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Requiem for a buddy

Requiem for a buddy

Requiem for a buddy

By CHARLES KONKLER

393rd Medical Detachment


     This has been a long time coming. For you see my friend and buddy died Oct. 25, 1998. I've tried to write this ever since that day. I just could not make myself believe he was gone.

     We first met on a cold day in December 1942. Our group was assembled in the 393rd Regiment recreation hall awaiting assignment to our barracks. He changed the scenery and made our group of rookies smile. It seemed like the sun came out. He joked, asked where I was from, and in his own southern accent said "I'm from Dalton, Georgia."

     Well I for one had never heard of Dalton GA. he soon let us all know without cracking a smile, "It's the biggest bedspread center of the world." We all got a laugh out of that. To me, at that time Dalton GA was light years away.

     Finally we were assigned to the medical detachment and told we were to have our own tarpaper shack — #B81318 - as our home for at least 13 weeks. Good ol' Camp Van Dorn MS. I consider myself lucky to have had the bunk next to Pvt. Thomas E. Cleary.

     Of course it would be an area for many dice games. He wasn't the sloppiest soldier but was pretty close. We always managed to pass inspection. Tom worked hard and he played hard. He liked his beer and we generally got a lot of information from the best public relations man Dalton GA, ever had. He loved that town.

     We got through basic, maneuvers in Louisiana, and all the pleasures of Camp Maxey TX. We were separated then. I went to Company D as company aid man and he went to Company B.

     Next time I saw him was on Dec. 16, 1944. We worked together until Dec. 18. We really didn't know where we were. There was a staff sergeant, a corporal, and a private from Company B and a couple of men from Company D along with Tom and I. We all started back to Krinkelt, Belgium, together. Tom was captured in that town while foraging for food.

     Fate smiled on me for I believed Tom had been killed. In 1946 I was called home from work to the surprise of my life. Tom Cleary was sitting in my kitchen. We had a great reunion. He moved to Cleveland later on and my family moved there in 1948.

     Tom had met a girl who could tolerate all of his sayings and habits. My wife and I witnessed the wedding. When my second child was born Tom and his wife had moved to Parkersburg WV.

     We kept in touch over the years. He and his family moved back to Dalton GA. he had many health problems in the last couple of years before he died.

     Someday when I go to that big barracks I'm sure Thomas E. Cleary will be there to welcome me. He made a period in my life brighter and was someone I could truly call buddy. So long Tom - have fun wherever you are.

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