Daily Archives: July 14, 2012

For the telling of tales.

290th Reunions were powered by . . . Well, booze and stories from their time in training & overseas and, if nothing else, what happened at the last reunion. Here is one tale that involves two of the founders of the 290th Veterans group and is suitable for readers of all ages.

My Dad was a supply sargent with the H & S Company and Clyde Kiker was his helper. When my father was drafted, he wound up in the 186th Combat Engineers at Camp Shelby, MS. When the 186th left Shelby, a select number of Non-Comms stayed behind to form the cadre for the next battalion to be formed there; The 290th. My father was one of that cadre.

Clyde Kiker served as the Executive Officer and guiding force of the 290th Veterans for many years. In 1944, Clyde was the archtypical baby-faced soldier. Very, very young and hailing from Peachland, NC.

By the time the battalion reached the European theatre and completed their training in England, the Battle of the Bulge was on and – having been given last rites  – the battalion was ordered in to action to hold the line around the salient known as the Colmar Pocket in France. My father was tasked with loading food, ammunition, and other supplies on mules and leading them over the mountains to the front lines which were at the foot.

For the return trip, he and Clyde gathered the earthly remains of the less fortunate, tied them on the mules and took them back over the mountains. My father despatched a letter to his congressman complaining that a boy as young as Clyde should not have to do such grisly work. It is not known if the Congressman ever replied.

During this time-frame, it was cold as it could be and my father – on his way to the latrine one night – passed by baby-faced Clyde Kiker who was bundled up in his mummy sack with only his nose protruding. On his return from the latrine, Dad stoped, grabbed Clyde’s nasal appendage between his thumb & forefinger and said in a voice loud enough to wake the living: “Isn’t this the cutest little baby nose you’ve ever seen?”

This morning, the last business meeting of the Veterans of the 290th Combat Engineers took place. These fine old soldiers recognised the enevitable and voted to make the 56th reunion the last official gathering. At present, there are 23 living veterans and 20 of them are either no longer able to travel or the distances are too great. The organisation will soldier on and periodically produce a newsletter.

This is by no means taps for the family that has grown up around this annual gathering. The kids and grand-kids will have more flexibility as to a date and place and I can assure you they they will continue to get together and talk about their parents for years to come. Nonetheless, these annual weekends will be missed.

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