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Fall 2004

Reunion 2004

The 2004 Steel Tigers 77th Armor Association Reunion was held in Louisville, Kentucky and at nearby Fort Knox in July.  As always, the reunion provided an opportunity to catch up with friends, old and new, and to meet new people.  Although Task Force (TF) 1-77 Armor is currently deployed in Iraq, we were honored to host three active duty members of the Battalion.  CPT Mike Panaro, SFC Daniel Gonci, and SSG Ryan Allman were able to join us for the reunion festivities and briefed us on Battalion operations in Iraq and rear detachment operations and SSG Allman provided a glimpse into the life of a soldier in TF 1-77 AR.


Kevin Dunne with his family outside the simulator building at Fort Knox.

Reunion Coordinator James “Sparky” Stafford pulled out all the stops arranging for reunion goers to experience tank simulators and weapons training at Fort Knox.  A few men were surprised to see their wives and daughters eagerly trying their hands at firing M16A2 rifles, M249 Squad Automatic Weapons, and M240B machine guns.  On game night at Slugger Field, the Louisville Bats invited SSG Allman and Gerry Dubois to throw the first ball of the game (and it must have brought the team luck since the Bats won!). Other reunion highlights included dinner and dancing on the Belle of Louisville and of course, who could forget the Banquet with a surprise visit from Elvis, the Blues Brothers, and Rod Stewart! To see pictures of the 2004 Reunion, visit www.steeltigers.org/gallery.php.

A Vet’s Reunion Anxiety

The first reunion for 77th Armor Association was held in July 2000.  There was another in 2001.  Both were in Louisville, Kentucky.  I didn’t attend either of those.  The next was in 2003 in Colorado Springs.  I could hardly not attend since it was just 60 miles South of where I live. 

I gotta tell ya, I was pretty anxious about what it was going to be like. 

I was first contacted by Patricia Johnson in May 2000.  She was helping Tom Rosser locate some Army buddies from his time in Vietnam with the 1/77th Armor.  I was dazed by the phone conversation with Patricia.  So many names and faces and events from so long ago.  I hadn’t maintained any contact with anyone from my Army days.  Patricia was great, but I was still stunned.  For some strange reason, I felt like everyone but me was going to have clear, accurate memories from thirty-plus years ago.  That worry was put to rest within the first hour of my first reunion. 

Did I really want to reassemble those memories from so long ago?  I was in the midst of an ugly divorce.  I was an emotional basket case, anyway.  Was this old Army stuff just going to make matters worse?  That and the cost of traveling are why I didn’t attend reunions #1 and #2.  I wish I had, but maybe I just wasn’t ready.  Who knows?  I did attend reunion #3 and I’m glad I did. 

I walked in and saw a bunch of geezers wearing name badges and 77th Armor caps and shirts.  I stood there and shouted, “Who the hell are you people and what did you do with the guys I was in Vietnam with?”  Not really, but the thought crossed my mind.  Everyone was gracious.  To my delight, I discovered everyone’s memory was just as fuzzy as mine. 

Half the guys had family members along. The fuzzy memories became another bond we shared and the source of more than a few smiles.

Before I arrived that first day, I was worried this was going to be a bunch of crazies, huddled around endlessly telling macho war stories. There’s always a little bit of the war stories going around, but that’s not what this is about.


Victor Newton and Bob Elrod, 2003 Reunion in Colorado Springs.

It’s about reconnecting with people. It’s about reconstructing the memories that you choose to. “Where did so-and-so go after he left our unit?” “What was the name of the guy who stole the plywood from the Marines?” “Did what’s-his-name end up marrying that gal from Ohio?” The group is too large for the whole big group to all sit and talk, so it tends to break up into smaller groups who have something in common.

After a day or two, I warmed up and got more comfortable. Five or six of us were sitting at a table in the bar. I noticed a guy at the bar talking with another vet. He was wearing a vest with all sorts of Vietnam and Army stuff sewn on it. The guy he was talking to left and he got a far away look in his face. He sat there alone at the bar and drank for another 15 or 20 minutes. I got up and asked him when he was with 1/77. He said he wasn’t, but he did a tour in Vietnam. Something he said or something in the way he looked told me he felt very alone watching all the 1/77 guys enjoying the evening. I shook his hand and said, “Welcome home, brother. Please join us.” He did. We had a nice talk.

We are all brothers. Not because we knew each other incredibly well. In most cases we didn’t. We are all brothers because we shared an incredible experience. These reunions are an experience worth sharing. A small group of people put in a tremendous amount of thought and work to make them enjoyable for all.

Robert A. Elrod
Forward Observer Team 5/4 Artillery
A Company, 1/77 Armor
July 1968 – February 1969

Next Page >>

Reunion 2004 | An Interview with Tom Miller | 1/77th Active Duty Updates | Meeting Minutes | Membership Renewal Form
The Newsletter of the Steel Tigers 77th Armor Association