In 1983 I was teaching A.I.T courses in Ft. Sill Oklahoma when the Instructors in my radar unit where chosen to participate in the multi national peace keeping force that went to Lebanon. This explained why we had a marine warrant officer in our army unit. He was to act as a liaison between our two radar sections and the marines. We could never figure out why a marine was in charge of an army radar outfit but it hit us like a ton of bricks when this hush hush operation finally jumped out in the open to present itself to us. Four Instructors stayed behind, myself included in order to teach the radar course to a select group of Vietnam veterans who were to replace the instructor's when their tour was over. We taught those men for six weeks everything we knew about that system for they had no idea what Journey they were about to embark on. We were prohibited by security clearance from telling them the mission that lay before them. They chose to send instructor's to Lebanon for the first tour so that they could get a war time feel of how this new radar system would stand up under the unique conditions the desert would provide.
The Instructor's new the system best and would be able to trouble shoot any problem that presented itself. It made a lot of sense that they would be the ones chosen to run it through the mill so to speak. The radar passed this test with flying colors. It was in fact an outstanding system But some of the brave men operating the system would pay for finding this information out with their precious lives.
The morning of the marine compound bombing the section chief of one of the two radar sections his radar mechanic and driver headed to the marine compound to see the warrant officer who was the liaison in order to check on spare parts for the radar they were waiting on. That was the last official act those 3 men would ever do for the military as the building would later be blown to bits in a senseless act of lunacy.
Back at Ft. Sill we held a memorial service for our four fallen comrades. Our marine liaison also passed on in this senseless act. It was a sad service but there was a still a sense of no finality to it and that all changed a month later when the men returned.
The entire battalion was present at the parade grounds to greet them for their return and they had the four of us instructors in a special line to be the first ones to greet them as they came off of the bus. I could see to my right the wife of the section chief who had passed away. She was separate from the families that were there to see their loved ones return home and I wondered outloud to my friend why she was still here in Oklahoma.
Well, as the last man from our radar unit made his way off the bus it all hit home. The women broke down crying and had to be helped from the parade grounds She had come to this homecoming to see if it were all somehow a mix up and perhaps her beloved was actually going to come walking off that bus. My friend turned to me and said:
"That is the saddest f*****g I have ever seen in my life" I agreed and I will never forget feeling so helpless thinking there was not a damn thing I could do to ease that women's pain. Her husband was a helluva man and six months short of retirement and I think of him and the others often and they will forever remain in my prayers. They were our CO workers and our friends and they laid it all on the line every single day without a gripe or a complaint.
We miss you guy's.
--- Stargel firstname.lastname@example.org
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