Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. is an extremely unique business that was created was for a unique clientele – the American veteran. You won’t find another event planning company quite like AFR, and you won’t find another event quite like a military reunion! AFR brings 3 traditional businesses under one roof to execute reunions flawlessly and 100% in house. We are a hotel event and convention planning company, a group tour agency, and a registration software company all in one.
How It Started
Our journey begins in 1984 when a young Ted Dey landed his first job in hospitality at the Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau as a Market Research Analyst. It wasn’t too long before Ted came across military reunion groups of WWII veterans, and after some digging realized just how many reunion groups were out there. At this point in the mid 80s, military reunions were not something the hospitality industry went after or marketed to. Hotels and Convention Bureaus had not yet realized the potential growth in this small niche segment of the industry. That was about to change.
Ted launched the first ever marketing campaign directed toward the military reunion segment – Mission Possible: Operation Norfolk
Mailers were sent out to thousands of reunion chairs all across the country, who received a nondescript manila envelope stamped in red CLASSIFIED
The creative campaign was a huge success. Soon the Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau office was inundated with responses in the mail from interested reunion groups, many of which had never returned to Norfolk since their deployment here in the 40s. And you couldn’t blame them, Norfolk wasn’t the most inviting place for sailors during the war.
After reunion chairs responded to the initial mailing they were sent a detailed planning guide that laid out exactly how to plan and execute a successful reunion, step-by-step. It even educated veterans on how to find other veterans that served in their unit, so they could start their own reunion groups. This was the first “military reunion handbook” and turned into many associations’ Reunion Planning SOP that are still used today.
Convincing reunion groups to come back to Norfolk wasn’t always an easy task for Ted. Today Norfolk is a proud Navy town, but it took the city a while to come around to it’s new identity back in the WWII days. It was commonplace for sailors on deployment in Norfolk during the war to see signs like “Sailors and Dogs Keep Off the Grass!” – a warm welcome to their new home. Despite these challenges, Norfolk attracted record numbers of reunion groups year after year during Ted’s tenure as Military Reunion Coordinator, before the opportunity was too strong to ignore and he founded the first company to plan military reunions nationwide in 1988 – Armed Forces Reunions, Inc.
Having left the Convention Bureau to start AFR, Ted was on the road to build relationships and partnerships with new cities and hotels. We started with 6 cities coast-to-coast in 1988 and added cities each year as new groups continued to come aboard. We started with Navy ship reunions in Norfolk and in a couple short years were planning reunions for all branches of service in dozens of cities nationwide. Today we’ve planned thousands of reunions in over 150 cities including events outside the CONUS. We came to be well known in the military reunion world and have solidified our reputation as the go-to event planners for large and small reunions through years exceeding our groups’ expectations.
After two decades of dedicated service and happy clients, it’s hard to stay under the radar. In 2008 the Navy came knocking on our door and asked us to bid on their Returning Warrior Workshop program, a 3 year contract planning a dozen events per year across 31 cities. There are firms that spend an enormous amount of time, money, and resources bidding on government contracts to only have a slight chance of landing them. We had a contracting officer call our office out of the blue, telling us about this contract, that we should bid on it, and how to bid on it. Something that never happens and adds to our unique story. The events are held for reservists returning from deployment to get the proper counseling and resources needed for a successful reintegration to life back home. This was the Navy’s first time putting the contract out to bid to civilian firms, and AFR couldn’t have been a better fit. The RWW Program also fit perfectly into our ethos of helping veterans reconnect, and allowed us to start our growth into military and veteran association events outside of unit reunions.
We have been the biggest advocate for military reunions in the hospitality industry for three and a half decades, and will continue to be as long as this great nation has veterans wanting to get together in the same room again. Ted started AFR with one goal in mind – to provide military reunion groups with consistently excellent reunions, year after year in cities from coast to coast. We continue delivering on this promise today, and are able to help even more reunion groups than ever through our BookMyReunion.com offering. We will always exist first to serve reunion groups, and also will be the best choice for non-profit Veteran Service Organizations and Military Associations event planning needs moving into the future.
We feel a great amount of pride for having served our country’s veterans for so long, and we look forward to serving you.