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Friends through war and peace

The Korean War brought the group of friends together, but during their monthly breakfast together, the veterans prefer to discuss other things.
“We talk about how we’d like to be back 20-years-old again,” said Jack Hull, a veteran.
They also discuss who’s been sick, who has the biggest tomatoes, and the rabbits eating Dennis Mauney’s cabbage. On the walls surrounding their normal table at the Carolina Restaurant in Lincolnton are maps and war memorabilia.
“This is a museum,” said Don Rash, a veteran.
The men have been meeting and chatting at the restaurant the first Thursday morning of every month for 10 years.
Their friendships, however, are much older – dating back to 1950. Nearly all the men who meet were members of the A379 Combat Engineers.
“When they mobilized the guard, we just all got together and we’ve been together ever since,” said Bill Holt, a veteran.
Most of the men spent around 15 months in Korea,
“I got to stay a little longer because I got a ‘smart’ mouth,” Holt said.
Only one hometown boy died during their time overseas, George Pope, but life was still dangerous, and the men saw their share of death.
“It’s an experience that I hope nobody has to go through,” said Darias Spencer, a veteran. “It’s just something you don’t like to talk about.”
There was violence, hot days and cold nights, but the men also cemented their life-long friendship during that time.
“You just become brothers,” said Don Rash, a veteran.
When they meet on Thursday morning, the group listens to “Good Night Irene,” a song that brings them back to basic training. On special occasions, Hull will also sing “Jesus Loves Me” — in Korean.
All in all, it’s a good way to spend a morning.
“I like to see these guys every once in a while,” said Bennie Hull, a veteran. “Not many of them left.”
The tradition will continue as long as there are surviving members of the company. Currently, about 25 of the men still live in the area, with 12-to-15 coming to breakfast each month.
“Someone’s got to bury the last one,” Holt said. “Might as well be me.”
When they’re together, they refrain from discussing religion and politics too much, although they all agree on one thing.
“Tell everybody to support their troops,” Holt said.
Rash agrees.
“It ain’t no fun over there, I tell you what.”
by Sarah Grano

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