As a daughter of a Deadeye, I never imagined how much I would enjoy attending one of the 96th Infantry Division Deadeye Association's Reunions. The reunion was very well organized with a great mixture of family fun, visiting other Deadeyes, and official Army activities. I learned so much!
My Dad, Bill Hill, and I met in Denver, Colorado and attended the 2006 Reunion together. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with my dad, meeting some other Deadeyes, and having a chance to "Dance with my Daddy!"
The reunion was jam-packed with activities centered around the Deadeyes and their families. I had no idea how much I would learn not only about the Deadeyes, Okinawa, Leyte, and Army life, but also how I would understand my Dad better. We had such an amazing time together, one we will always treasure and remember.
As we arrived a day early, Dad and I rode the bus with the group up into the Rocky Mountains where we rode the narrow gauge railroad to Georgetown. It was beautiful. We had a Dad and daughter lunch and then visited the town. Everywhere we went, other Deadeye families were doing the same. We had taken over that little town!
I had never experienced any of the regular Army protocol nor the "pomp and circumstance." I was impressed with all the camaraderie among these aging soldiers.
I don't know what was the best part - it was all so interesting. The sixteen bagpipers were amazing! I was touched by the incredible story told by the reenactment soldier, dressed in an authentic US Army WWII uniform. The empty chair at the table, gave me chills as I felt the significance of it all. I loved hearing the "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - they sounded just like the Andrew Sisters - only better!
It was great getting to meet so many other Deadeyes and getting to know General Collins and Col Reed. I met some of my Dad's Deadeye buddies - not the ones he actually served within M Company, but ones he has met at the reunions over the years: Don Dencker and Jim Causey and so many others.
I enjoyed investigating the history room, watching the videos, and actually starting to understand the different battles, the sacrifices of the Deadeyes, and looking at all the photos and maps. I enjoyed going into the USO room, and getting to purchase shirts and other items with the Deadeye emblem on them.
It was wonderful how the families were welcomed by the Reserve Deadeyes at the picnic and tour at the Fryar Center at the Federal Center. My son, who has special needs, joined us for the family picnic. He loved getting to climb the wall, having a real soldier help him climb. Grandad taught him to say, "Deadeye - Ready!" He loved wearing his new Deadeye T-shirt and dog tags. It was a special day for all the families.
The most impressive of the reunion for me was there with the old and new Deadeyes - the Flag Burning Ceremony. It was symbolic, beautiful and honored the flag and country I love. I wish I had taken a video.
Still the most special part for me was the last morning, during the memorial service. My dad's poem, "Always a Deadeye" was read. Dad was honored and asked to stand, and I was so very proud of him.
The whole experience was like no other I have ever had. I know my dad much better now, It helped me understand the dedication of these soldiers and the sacrifices they made for our country - for me!
I have never seen my Dad so happy! And as far as "Dancing with my Daddy," I couldn't even keep up with this octogenarian!
Every part of the visit was well planned and orchestrated. Simply amazing. So many people gave their time to make this run so smoothly, and I thank you.
Deadeyes, families and friends of Deadeyes, go and participate in at least one of these reunions! You will be so glad you did.