More than 56 years later, Sedalian Bob Burke is still looking for fellow Army National Guardsmen who served with him from 1960 to 1966. For the last four years Burke has co-coordinated a special reunion event for the men of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Howitzer Battalion, 128th Artillery.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, Burke and fellow guardsman Charles Von Holten are welcoming the men who served with them at the Army National Guard Armory on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. The men would like to get the word out about their search for fellow guardsmen.
Burke said at last year’s event 25 to 30 men showed up including Sedalians Frank and Leo Dick, who were the unit’s cooks.
“It’s something that’s never been done before, basically,” he said. “Some of them drive in from Jeff City and Springfield, Kansas City.”
Burke noted that the Army, over time, changed the unit’s name to Battery C, 1st Battalion, 128th Artillery.
Back when the men served with the unit it was housed in Sedalia’s old Army National Guard Armory located at West Broadway Boulevard and South Ohio Avenue. They attended camp at Ripley, Minnesota, and Burke kept a scrapbook filled with Sedalia Democrat articles, personal photos and group shots of the unit. He said he was 18 or 19 when he joined and he served for six years.
“Starting about four years ago the Headquarters and Headquarters unit tried to get a lot of people together, that used to be there in the ’60s, and the ’50s,” he noted. “That’s how it got started.”
Burke said he became involved with the unit because he could type and he eventually became the right-hand-man for Capt. Henry L. Iuchs. Many aspects of the Army National Guard has changed in 56 years, Burke added.
In the ’50s and ’60s there weren’t many women involved, and no Hispanics.
“I went down to Fort Leonard Wood, where I took my basic, and I looked at the place and I said ‘this can’t be Fort Leonard Wood,’” he said. “Because they have like hotel rooms and things like that.”
He noted that the young men and women looked like they were just out of high school.
“It’s just different,” he added.
Back when men were joining the unit many didn’t want to get drafted because they had farms.
“They joined the Guard so they could still farm,” he noted.
Burke’s 105 mm Howitzer unit was created at the time because of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“What we did was to be prepared to fire those,” he noted. “What really got us involved was the possibility of being put on alert, because of Khrushchev and Kennedy and we were going to fight over Cuba.
“So we were alerted and we were going to go to the south part of the United States and follow several other battalions into Cuba,” he said. “But, it didn’t happen, thank goodness.”
His unit was also responsible for bringing order when a riot developed.
“When a riot developed at the penitentiary in Jeff City, part of our unit went up there,” he said. “Then after 1966, the unit was going to be changed again, and they sent part of them to Kansas City … for the riots (there).”
Burke said his former unit was “disbanded and changed” to the present day Army National Guard 1-135th Assault Helicopter Battalion stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base.
The reunion for the Army National Guard Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Howitzer Battalion, 128th Artillery will be at 1 p.m. Saturday in room No. 102 at the Army National Guard Armory on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. Both Burke and Von Holten welcome men who served with this unit to attend.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.