Diane and I recently hosted a mini-reunion of 21 of my West Point classmates (Class of 1975) and company mates (Company G-2) and their spouses in Orlando. We arranged for lodging at the Rosen Centre (you may recall, Harris Rosen is a Veteran and friend), golf at Isleworth, and a dinner at Isleworth. Other events the participants arranged were a trip to Kennedy Space Center, Walt Disney World, Universal, and a visit to the Everglades. I had two foursomes to play golf at Isleworth. My foursome included Carl Barthelson (roommate at West Point), Jack Craven, Sam Walker, and me. The second foursome included Carl Aoki (who came from Hawaii), Dave Thomas, and Len and Jane Alt. We teed off at 10 a.m.
We had a magnificent day of golf. The weather was perfect—sunny, no clouds, high 70’s/low 80’s, course was empty. I rode with Sam all day. Sam was a star lacrosse player at West Point. He was a bit of a renegade. His father, Sam, who retired a four-star General, was Commandant of Cadets when we were plebes. He graduated from West Point in 1946. His grandfather General Walton Walker, who graduated from West Point in 1912. Walton Walker was a United States Army four-star general who served with distinction in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, where he commanded the Eighth United States Army before dying in a jeep accident. He was the leader who worked for MacArthur then took over from MacArthur. He received two Distinguished Service Crosses for extraordinary heroism in World War II and the Korean War. Sam’s family history drew him extra attention from upper classmen when we were Plebes. Sam helps coach the Clemson lacrosse team now.
I shot less than a hundred with one par on the front and three pars on the back. I had a pretty good round. The others in my foursome also played well. They loved the course. It was in great shape. The most difficult part of the course for us all was the speed of the greens. It is very hard to hold a green with a low fairway approach shot. You have to bring the ball high into the green to stick the shot. After we finished the round, we went to Shades, sat by the pool, had a drink and chips, and recalled all of our “great shots” on the course.
I came home, cleaned up, picked up Diane, and we went back to Isleworth Country Club for the dinner Diane and I hosted the group. We had main course choices of beef, chicken, or vegetarian. We had an open bar to start. It was great hearing from the group that went to Kennedy Space Center. Everyone we know loves that tour. They saw a couple of IMAX movies there too. Diane and I sat with June and Sam Walker, Hope and Carl Barthelson (Diane knew Hope and Carl, who visited us in Cincinnati), and Noelle and Glen Newell (Glen was Sam’s roommate for four years).
We had two other round tables. One included Beth and Tony Cerri (Tony organized the event with me, he dated Beth in high school so we all knew her when we were at West Point), Nadine and Carl Aoki (Carl and Nadine brought Hawaiian coffee for everyone), and Jack Craven (his wife Cara, a Duke grad, couldn’t come, they just adopted a rescue dog, Jack was captain of the track team). The other table was Gail and Rick Boyd, Jane and Len Alt (who live in The Villages), Dave Thomas (who played basketball at West Point), and Tom Holden (who played soccer at West Point). The Isleworth crew did a great job. The dessert had a West Point emblem on it printed on white chocolate in edible ink.
Diane and I were surprised when the group, represented by Tony and Glen, presented us with a large plaque which included the Company G2 guidon (the flag that preceded our company when we marched), a picture of our class and company at West Point, and a plaque with an inscription: “To the Persons in the Arena, Bob and Diane McDonald, Your leadership and lives of purpose inspire us all. Thank you for your citizenship, generosity, and friendship. ’75 Gator Classmates and Wives, February 2023, WETSU.” G2’s mascot is the alligator. The G2 motto, common in the military, is We Eat This Shit Up or WETSU. Diane and I were overwhelmed with this meaningful gift. Glen had done a lot of research on us and demonstrated that in his speech. How do I describe the depth of friendship you have with twenty-two guys who you go through the crucible of West Point and military service with? It is hard to articulate. I asked for a moment of silence for our two classmates who had passed away – Phil Range from a brain tumor and Gil Lopez from a heart attack. Diane and I had a great time and hope our classmates did too. We suggested making it an annual event and offered to host it annually.
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