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Recon Troop reunion was moving experience

I had the distinct honor and pleasure to meet five of the handful of surviving veterans of the 99th Recon Troop and a few wives, widows, and children at their annual reunion in September 2003, in Elyria OH.

It was an intimate get-together around two small tables, with the guys telling stories at their table and the gals playing cards at theirs. Going over past rosters, the attending veterans put the survivor count at near 25. This gallant group I could count on one hand, was 20 percent of the remaining 99th Recon Troop vets.

The possibility of contacting a member of the 99th Recon had been a dream of mine since discovering after my father's death in 1983, that he was in the troop. To actually meet a few of them was almost too good to be true.

The closeness of this tiny group after all these years spoke volumes of the hardships they endured so many years ago. The fondness they still held for my dad, after not seeing him since 1945, was almost overwhelming for me. The stories and artifacts they brought to share were like a treasure trove. We find ourselves talking well past midnight on at least one occasion. I didn't want it to end.

One of the things I was curious about was what happened to the coal-black ex-Nazi SS police dog, Sgt. Nero, that the troop captured during the Ruhr Pocket and retrained as their mascot? I was told when the last of the troop left Gerolzhofen, where they were guarding POWs after the war, the dog chased the train for a few miles before they lost sight of him for the last time.

Though every moment was like a rare jewel for me, my personal highlight had to be presenting an original picture of the 1943 division champion 99th Recon Troop baseball team to the only living member of the team, George Bubash. George had the misfortune of being captured during the Battle of the Bulge and spent the majority of his time in the ETO on a forced march from labor camp to labor camp.

I also got a chance to thank Chuck Dempewolf in person for the wonderful pictures he had sent to me of my dad on top of a captured bomber and pictures of Chuck and others in Gerolzhofen at the former Nazi youth camp where they were staying.

Francis Mikrut and Bill Roudybush had some good stories to add to the festivities and Bill made some very welcome company at the airport when I flew out of Cleveland (once we got him past airport security). Truly the driving force behind the whole thing was the wit and wisdom of Ray Ritter and the boundless energy of his wife, Dot. A special thanks to them and their kids for making all this possible and to everyone for making it such a wonderful experience.

Dave Gettman