By Jug Varner

Last week brought a surprise phone call and a brief visit from a military friend I had not seen in some time. Bill, an Air Force retiree, has led a very interesting life in and out of the service, is possessed with a great sense of humor, and retains a storehouse of anecdotes to share. In addition, his woodworking talent and a creative mind prompts him to dream up unusual gifts to make and bestow on the unsuspecting.

Over the years he has given me such useful items as a miniature outhouse bank that explodes when you drop a quarter into the rooftop slot, wood puzzles, a black and white wall hanging of a desert scene with numbered mountains in the background, entitled, “The Unpainted Desert,” and others. This time, he brought another wall hanging with a bunch of used wine bottle corks glued to a plain-framed board. Under it is the nameplate: “The Wrath of Grapes.” The best thing he always brings, however, is a lot of sunshine, good humor, and reminiscence about military days.

Bill is alone now, having lost his wife to a terminal illness. He spends summers at a lake cottage he built in his home area of western New York, and comes back to Texas the rest of the year to be near two of his kids.

Among the good things about military service are the friends you make along the way. They come in all sizes and varieties, and sometimes from odd or unlikely circumstances. It is not unusual for some of these friendships to last ever after. I feel quite fortunate to stay in contact with Bill and other such friends made during WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and times since.

All friendships are important, but military friendships are special. When your mission (and your life) depends on the people you train with, come to trust, and go with into harms way, a special bond develops that is unlike few others in life. I suppose it is for this reason, together with memories of exciting times in one's younger days, that military reunions seem to flourish as time goes by.

Those of you on active duty will probably appreciate all of this more after you retire or otherwise leave the service.