2013 Pathfinder "Legacy" Reunion
The 2015 NPA "BLACKHATS" Reunion will be held in Ft. Benning, GA
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Early in 2005 CSM Shawn “Jump or Die” Jones, NCOIC/Branch Chief of the Pathfinder School at the Sabuluski Air Assault School at Ft. Campbell, contacted two old 101st Viet Nam veterans and invited them to his Pathfinder School to instill in his young warriors a passion for the US Army Pathfinder legacy. His follow-up meetings with these two old warriors (Pat “Dirt Ball” Dougherty and Steve “Brainiac” Campbell) would eventually father the successful 2007 Pathfinder “Honors” Reunion for 101st combat veterans. And it was at this historic gathering where the idea for a national association became more formalized. (CSM Jones is our NPA Active Duty Representative.)
Two years later at the 2009 Pathfinder “Charter” Reunion, this expanded working group, energized by another old 101st warrior (Danny “Bear” Rozier), presented a rough draft constitution and bi-laws which were conditionally approved by all pathfinders present. The attendees also voted in a Slate of Officers and Board of Governors with the mission to obtain a legal Charter for a non-profit National Pathfinder Association (NPA.)
Our first non-unit affiliated, National Pathfinder Association, “First In” Reunion was held in Las Vegas July 2011. The NPA is a chartered non-profit organization which supports active duty and retired veteran Pathfinders from WWII forward in our American military history. The two primary missions of Pathfinders are combat air control and downed aircraft recovery. They are the first to be deployed in a battlefield and operate in small two and three man teams to provide vital information to aircraft pilots and ground forces waiting to be put into action (First In-Last Out.)
The main focus of our Association is to provide support to our combat veterans and their families by making sure they are informed of the chronic disabilities and diseases that often make them vulnerable to social and medical disaster after they return home. We help link them to the very best resources available (Bill “Polar Bear” Anton is our NPA-VA action officer.) More than 70% of our older Viet Nam Pathfinders have various diseases from exposure to Agent Orange. Many have died from cancer or are currently in treatment without hope of recovery. The worst of the PTSD symptoms are seen in our veterans of WWII. Though our veterans from the 1940’s are quickly disappearing, their advanced age makes them even more vulnerable to their torment caused by memories of horrific combat. Our youngest soldiers returning from multiple tours in the Middle East are finding it difficult to fit back into their families that have learned to live without them. The stress on our young troopers and their families is unrelenting. The membership of the National Pathfinder Association is working hard to address the myriad complexities facing our Special Operations veterans who have been asked to do extraordinary feats of military service. (See our Home Page and click on Distaff for more information.)
Our NPA members’ attendance at our well thought out and well organized events is where the real benefit to our young soldiers and veterans occurs. They meet with past comrades in arms and begin their difficult healing process. They and their family members listen to our presenters about US combat history and their Special Operations legacy and at what cost. They find out they are not alone in their emotional conflict and begin to open up to their fellow comrades in arms.
Too many of our active duty and retired military families are well acquainted with anger and alcohol abuse. Many of our veteran Pathfinders have psychological and physical problems that have gone untreated and buried in guilt. Diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange and emotional problems related to PTSD and horrific physical trauma can be successfully treated. Our goal is to link our country’s warriors to the professional services they deserve. But frankly, it is the renewed comradeship within our membership that makes the greatest impact.
Our NPA leadership and professional website with Flikr and Facebook provide a means for all Pathfinders past, present and future to stay connected to their families and their Pathfinder brotherhood. (Carl “Greasegun” Lagle is our President and Managing Editor of our website.) In times of crises our volunteer ambassadors provide on-site support to our NPA family members (Ken “Mike One” Maynard is our NPA Chaplain.) Our Association representatives attend Pathfinder School graduations as guest speakers and to award our revered Torch to honor graduates. And our National Historian (Sir Robert “Foghat” Fogarty II) liaisons with Military Museum staff to assist with the presentation of our Pathfinder legacy. If you haven’t joined the Nation Pathfinder Association, you will find instructions on the Registration tab. (Dean “Spanky” Nelson is our NPA Adjutant and Membership Director.) If you have questions or comments concerning the NPA, please explore the Contact tab of our website where you can expect a quick and helpful response. (Dick “Rucksack 6” Gillem is our NPA Vice President and coordinator for our 2013 “Legacy” Reunion in Colonial Williamsburg.)
The cohesiveness and determination of the National Pathfinder Association to aid our country’s warriors is steeped in close comradeship and we will continue to take care of our own. But, we could use some help and we would be proud to add any of America’s patriotic corporate institutions to our Home page as a donor or sponsor.