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Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

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I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Rememberance, Reflections, Resolve

I belong to the 497th Reconnaissance Technical Group Yahoo email list that provides an alumni link for former members of the unit, managed by one of the former commanders. The link has been filled this past week with discussion of the death of two of our more popular members, a Marine captain, Skip Linville, and a former NCO, Ken Eubanks. Both were outstanding individuals. I had the privilege of knowing them, and remembering working with them. The email exchange among other members of the unit reflect well upon both men. The prayers and good wishes expressed for their families were sincere and heart-felt.

Unless you served in the military in Europe between 1953 and 1992, or unless you were in, or associated with, an intelligence unit, you've probably never heard of the 497th. Yet for 40 years this unit, located in a suburb of Wiesbaden, Germany, provided the majority of imagery (photographic-based) intelligence to all of Europe, and intelligence reports to most of the US military around the globe.

The unit never exceeded about 800 members. During my three tours in, or associated with, the 497th, the average was around 350. The 497th had its own small compound on Rheingaustrasse in downtown Schierstein, about three miles from any other US military establishment. Being a separate unit in its own compound, working with highly-sensitive information in a way different from everyone else in the area, bound the unit even closer together. We worked together, we ate together, and we played together. We went on to work in other places, but our closest friendships were usually with other 497th alumni.

The imagery intelligence field is small - about 1650 Air Force members. Schierstein also hosted a modest Army contingent (45-60), and a handful of Marines (usually seven or eight). Most of us - even the Army people - went to the same half-dozen posts, over and over. We grew to know all the senior NCOs and most of the officers. Most of us that made the military our career spent more than one tour at the 497th. Returning for the second or third time was almost like coming home, the people we'd worked with time and time again became a surogate family. Losing one of ours was like losing a cousin, or a favorite uncle or aunt.

We, the former members of this unit, have lost a couple of family members. Like family members everywhere who lose a loved one, we reach out to one another for comfort and support. We remember the good times we had together, and the fun we experienced in the company of those no longer with us. We long to be together, physically, one more time, before death overcomes another of our family. We vow the dead will not be forgotten as long as any one of us can still remember.

It's a comfort to know you're a part of such a caring, loving family.

2 Comments:

Blogger 1138 said...

Mike, you are correct they will be missed.
There never were many of us in the 497th RTG or the 544th TMS each member -even our problem children (of which these two were definately not) were someone special. I really hope that one day the work that was done by these organizations and thier members will be known and appreciated as much outside the community as it was inside.

Paul from the Lab
(one speck of dust could hide an ICBM site)

5:56 PM  
Blogger ~Jen~ said...

I'm so sorry to read about the loss of your friends.

This post was a wonderful tribute to them and to your unit.

10:57 AM  

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