A group of retired members of the Georgia Army National Guard have been meeting for breakfast in Hinesville one day each month for more than 26 years.
Last Friday morning, their group president and treasurer, Wayne Stewart, welcomed 15 other guardsmen in the banquet room at the Golden Corral. The combined military service of the members totaled 436 years.
Stewart recognized the group’s oldest member, Roy Carter, who’ll turn 95 years old in June. Stewart said Carter is one of the two surviving charter members of the group.
Carter joked with his comrades about not “pushing” birthdays on him too fast, reminding them he’s still only 94 until June.
Stewart, who retired from the National Guard in 1987, soon will be 82. He said since the retired guardsmen first began meeting for breakfast, they’ve lost 31 members.
“I missed the first meeting,” Stewart said. “I was retired, and I knew there was talk going around to start monthly breakfast meetings, but I somehow missed it. I think there were 10 present at that first meeting. I made it to the second meeting and ever since.”
He said the reason they meet has become a motto for the group: “Together we serve. Together we stand. Ready to serve, support, help, comfort and socialize.”
He added that since most of the men have at one time worked together, it’s good to get back together once a month and stay in touch.
In addition to monthly breakfast meetings, Stewart said they get together for cookouts throughout the year.
He said they also have had an annual Christmas party, in which they invite their wives and the widows of deceased members.
He said 20 years’ service in the Georgia National Guard qualifies for a small retirement annuity at age 60. Many of the men, however, actually were active-duty guardsmen serving as “technicians.”
These civil-service administrative positions require membership in the guard, but offer greater benefits after 20 years’ service. Many of the retired guardsmen also have served in the active-duty Army. A few have deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
Jimmy Horne is one of the newest members of the group, being the most recent retiree. Horne said he retired from the National Guard in October 2013.
Today, he lives and works on his farm in Long County. Horne’s military occupational specialty is in vehicle maintenance, but his experience as a farmer led to his deployment to Afghanistan from April 2011-April 2012 as part of an Agricultural Development Team based out of Augusta.
“We basically showed the Afghan people the best farming practices and ways to store food without electricity,” Horne said. “They didn’t have (electrical) power, and their farm equipment was mostly just hoes, shovels and rakes. There wasn’t much call for repairing farm equipment there, but we did show them how to de-worm their (goat) flocks.”
Horne said his daughter surprised him when he was deployed to Kuwait in 2003-04 by joining the Army. She told him she did it so she could be closer to him.
When the 16 men in attendance finished their breakfast, Stewart gathered them for a group photo while conducting a brief meeting.
A business matter needed discussion, too. He said the last two Christmas parties had been poorly attended, so he recommended in lieu of a party in December, they hold a fish fry at the Hinesville Armory in May. He said they would invite wives and widows to the event.