When the men of the 82nd Airborne Division's 325th Glider Infantry Regiment split up after helping the United States and the Allies win World War II, they worried about never seeing each other again.
“We formed a very close bond with each other,” recalls veteran Jesse Oxendine, a Charlotte resident. “That was very important.”
This week some of them will connect with each other at an Infantry reunion Wednesday to Saturday in Charlotte. It's maybe the 15th or 16th time the men have reunited, Oxendine estimates, but the first time in Charlotte.
The 325th Infantry fought in Africa, Sicily, mainland Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands. They were involved in the invasion of Normandy in 1944 and liberated a concentration camp in Germany. The men formed tight relationships, says Oxendine, who was with the infantry from 1944-46.
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Oxendine moved to Charlotte in 1949 and is now a retired pharmacist living in east Charlotte. He is coordinating this week's event and expects about 40 people to attend.
Their plans include a tour of Lowe's Motor Speedway, visits to Discovery Place and the Levine Museum of the New South, and a talk with a member of the Jewish Community Center about what they saw at the concentration camp.
Dozens used to come to the reunions. But their numbers are dwindling. One of Oxendine's company commanders died earlier this year.
“It gives us an opportunity to see each other,” Oxendine says. “The two years I spent in the military were the most memorable years of my life – and I'm 82 years old.”