As the new millennium opens, the greatest generation draws to a close. The December of their years are closing fast. Soon the men and women who lived through the war will only be memories.
The Last Reunion depicts the experience and turmoil that they encountered through the... years by using their unit (Seventy-Seventh Infantry Division) reunions as milestones.
The central character is a platoon sergeant who leads them through the war years and remained close to certain members of his platoon and squad.
The story begins with the sergeant’s death and the subsequent discovery by his wife of a long-held secret the sergeant had hidden in an old war chest. The story flashes back to the battle for the island of Okinawa, his unit’s participation, and real events that occurred there such as the death of Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent universally respected by the grunts and military personnel and widely known for his novel Here is Your War in ’43.
The story shifts to the first reunion held in Atlanta in ’56. Racial attitudes and the widening gap between the white and colored citizens are portrayed against the new enlightenment of the veterans. The old ways are being challenged and many of the vets are questioning what, exactly, did they fight for? The America they fought for has changed dramatically. They see the vanquished nations they fought against reasserting themselves and becoming allies. The stability of the democracy is becoming more fragile, and the promises they thought would follow victory become hollow.
Alcoholism, isolation, resentment, and confusion haunt the sergeant as he tries to fit into the world he now finds himself in. His wife tries to help him resolve his turmoil only to find that, the more she tries to help, the more isolated he becomes.
As the decades pass, more and more of the men of the platoon die, some in circumstances that mock their experiences during the war. Each reunion reflects the dwindling numbers of those able to attend.
As the veterans mature, they make a salutary peace with the past and present. But the wife of the sergeant does not find peace with her husband but a cease-fire. She comes to accept that he is what he is and understands that whatever changed him cannot be undone.
After the discovery of the secret in the war chest, she attends the last or final reunion and discovers the event her husband guarded so severely.
She then attempts to resolve the issue and finally begins to understand why the person who left her to go to war never returned.