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Retirees of 157th honored

November 05, 2005|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Wendle Chambers never planned to make the military his career.

That was in 1963.

On June 4, 2004, after spending 40 years and eight months with the West Virginia Army National Guard's 157th Military Police Co. in Martinsburg, Chambers retired as a master sergeant.

Chambers and more than 20 other retirees from the unit were honored Friday at a retirement dinner at Moose Lodge 120 in Martinsburg.

The retirement dinner was the first held by the company since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

After joining the company, Chambers said the camaraderie and traveling swayed his decision to stay in.

"I never planned on making it my career until I got there," said Chambers, 61.

Chambers, who was in Operation Desert Storm, also has traveled with the unit to Panama, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Australia and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.

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"I've traveled all over the world," he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Coates, who retired in April 2004 after returning from Iraq, said he joined to get money for college.

Like Chambers, Coates stayed because of his friendships with other members of the company and to provide for his family.

"It's a good unit," he said.

Coates, a Martinsburg native who now lives in Bunker Hill, W.Va., spent 22 years with the company.

He described the conditions in Iraq as "hot" and "dirty."

Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Prather said the company's job in Iraq was to train Iraqis on how to maintain a prison and to provide convoy escorts.

"Luckily, we brought everybody back," he said. "God was with us."

Sgt. Sylvia Rouse, 62, retired in 1997 after serving 21 years. She joined in 1976.

"It was the thing to do at the time, and I never regretted a minute of it," said Rouse, who attended the dinner as a past retiree.

While enlisted, she said the younger members of the unit called her "Sgt. Mom."

"I've watched some of these kids literally grow up," said Rouse, who also served in Operation Desert Storm.

The retirees were given "shadow boxes" that included the American flag, their ranks when they retired and medals.

The company hopes to make the dinner an annual event, Prather said.

"This is to give our respect to them," he said.

Prather, on the other hand, said he doesn't have plans to retire any time soon.

"I can't leave," Prather said. "You get so attached. It's like a second family. There ain't nobody in this room I wouldn't do anything for."

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