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January 16 , 2008

Tales From the Picket Line

Golden Nuggets From the Compost Pile


The 6th Field Artillery Veterans Association was formed in the early 1970s. It consisted of veterans that served in the 6th Field Artillery Regiment from the WW1 through WW2 eras, and their wives. They established a board of directors and formed the Women´s Auxiliary with its own cabinet. They ordained the Reverend John Cagney as their association Chaplain. The group held annual reunions whereby the members scattered across the country would meet for a few days and revel in the personal history that they shared. Most constructively, the association created a newsletter that was distributed quarterly entitled "The Centaur Flyer," after the centaur insignia of the Regiment. They appointed a WW2 veteran named John Peverill as writer, editor, publisher and distributor of this small quarterly. Not a wiser choice could have been made.

Substantiated by the efforts of John Peverill´s newsletter, recruitment by the association grew strong and membership flourished. Veterans anxiously waited every three months to receive their fresh edition of The Centaur Flyer. The articles shed light on new or forgotten facts about the 6th and other aspects of the U.S. Army. Members read to find out details of future reunions and to see the names of recently located vets and newest members. Under the column heading Taps, they would learn of fallen brothers and those on "sick-call." The readers received their greatest thrills by perusing anecdotes and letters sent in by veterans who recounted their experiences in Regimental life. They conjured the haunting names of stubborn mounts, tough sergeants and eccentric colonels. They remembered the heroic sportsmanship from the post-WW1 days when strength and pay were low, but downtime abundant. They recalled bar fights, the guardhouse and the awe-inspiring glory of a mile-long succession of steel cannon, dusty-legged horses and weather-beaten troopers returning home after extended training expeditions. They recounted the many transitions they experienced, making rank and grade, moving from one fort to another, from Regiment to Battalion, and most emotionally, the passage from horse to motor. And then there was the Second World War that these soldiers fought in the South Pacific. These were days of troop trains and ship convoys, powdered egg meals and merciless mosquitoes, tropical heat and a fierce and hidden enemy. Wives recalled the struggles they endured on the home front, the lifeline to millions of troops fighting overseas. Mr. Peverill brought these days back to the veterans, gave them a sense of unity long forgotten and a vocal presence few senior citizens are able to enjoy.

Of the many contributors to the newsletter, one was prolific and accountable in many issues. George Jones became a member of the association in the late 1970´s. He quickly became an admirable force in the group, not holding a position on the board, but as an exceedingly active member. He and his wife, Katherine, frequented the reunions, absent only when ordered to stay home by a "medic." He was involved in fundraising for the organization and donated personal relics from his own years in the Regiment to the 6th F.A. museum. He enjoyed contacting and engaging in dialogues with other members, humoring them with old tales and trading for ones he hadn´t yet heard. George originally sent a few of these anecdotes to John Peverill in modest letters, confessing to his 7th grade education and an unpracticed skill of written presentation. As John found unoccupied space in the layout for the newsletter, he filled in with one of George´s stories. Responses were positive. The effects were remarkable, waking the personal memories of distant events and forgotten names for readers scattered across the country. The brief tales became such an anticipated part of The Centaur Flyer that they were adorned with a column heading: Tales from the Picket Line. John also cleverly referred

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