Transportation quarter. This was mostly pilots, educated pilots — a very smart group of crew chiefs and flight engineers."

That closeness between the company members is what kept Williams from leaving the group.

"I could have gotten a promotion and left, but I was happy where I was. With this group, it was a family," he said. "I was one of thousands of men who were airlifted to Germany because they were building the Berlin Wall. We all went over there thinking there would be trouble because we weren't on the best terms with Russia either. But nothing happened and we were relieved."

Williams, too, agreed that the accommodations and scenic sites around London and Laurel County were some of the most significant he'd ever seen during the reunion gatherings across the country.

"We went to Cumberland Falls and I thought, 'Ah.' But there's a lot of water going over that falls," he said.

Williams was one of those who enjoyed camping at Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park during his visit in London. He drives his motor home to area campsites for the reunions, and said he stops at the tourism office in every town to check out the attractions in the area.

"Any town I go to, I stop at the tourism office the first thing," he said. "I like to go out and see the area where I am. This was one of the best."

After some tours of the area, the group gathered for its final event — a dinner in which the North Laurel High School JROTC surprised the group with a presentation of the colors.

Asking the officers of the organization to hold the flags, the JROTC members led the crowd in "The Pledge of Allegiance," followed by the reading of "Old Glory," in which the folded United States flag was passed from hand to hand as the reading highlighted the successes of the United States.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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