The Power of Reunion
By: Cassie Fenoseff, VFW Magazine Jan. 2003
The Power of Reunion: Reunions are emotionally uplifting experiences for everyone involved.
♦ You haven’t seen them in decades, yet they greet you with open arms.
♦ You have shared something life-changing with them, and you share a bond that no one else does.
This is the experience many veterans have when they attend reunions and see old comrades. However, some are reluctant to attend.
Bo Senical, who recently attended his first military reunion after 30 years, described his fears.
“I thought too much time had passed, and they wouldn’t be the people I’d known in my youth. I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t be remembered.” This is a common feeling many veterans get when the reunion invitation arrives. Others don’t want to allow bad memories to surface, or worry that they wouldn’t remember people, so they avoid going.
Advantages of Attending a Reunion: Those that stay home as a result of these reservations can miss out on numerous benefits. For example, not only is it a chance to see old friends, it’s an opportunity to interact in a different way. One group that recently attended a reunion is now in contact with each other on a weekly basis. They arrange business deals with one another, plan vacations and exchange pictures. This provides them with a way to develop a friendship under different circumstances. While the reunion gives closure, it also presents an opening for re-establishing friendships.
Many veterans also are encouraged by the success of the other attendees. It gives them peace of mind as well as sense of pride to know that their fellow veterans have succeeded. For those who haven’t done as well, there are still opportunities. Veterans can become a support group for one another and help those who are struggling deal with issues they may have faced themselves, including divorce and addictions. But it is only through going to a reunion that most people find out who really needs their assistance. In addition to benefits for veterans, there are advantages for family members who attend. Not only does it allow them an opportunity to meet people they’ve heard about for years, it gives them a better understanding of what their loved one went through.
As Senical put it,
“Part of the way I am is because of Viet Nam.”
Prior to attending his first reunion, another man told his son that he was going to see the man who saved his life. This type of conversation, along with attending reunions, can help family members appreciate an event that shaped their relative. Despite initial reservations, the majority of veterans who attend reunions are glad they did. They come away with a different outlook and an opportunity to form new memories with people they once cared about. Most say the first one is the hardest, but once they have gone they look forward to the next one.
When asked if he would attend a future reunion, Senical said,
“Not only do I plan to go to a future one, I plan to be involved in the organization of it”.
This is Testament to how powerful reunions can be.
Reunions are one of the best healing tools available to Veterans
People wonder how a group of men who knew each other for such a short period of time could retain a friendship for so many years without making contact. For those of us who were there the answer is easy. The intensity of our situation forged a relationship like no other. Those days of being kids a long way from home and depending on each other to stay alive changed our lives forever. There are a lot of things about Vietnam I would have chosen not to have experienced but today I am reaping the benefits of that year…your friendship. Make no mistake about it, you have touched my life, now and for the years since 1967-68.