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Members of Lance missile units reunite

The Lance missile has been gone from the Army's inventory for a quarter of a century, but it's not forgotten.

And that won't happen anytime soon if Sgt. 1st Class John Williams and his fellow Lancers have their way.

Veterans of the Army's Lance missile units began gathering in Lawton Thursday for a reunion that will continue through today. Williams, who's coordinated a dozen reunions as a labor of love, was expecting up to 200 people to show up.

The Lance missile was the Army's prime ground-to-ground missile system for a couple of decades. It could carry a variety of conventional warheads, as well as a tactical nuclear weapon.

Williams, of San Antonio, Texas, thinks of the reunion  which alternates between Lawton and San Antonio  as a family event.

"We're here as a family and we get to act like a family for the next few days," he said.

This year's reunion is extra special for Williams and several others who went through basic and advanced training at Fort Sill beginning 40 years ago this month.

When Williams  along with Gus Baker, Larry Hawkins and Roberto Peralta  talk about those days, the decades fade away and they're young men sweating their way through training in a typical Fort Sill summer, sleeping 40 men to a room in World War II barracks cooled only by fans. 

Peralta, a retired Lawton police detective, remembers hundreds of soldiers and lining up at 50 or so pay phones for a chance to make a (collect) phone call back home.

"We had to wait in line sometimes three or four hours," said Hawkins, who retired from the Army and now lives in Hinesville, Ga.

Though they see each other seldom  this is the first reunion for Peralta and Hawkins and the second for Baker, who lives in High Point, N.C.  you couldn't tell it because of the instant camaraderie that's as natural as a Southwest Oklahoma thunderstorm lighting up the night sky.

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