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Former Fort Ritchie residents reunite, reminisce

July 11, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Malinda Brooks Miller, left, Joyce Trite Anthony, center, and Terry Smith look at newspaper clippings from 1975 during a reunion Saturday for former Fort Ritchie residents.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

CASCADE -- The swimming pool and some of the other fixtures of their childhood years spent at Fort Ritchie are gone, but warm memories of growing up "on post" haven't been forgotten by former residents.

"We don't have roots (being children of parents in the military), but everybody felt so connected here," Judy Nakada said.

The sentimental ties to the U.S. Army base, which closed in 1998, were shared by more than 40 former residents on Saturday at a reunion that Nakada took the lead in organizing.

"Being that we're military kids, we don't ever get to come back," Nakada said.

But with the help of Facebook, Nakada said she hopes to change that, at least for those who shared experiences at Fort Ritchie.

About 17 people attended the first reunion last year and Nakada hopes to continue to grow the event, which was held in coordination with the Smithsburg High School alumni reunion.

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"There are people that want to start a softball game," Nakada said of plans to continue to hold the event on the second Saturday each July.

In his three years living at Fort Ritchie in the 1970s, Terry Smith said the base almost seemed almost like a resort given all of the recreational opportunities, which included golf, a movie theater and a teen center. Smith said his father managed the officers' club.

"I think there was something special about this place," said Smith, who traveled from Fort Hood, Texas, for both reunions.

LaWanda Wiggins said she met her husband, George, at Fort Ritchie in the summer of 1979 before her senior year at Smithsburg High School.

Her father, Ray Woodall, was a chaplain at the base at the time, she said.

"Fort Ritchie was a beautiful place," said Wiggins, who traveled from Hampton, Va., with her husband for the reunion. "I know my dad still laments it (closing)."

Lisa Barnett Reitnouer said coming to the reunion was a last-minute decision, but worth the trip from Lebanon, Pa., where she lives.

Reitnouer said she reunited with two childhood friends she hadn't seen in 36 years.

"We had such a tight-knit neighborhood and you were accepted as soon as you walked on post," said Reitnouer, who attended Cascade Middle School while her father was stationed at Fort Ritchie.

Her father was assigned to travel with President Nixon prior to the Watergate scandal, she said.

Saturday's reunion doubled as a gathering for a few members of Smithsburg High School's undefeated 1979 state championship football team.

"We had a Fort Ritchie backfield and a Smithsburg line," said Pascal Moore, who was the team's starting quarterback when his father was stationed at the base.

Moore, who like Smith is on active duty in the Army, recalled joining in a little mischief at Fort Ritchie in his teen years, which he admitted was befitting of the "military brat" moniker.

"We didn't go to the swimming pool when it was open. We had to go when it was closed," Moore said, smiling.

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