published Monday, May 21st, 2012

Veterans, family remember U.S. Army's 6th Cavalry unit

Dusty Jackman, left, and Ray Gray carry a wreath at the 112th annual memorial service for fallen members of the 6th Cavalry, held Sunday on Barnhardt Circle in Fort Oglethorpe. Other former members of the 6th Cavalry attending the event are Dr. Tom Kunkle, right, and Vincent Cerrato, in the striped shirt.
Dusty Jackman, left, and Ray Gray carry a wreath at the 112th annual memorial service for fallen members of the 6th Cavalry, held Sunday on Barnhardt Circle in Fort Oglethorpe. Other former members of the 6th Cavalry attending the event are Dr. Tom Kunkle, right, and Vincent Cerrato, in the striped shirt.
Photo by John Rawlston.

The U.S. Army's 6th Cavalry carried Virginia Brown through much of her life, even though she never served in the military.

Her father moved the family to Fort Oglethorpe in 1928 when Brown was just 3 so he could serve in the cavalry's band.

Years later, she would meet her future husband at the unit's enlisted swimming pool.

And she stood on the side of the road, pregnant with her first child, as she watched her husband and his fellow soldiers roll out of Fort Oglethorpe to a Florida encampment on their way to Europe during World War II.

"I didn't know if I'd ever see my husband again," she said.

After the "Fighting 6th" left Fort Oglethorpe and after her husband returned home, discharged for medical reasons before being sent to war, the couple returned to the area where they'd met.

And year after year they reunited with the men and wives of the unit to tell stories, laugh and reminiscence, she said.

At a flagpole that stood when the men drilled on the grounds, a handful of cavalry faithful gathered Sunday to remember those they've lost and find ways add members to the shrinking association.

The past weekend marked the 112th reunion of the unit formed 151 years ago for fighting in the Civil War.

Soldiers with the 6th Cavalry have served in nearly every major conflict since except the Korean and Vietnam wars. The unit's headquarters is now in Fort Knox, Ky., with squadrons scattered around the nation.

Brown's husband, Preulow Brown, died in 2009. The year before his death he wasn't well enough to make the reunion, but he insisted she go in his place. The couple's son, Steve Brown, has served as commander of the association, though he never served with the 6th, to keep the reunions going.

The Browns now live in Rockdale, Tenn., but return for the reunions.

They noted that the men who were stationed at Fort Oglethorpe, which the 6th called home from 1919 until 1942, came from the surrounding lands in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

Units at the time often had soldiers who served from boot camp onward, building lasting bonds that would hold throughout their lives.

Current military units often rotate soldiers from all parts of the United States in short-term assignments for deployments or missions. Bonds still are built, but service through a military career with only one unit is rare.

Army veteran and 6th U.S. Cavalry Association Cmdr. Bob Fisak said members are recruiting active-duty soldiers with the current cavalry squadrons, their family members and others to keep the tradition and the reunions going.

"History is a perishable thing, if you don't keep it active in some way it's going to go away," he said.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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