FORT LEE, Va. -- Retired Sgt. Maj. Wayne Wright did not show much emotion upon meeting old friends and acquaintances during the biennial Liquid Logistics Reunion here Aug. 24. Inwardly, though, he would be the first to admit his heart was experiencing feelings equivalent to a big wide grin.
“For me, it’s a lot of joy coming to a reunion and seeing an individual who is 85- or 86-years-old, has had two knee replacements and is walking with a cane, but they can tell you where something was 30 years ago … that’s the joy I get out of being here.”
Wright was one of more than 100 military personnel, retirees, veterans and their family members present for the meet-and-greet kickoff – the first event of the LLR’s two-day agenda – at the Quartermaster School’s Petroleum and Water Department headquarters. For him, the event is much like a family gathering in which everyone comes home to catch up and share memories.
“I would tell you there’s not too many Army MOSs (hosting reunion events) in which individuals come back to the community (where they started),” he said. “Knowing we have that bond is a great thing for me, and I’m just happy and ecstatic to be a part of this organization.”
PWD, along with Liquid Logisticians Association, share coordination responsibilities for the reunion. LLA, of which Wright serves as president, is a non-profit advocacy organization that aims to strengthen the military’s petroleum and water community.
The reunion events included a static display of the latest petroleum and water equipment in the PWD inventory, a windshield tour of the Military in the Field training facility, a social event Friday night in Hopewell, and a memorial ceremony and barbecue Saturday. An hour-long opening brief held in the Maj. Gen. Robert K. Guest Auditorium provided attendees a snapshot of the latest petroleum and water systems and the issues affecting training and operations.
“This is such a great opportunity to give back to our community because these are the folks who brought us to where we are today,” PWD Deputy Director Capt. Matthew Johnson said after the introductory session. “We love to show them what we’ve done and what we’re doing to take liquid logistics into the future in support of large-scale combat operations as well as what we’re doing to produce that day-1 ready Soldier.”
During the meet-and-greet, a mix of active duty personnel, civilians and retired Marines and Soldiers mingled in the headquarters building lobby. Slapping handshakes, laughs and “bro-hugs” were among the greetings displayed as attendees entered the building. Conversations about old buddies and long-gone times and places echoed throughout the confines.
As much as the reunion was about the past, it also was about the future. At least two sets of relatives – generations apart in military service – further defined that characteristic. One, Staff Sgt. Brey Gary, a water treatment instructor who grew up in the shadow of PWD, and his father, retired Sgt. 1st Class Walter Gary, share bonds beyond father and son. Both belong to the same career field. As such, SSG Gary said the reunion is a means to share experiences.
“Dad worked here in and out of uniform for almost 16 years, and me coming through AIT and him being on the platform at the same time, was a sight to see,” he said. “Then, going on with my military career, being located at a couple of different places and the Army brings me back here where I grew up following in my dad’s footsteps.”
Walter Gary, who beamed ear-to-ear in the presence of his son, said being able to attend with him is indeed special. He also said his appearance honors all those who laid the bricks of what is now PWD.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I get the opportunity to see some of the guys I served with and who made things happen. There’s a lot of history behind PWD, and there’s a lot of great guys that made that legacy happen. It’s good to be a part of it.”
There is no requirement for PWD to coordinate a reunion, and the uniqueness of the petroleum and water functions has created a brotherhood that endures on its own. The reunion, however, is a way of strengthening and sustaining those bonds, said Johnson.
“It’s important because it builds that camaraderie, it builds that tradition, and it builds that community that is so important to us as a profession and an association of liquid logisticians,” he said. “I think it is really important to know your heritage, to know where you came from and to see where everyone is going in the future. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to come together and support each other as a family.”