How Do I Start a Military Reunion Group?

Military reunions began back in the 1940s when WWII veterans that lost all contact with their brothers in arms after returning home wanted to renew that unique bond that is made between those that serve their country. Only they can comprehend this connection, and many veterans will not speak about their time in the service at all – even with family. Reunions quickly became the most effective (and fun) way to not only renew a sacred bond but also to help heal those men and women that made a sacrifice to serve their country.

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. (AFR) planned its first military reunion in 1988 and since then we have taken our groups to over 150 cities nationwide and put on some of the largest reunions that have ever taken place. Back then starting a reunion group meant writing to your branches’ head offices to obtain the muster or unit rolls from your vessel/division/squadron/etc. Then came the daunting task of going to your local library (where they have phone books for cities nationwide) and calling down the muster roll to find the correct ‘John Smith in Milwaukee’. We’ve seen reunions evolve throughout the years, be passed on to the next generation of heroes, and new groups emerge with each era of service. It seems like nearly every week someone new contacts AFR seeking guidance in how to start their first reunion. Nothing excites us more than to hear from the young veterans of the Persian Gulf War, War in Iraq, and War in Afghanistan wanting to start their own reunion associations.

Starting a reunion group today is fortunately much easier today than it was years ago, thanks to the internet. Most groups today begin on social media, usually with a Facebook page. All it takes is one or a few determined veterans to take control and get the ball rolling. It’s amazing how quickly former comrades can be found using social media. After finding a sufficient number of “members” and discussing the potential for having a reunion all that’s needed is a survey, which can be done using a number of tools such as Survey Monkey via email or a simple Facebook survey on your group page. Survey results are important when securing a hotel contract for your reunion. How many members are likely to attend? Suggest two or three cities for folks to vote on. How many nights to book (most groups start with three)? Will members stay at the chosen host hotel?

It is very important that your first reunion is a grand success so folks will spread the word and want to attend a future reunion. Initially, just getting folks together in a “reunion-friendly” hotel with a gathering area (hospitality room) available 24/7 is critical. A group banquet on the final night should also be planned at the hotel. At follow-up reunions you might consider planning tours and seeing the sights – to make it more vacation-like, and keeping spouses interested. Associations that have been holding annual reunions for many years typically plan a 4-5 day reunion with a couple days of local group tours planned, and ample free time to explore the area.

So now what? What cities should you consider? How will you find a suitable hotel? What do you need to be aware of in a hotel contract? This is where AFR comes in. Having planned thousands of reunions in over 150 cities over the past 30+ years we can steer you to a “reunion-friendly” hotel in the city you want to be. Get a professional on your side to negotiate the hotel contract for you – to ensure you have an adequate room block, the proper meeting space for a banquet, and most importantly that you have a great hospitality room where you are allowed to provide your own refreshments if you want. Reunions happen in the hospitality room!

Find out how we can help today by calling or emailing Charley Dey at 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com