“We had each other’s backs.”
That’s the phrase that Charles Dobbins and Lloyd Eggleston used to describe the men of the Army’s 70th Armored Division, who served in the late ’60s in Augsburg, Germany. Each spoke the phrase independently of each other.
“Like brothers,” Dobbins said of the bond the men forged in service together. “Like the movie ‘Band of Brothers.’”
Although it had been decades since any of the men had seen each other, that bond remained. When seven of them got together Sept. 14 at Dobbins’ home in Masury, the tears started flowing, Eggleston said.
Tears of joy.
“They’re home,” said Medra Dobbins, Charles Dobbins’ wife, who had never met any of the men before.
“I cried all morning,” she said. “As soon as I got up, the tears started rolling down my cheeks.”
Others of Charles Dobbins’ unit who attended were Louie Fejes of Flushing, Mich.; Bill Ehrsam, Sylvania, Ohio; Charles Stafford, Louisville, Ky.; Gary Eagle, Bellaire, Mich.; and Robert Elza, Elkins, W.Va.
Of course, the men spent a lot of time together training and living together. three to a room, in southern Germany. But, when they had free time, they still did everything together, whether it was going to the movies or exploring the Alps.
“If one did it, we all did it,” said Eggleston, who drove 18 hours from Broken Bow, Neb., with his wife to make the reunion. “We made a good bond.”
The unit never saw combat.
“We came close to it, once,” said Dobbins, who served from July 1968 to January 1970. “Whenever Czechoslovakia was invaded, we were loaded, ready to go. We trained quite often to be ready to go. I think my unit, we would have held our own.”
The reunion was the result of a couple of events in Dobbins’ life: a two-and-a-half-year bout with cancer – he’ll be three years cancer-free in December, he said – and a move last December to the house he lives in on South Stateline Road.
“All that (military) stuff was put away so I got out and looked at it,” he said. “I told my wife, ‘I just wonder how many of these guys I could get in touch with at headquarters platoon?’”
They hit the internet, tracking down eight of the 12.
Getting together after all these years, the men picked up where they left off, said Dobbins, a retired millwright.
“We get to talking,” he said. “One guy remembers something; another guy remembers something else. They go from there. We’ve already caught up 50 years, what we did in life, how we worked. We’re all retired, except for one.”
The wives had never met before – although there had been spirited text conversations between them – but the bond their husbands had formed quickly spread, Medra Dobbins said.
“When we met it as like we knew each other,” she said.
If Charles and Medra Dobbins get their way, it won’t be long before the men get together again.
“I would like to, maybe, do this every year,” Charles Dobbins said. “Can’t wait to spend more time with these guys.”