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Friends invited to Col. Buck's 90th birthday party
A birthday party is set for this Thursday for 37-year military veteran Col. Robert Buck, who will turn 90. He is pictured with his wife, Louise Burton-Buck. They married when they were 80.
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col. robert buck

In his esteemed 37-year military career with the National Guard, Col. Robert Buck was in Germany during the height of the Berlin Wall.

Col. Buck helped keep the peace when a Tennessee high school was desegregated in 1956 and he traveled to Nashville to stop rioting when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Now Buck is turning 90 and a celebration is being held in his honor this Thursday, Jan. 23, at Medley’s Diner on Manchester Highway at 12 p.m. noon. All friends, past and present, are invited to attend.

Col. Buck served for 37 years, 8 months and 27 days in the National Guard before retiring on June 30, 1988.

Buck says his first influential assignment came on Labor Day in 1956 when his battalion was assigned to East Tennessee where Clinton High School was undergoing desegregation.

“There were a bunch of rebel-rousers who were trying to stir up trouble,” said Buck. “Our mission was to restore order, which we were able to do. There were no interstates back then so we set up roadblocks at all the main roads entering Clinton. No one was allowed to enter except for residents with a valid Clinton address. The only other people we let through were truck drivers and we gave them an escort. It worked and we made it through with no shots fired.”

Buck had a similar mission when chaos erupted upon the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. His battalion was sent to Nashville where a group of protestors burned the National Guard Armory.

“There were shots fired, but nobody was killed,” said Buck of the overall mayhem in Nashville at the time.

In 1970, his battalion was part of a test program used to determine if National Guard soldiers were capable of withstanding the rigors of an actual deployment like other Army soldiers.

“We passed the test and it created the situation we have today where the Guard can be called up for one year of active duty,” said Buck.

As he ascended in rank, Buck was selected as part of a group which traveled to Germany in 1977. He said the Berlin Wall was still very much intact at that point.

“It was a big brick wall in parts, but it was a chain-link fence way out in the country,” said Buck. “They lined it with landmines on the East German side to prevent people from approaching it.”

In addition to his military accomplishments, Buck encountered a major lifestyle change when he married Louise Burton-Buck 10 years ago. They were both 80 at the time.

“Both our spouses had died of cancer a few years earlier,” said Buck.

Added Louise, “It was an adjustment getting remarried that much later in life.”