Local MN National Guard veteran holds reunion for Charlie Company

Jordan Gerard

It’s been 12 years since Jim Cunningham and his battle buddies have seen each other and a few weeks ago, 40 men out of 100 gathered at Black Hammer Stables for a reunion.

The 100 men served together in the Minnesota National Guard’s Charlie Company 2/135 (2nd Battalion-135th Infantry). Cunningham served in Iraq from 2005 to 2007 straight through.

“We’ve been trying to get everybody together like that for a while, but no one took the steps to do it,” he said. “My battle buddy Hoss said, ‘Let’s just try it and see how many people we get.’”

Since there was more than enough room to host a large gathering of Army veterans, Cunningham and his wife, Samantha, offered to host the gathering at their place in Black Hammer. 

Though Cunningham and Hoss weren’t exactly sure what to expect, they put forth an effort that brought in many donations – both in-kind and monetary, some anonymous, some known – to help host the reunion. Volunteers ranged from friends to Cunningham’s family.

The reunion resonated with many of the veterans because “war never really leaves an individual.”

“You develop relationships. You’re not blood brothers, but you’re brothers,” Cunningham explained. “It’s not just sadness but happiness and goofiness. A lot of guys wanted to try and see each other.”

He added he tries to get together with a buddy monthly, and that it was something everyone tries to do.

Most of the company was made up of men from Minnesota, although a few came from New York, Idaho and Texas. And unfortunately, there were a few who did not come back from the war. 

However, the 40 men able to make it to the reunion enjoyed good conversation, reminisced on memories good and bad, yard games, throwing hatchets and target practicing with archery and guns. They also enjoyed a meal of grilled brats and hot dogs. 

Cunningham said the reunion was a good idea, as it sounded like “a lot of the guys needed it more than they even knew.”

The company hopes to continue the reunions every year, perhaps in the same place or another where families could join them. 

“For the 40 that showed up, they were pretty adamant that this needs to be an annual thing,” Cunningham added.

He thanked the community and donors that were able to contribute something to the gathering. Local donors include Spring Grove Soda Pop. 

More donors are Manea’s Meats from Sauk Rapids, which supplied brats and hot dogs; FritoLay; Pepper Ridge Farms, which donated chips, bread and snacks; the Winona and Faribault VFWs and one member who donated cash to the event; and Vortex, Ruger, Grunt Style and other companies that donated swag for door prizes.