WEIRTON - If a person hears the word "mud" and his or her eyes glaze over, he or she is or has been a tanker or tanker mechanic. This was explained by Weirton resident Rick Parker when talking about an organization he is excited about and wants to promote - the U.S. Army Brotherhood of Tankers.
Apparently, being in a tank or working on a tank can mean being entrenched in deep and confining mud, and all tankers and tank mechanics know this well.
Two years ago when Parker, who enlisted in the Army in 1966 just when Vietnam was at its peak, was searching for some buddies who had served with him in the U.S. Army, 4th Armored Division, 3rd Battalion, he found the website of his battalion but didn't find a name that he knew from that time. But he did find two soldiers who served during the same period and learned about the USABOT in the process.
WANTING?TO?RESTORE — These are the kinds of tanks that the USABOT organization is wanting to repair and restore for future generations to remember. - Contributed
TANKER GROUP MEMBER — Rick Parker of Weirton became a member of the U.S. Army Brotherhood of Tankers two years ago in looking for buddies from the Army’s Fourth Armored Division, 3rd Battalion, and is speaking out to bring in more of the tankers to the organization that is made up of Army tankers and tank mechanics. - Esther McCoy
It was through clicking on a link on Facebook that he learned of a group that earned his enthusiasm - a group he would like other tankers and tank mechanics to know about it.
"These are people who have gone the same path in the Army and are interested in the same things. USABOT was less than 300 when the group organized and has grown from a Facebook page of a few tankers talking about tanks to a national veterans organization dealing with issues important to veterans. There are now about 6,000 national members," he said.
The mission statement in part is to support the armored and cavalry forces currently serving, to unite in brotherhood all Army tankers and mechanics in all eras, all tanks, all Army components and all ranks.
Parker was a tanker mechanic - a qualification for being part of the USABOT, where wives have an auxiliary as well.
Maybe being a tanker mechanic was imbedded in his mind because he had an uncle who was a tank driver and served with and met Gen. George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
"I never knew this. He has passed on now and I never heard him say one thing about serving in World War II. I would have loved to have heard tales about his service," Parker noted.
"Now we want to get our efforts our there and let everyone know that we exist," he said about the brotherhood, for which he is now serving as recruiting officer for the Ohio group.
"Stay on the tank" is the slogan on the brotherhood T-shirts, with Parker explaining that this means to never give up.
Another part of the mission statement is to perpetuate the history and traditions of the Army and the armor and cavalry branches, to honor the past service and sacrifice of the members of the armor and cavalry branches and encourage the new tankers and mechanics to excellence. Of great importance is to preserve the equipment that carried all brothers into battle in a dignified state when they are on display as monuments.
The mission portion about preserving equipment now serving as a monument led Parker to the Veterans Memorial Museum at Friendship Park in Smithfield. He noticed that the tank on display there is in need of service and said that's the kind of work the brotherhood eventually wants to accomplish.
There are four classifications of membership: Regular, to have served or currently serve as a tank crewman in the Army; associate, one who is or has been serving as a member of an armored unit; and honorary, special persons who are not in any other membership classification but contributed time, talents and efforts to the USABOT and the accomplishment of its mission. These members must be nominated by the regular or associate members. There's also a business membership for those persons, businesses or corporations not in any other membership classification but have contributed to the USABOT.
"This is a great organization, as big as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but we want other Army tankers to get acquainted with the brotherhood. The dues for one year are $35 and information can be obtained at www.usabot.org or on Facebook at "united states army brotherhood of tankers" or in Ohio at "Usabot 1st buckeye (iron horse) battalion."
"The crew of a tank includes the driver, loader, gunner and tank commander. We want to hear from any of these. We want to develop, preserve and deliver to future generations of Americans, the history, traditions and future of armor and cavalry," the recruiter concluded.