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For many decades after the end of World War II, we would receive the annual invitation to the yearly reunion of “That old gang of mine.”

That gang seemed to convene in every corner of the United States that we fought to preserve in World War II

After the disastrous Pearl Harbor atrocities, Congress at the request of our president FDR, convened and Americans from every blessed depot were summoned to war, via a hastily devised draft system.

Seven months later, I was suited into a uniform. It was too contentious to sweat out the agonies of a draft, so we volunteered, asking for the Air Force.

After training, and stationed in a heat belt just south of Orlando, we volunteered to escape the stinging mosquitoes and were transferred to Kelley’s Cobras, out west, training for the South Pacific.

The rest was history, shipping among, and bombing other Pacific Islands as we flew west for the next 22 months

But that is what it takes. We were there when America needed us. Too many of our own heroes gave too much of their health or their lives.

Now in year 2009, we’d be together again − those who were lucky to make it to 2009 and those healthy enough to endure our own hideous journey to Branson Missouri. Did I say Branson Missouri?

But fate played a hand right here at LaGuardia where Transam Airlines failed to have a wheel chair ready for my aching needs. “Security” took the rest of this aged air−vet apart. “Take off this − open that.” They searched and felt and found only skeletal bones beneath the flesh that we volunteered for our USA.

When we made it to LaGuardia Gate 6, the Transam monitor told us to try Gate 9 − the last, most distant departure gate.

The big white gate was swung closed as we blathered “Nooo...”

“Too late,” the gateman blathered. We showed him the plane was standing still in pouring rain.

Then we took out our wicked whistle and blew LaGuardia to arms, “Our fans were hollering too. ‘Let him in.’”

The custodian stood staunchly, “You’ll take the next flight to Atlanta, and your luggage will be forwarded to Branson, Missouri before you arrive. You’ll have to sleep over in Atlanta (temperatures 96 degrees) and tomorrow your hotel will get you to the airport for tomorrow’s flight to Branson.” So it was.

Before that day, I’d never heard of Branson and that night I wished I’d never.

They flew to Branson next day and remarkably, the bus company sent a cab for the only passenger. You never saw such an empty highway, about 35 miles of hills and dales, and valleys and cliffs, and grass − never a pedestrian. I stayed at the most remarkable middle American fun −town − amusements − fun and bustling and entertaining, just like our Mayor Bloomberg has promised and unfulfilled for our Coney Island.

At our clean, modern Grand Plaza Hotel we were greeted warmly by our brothers of yore and their wives, sons and daughters − all once strangers, but now brothers. The vital parts of this modern, nationwide family of friends who just live to get together this one more time, please God.

Thank you God for each trip you have granted, together, allowing lucky men to be boys, once again and so many thanks to our tireless president Tony Bianchi and his devoted daughter Elyssia, for bringing the old men back to their boyhood mates, once again. God bless.

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