Like many reunions that have to do with veterans groups, they get smaller each year.

Col. Lucien Conein, who left his home state of Kansas in 1939 to join the French Foreign Legion, sat in the sun at the head of a long table and said that he would never walk again.

"I joined the Legion in '39, left in '41 when we got in the war, and joined the Army. I think I have walked enough for any man in one lifetime."

Instead of the snappy looking that the legionaires wore that later became a common crossword puzzle word called the "kepi," Conein wore a convention-type straw boater that had the words "Dominique's" lettered across the front.

It was Bastille day and over 300 people milled about as Dominique moved in and out of the crowd trying to organize his annual waiters' race.

Anyone who has ever seen a Foreign Legion movie like "Beau Geste," or the "Lost Patrol" has to remember that the soldiers were either looking for water or the enemy - and they always seemed to find more of the enemy.

Yesterday afternoon a few of these veterans of remembered thirst found a lot of beer, and the only enemy present might have been the waitress with the final bill.

Conversations with names of places like Hong Kong, Morocco, or Burma, were talked about the same as Washingtonians say Georgetown or Bethesda.

The TV question that asks parents, "Do you know where your children are tonight?" got banted around with one soldier-of-fortune-type saying "Sure, Burma, Shanghai, Algeria."

Bits of conversation would float around like, "When I parachuted into Hanoi in '56," without an air of bragging.

When France was discussed, a line was quoted by an irreverent old soldier that comedian Mark Russell uses, "Charles DeGaulle died the way he wanted to, in his own arms."

To add to the confusion of the festivities, but at a separate table, Cindy Williams, who works for the Federation of American Hospitals, pushed a giant whipped-cream cake into the face of Rick Pinckney, of the American Horse Council.

Pinckney was a good sport about it. As he cleaned himself off he told everyone he had it coming to him after having squashed a pie in her face after the Inauguration.

The annual race of the waiters and waitresses carrying champagne was about to start, Dominique - who had named Conein Chief Judge - asked him to read the instructions to the 100 contestants.

Conein, ever willing, said sure, and then asked, "What the hell are the instructions?"

The route of the race was down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and back. The scene of 100 people wearing serving outfits and heading toward the White House prompted one beer-sipper to say, "What the hell will Carter say if he looks out the window? Jody, who ordered the wine?"

Entertainment was provided by the "Irish Pipers," renowed experts of French songs" who played a lot of unrecognized tunes.

Attorney Barney Shankman, who represents Dominique and calls him "Dominick" in his Boston accent, busied himself trying to stave off libel suits.

The winner of the race was a 24-year-old Algrian named Kader Benkareria, a waiter at Geranio in Alexandria.

The "champagne" used in the race is really ginger ale.D.C. forbids taking alcholic beverages off the premises.

Things were cooling off and people leaving when Conein said, "You should be with us when we celebrate Cameron Day, that is the greatest day for the Legion.

"They fought to the last man."

With battles like that it may be no wonder that the reunions are small.