As with all amazing journeys it’s hard to believe that 25 years have passed. Looking back the only regret I have is not having a video and tape recorder at many of the reunions we’ve planned. We worked with the finest this country produced. We’ve met and dined with quite a few Medal of Honor winners. If anything really sticks out through the years, it is the humility of these MOH winners. To a man each thought he was merely doing his job and did what he was trained to do.
But such is the character of our Armed Forces personnel, yesterday and today. Always the best-trained fighting force in the world, it’s the character of our men and women in uniform that sets this nation apart. You just don’t train valor, sacrifice, and honor in such abundance. This nation just breeds such people, the sons and daughters of middle America who in time of need serve the greatest nation on earth. We at AFR are thankful to have been in the right place at the right time, to come to know and cherish some of our nation’s greatest heroes – from WWII right up through Afghanistan.
Some Memorable Reunions:
• 50th anniversary of Korean War on behalf of Korean War Veterans Association. What a beautiful ceremony on the Mall at the Korean War Memorial, with roughly 15,000 in attendance. Gen. Ray Davis, MOH winner Korean War Chosin Reservoir Campaign, pulled me aside and said “Ted, let me show you something.” He led me to the wall and pointed to an etched face that was his – there for eternity as is his undying legacy. There was also a special tribute concert at Constitution Hall featuring the President’s Own Marine Corps Band and MC’d by Ed McMahon.
• The 2012 reunion for The Golden Eagles (The Early & Pioneer Naval Aviators Association) in Orlando. This illustrious group of notable Naval and Marine aviators has a membership fixed at 200, invitation only. In attendance was Neil Armstrong for what would be his final gathering with his buddies. Molly escorted the group to Cape Canaveral for a special Kennedy Space Center tour led by member Charles Bolden, a retired Marine General, astronaut and current NASA Administrator.
• Stalag Luft III’s 1995 50th anniversary of freedom reunion in Cincinnati. The POW camp, made famous by Steve McQueen’s movieThe Great Escape, was liberated in January, 1945. In the host hotel, then the Omni Netherlands, whole meeting rooms were transformed into complete POW barracks. All museum-quality exhibits were donated to the Air Force Museum in Dayton.
• P-38 National Association 1992 reunion in Colorado Springs. This reunion was to dedicate the P-38 Lightning Memorial in the Cadet Honor Court at the United States Air Force Academy. Rex Barber, the P-38 pilot who shot down Yamamoto, was in attendance with over 400 pilots and groundcrew from WWII.
• Working with and meeting the crew of the Enola Gay at a reunion of the 509th Composite Group in Tucson. In my office today is a photo of the Enola Gay signed by Pilot Paul Tibbets, Navigator Dutch Van Kirk, and Bombardier Tom Ferebee.
• 65th Anniversary of Iwo Jima in D.C. With the Arlington Police Dept. we arranged a blue-light motorcade for 700 veterans and family – from Arlington to the Marine Corps Museum for a Banquet of Honor. Present were National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones and Commandant of the Marine Corps Michael Hagee.
• Third Marine Division reunion in D.C. At the gala banquet on Saturday night Wounded Warriors from Walter Reed Hospital and family were honored. Seeing the Wounded Warriors receive a standing ovation from fellow Marines from WWII, Korean and Vietnam Wars was special.
• Eighth Air Force Historical Society 1993 reunion in Chicago. While their reunions continue to this day the 1993 reunion was moving. The crew of the movie Memphis Belle attended the reunion in uniform to meet the REAL CREW. This year the 8AFHS will have its annual reunion in Savannah to visit their own Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum.
• The first Marine F-4 reunion in San Diego in November, 2012. Attended by 800 veterans and family, former F-4 pilot and Marine Corps Commandant James F. Amos attended to rehash old times with former flight and ground crews. Gen. Amos flew, landed, and dedicated a special F-18 at MCAS Miramar commemorating all Medal of Honor winners.