Anyone new to Lebanon could drive by city hall without realizing it was once the prestigious Castle Heights Military Academy.
However, the scene changes for one weekend in the fall when CHMA graduates gather for an official reunion.
Former cadets came from all over and booked rooms in local hotels last weekend to take part in the multi-day event. One former cadet, Dan Blake, said that as long as he still has legs to stand on, he wouldn’t dream of missing it.
CHMA serves a very special place in Blake’s heart, one that he couldn’t put a price tag on.
“Someone could offer me $1 million for my time here, and I wouldn’t take it,” Blake said.
Blake was hardly the only cadet who reminisced fondly of the bonds forged through years at CHMA. Whether it was on the athletic field, in the classroom or in the shared living quarters, cadets became friends who became brothers, a commonality that still unites them now.
Among the former cadets was Arthur Smith, who graduated in 1945. He shared an anecdote about his youthful days and the decisions facing him following graduation with war still going on in the Pacific.
Conferring with a friend from Maryville, Smith decided it would be better to enlist of their own volition, as not to be drafted into a less than desirable situation. So he asked his friend what branch or program they should seek out.
“My friend said, ‘Let’s be paratroopers,’ ” Smith said.
Smith asked, “Why paratroopers?”
His friend replied, “They have the best uniforms.”
Rick Smith, who currently runs Lebanon Youth Baseball, remarked bout how incredible it was that so much time had passed since his time at Castle Heights.
“Whether it was four years you spent together or two, it seems like it was just yesterday, but it was 50 years ago,” Smith said. “Time flies, to put it mildly.”
Those notions aside, Smith recalls fondly his days at CHMA.
“It was a great time,” Smith said. “We had an incredible education.”
Smith said that it’s a little different than the education young people get these days, a different education than what you get these days. He said that the discipline was, “Definitely different too ... physically and mentally.”
Despite graduating in 1970, Smith received a deferral from the draft for the Vietnam War because he was bound for college.
“I don’t know of anyone in our class that got drafted, but plenty of young cadets enlisted post graduation,” Smith said.
A lot of those cadets from before Smith’s years and after, didn’t return home from their tour of duty. Honoring those fallen cadets with a wreath-laying ceremony was Steve Maloan, Jim Nall and Joe Thomas.
Maloan called the chance to adorn the memorial with the wreath “an honor.”
“You think about what they have sacrificed, and the fact that we have a little small part in recognizing these people,” Maloan said. “It’s just an honor to be here today around friends. We have something very special in common.”