The National Reunion Bureau

The National Reunion Bureau – that’s exactly what Armed Forces Reunions (AFR) is – AND SO MUCH MORE!

We have booked military reunions in over 150 cities over the past 33 years.  Over that time we have developed long term relationships and partnerships with hotels and industry partners from coast to coast. We know exactly what cities and what hotels in those cities are ‘reunion-friendly’ – and we’ve worked with them for decades. Think of what a city’s Convention or Visitors Bureau (CVB) does – i.e., Visit Norfolk or Visit San Diego. They distribute leads to their members on your behalf and round up proposals from every hotel that has availability. Nothing is truly negotiated and there is no thought about your specific needs when the lead is sent out – that part is left for you. Not to mention the whole process of deciding what city to get proposals from in the first place, a CVB only helps once you have decided where to have your reunion. When you know nothing about a certain city, Convention Bureaus are great. What they cannot do, though, is recommend a certain hotel or tour operator. They are a clearing house for all hotels, vendors, and attractions in their city and will ensure that all receive your lead. Then what?

You will receive lots of proposals, some qualified but most not. Never will you receive proposals like you will if you issue the lead through AFR. Does the hotel allow the group to provide its own alcohol and snacks in the hospitality room? (Suites are too small for any group’s hospitality room.) Can the hotel provide a meeting room for free over multiple days, where your group can provide its own refreshments, alcoholic and otherwise? Are banquet prices negotiated, inclusive of service charge and tax? What are the financial risks to the group? Room attrition, Food & Beverage Minimums? What ballroom is assigned for the banquet (or is one?)? What is the comp room policy (free sleeping rooms for selling X number of rooms)?

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. acts like a city’s CVB would, but only for military reunions and we do it nationwide. When a group comes to AFR, the options are endless. Groups always think of the city first, what would be a great city to visit for our reunion? The question you should be asking is “where can we get a military-friendly hotel that will give us free meeting space for the entire week where we can bring our own snacks and refreshments into our hospitality room?” Now you are taking a targeting approach that will allow you to only look at places where you know the reunion will be successful. It is a waste of time to get more than a few hotel proposals in ANY city because there aren’t more than a few hotels there that will accommodate your needs. The key to a successful reunion is the hotel and hospitality room, and that’s how AFR approaches site selection. We think of the hotel first. We recommend cities where we know there are hotels that will allow this and much more.

So why not cut to the chase and only receive proposals vetted by the nation’s top military reunion planner? Having dominated a niche market like military reunions for over 30 years, we have been there and done that with hotels in countless cities. We don’t send leads to hotels that have proven time and time again to not be military reunion friendly, we only send leads to the few that appreciate and go out of the way to accommodate what reunions want. We understand your needs and will ensure you receive the best possible deal by 1) using AFR’s own widely accepted AFR Military Reunion Hotel Contract or 2) using pre-negotiated contracts with our longtime hotel partners.

When you contact AFR we will guide you to the most reunion-friendly hotel in whatever city you like – or we’ll recommend cities and trusted hotel partners that we’ve worked with for decades. To a hotel, your reunion is a one-time event. When booked through AFR, your reunion is treated as a repeat client. Please call anytime to discuss the many ways AFR can assist your group and “Get a Professional on Your Side!”

Call or email Charley Dey at 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com to discuss how AFR can help your group.

Must See Museum: New National Army Museum

The National Museum of the United States Army

The National Museum of the United States Army opened in November, 2020, closed for a few months due to the pandemic, and reopened its doors to welcome reunion groups and visitors. AFR’s first group tour will be this September when the 1st Signal Brigade Association visits.  As when the Vietnam, Korean, and WWII Memorials opened we are seeing a throng of reunion groups wanting to visit the nation’s capital – with the main goal of visiting this awesome new museum.  The museum celebrates over 240 years of Army history and honors our nation’s Soldiers – past, present, and future – regular Army, Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard.  It’s a massive undertaking led by a joint effort between the U. S. Army and the non-profit organization, The Army Historical Foundation (AHF).  It is a technological marvel incorporating the latest advances in museum exhibits, while providing advanced educational opportunities that capture the attention of visitors old and young.

Pictured below is the row of plaques that surrounds the main entrance of the museum, commemorating units of all kinds. These photos are courtesy of Americal Division Veterans Association member and Vietnam veteran of D Company, 1/6 Infantry, 198th LIB, Gary Salpini.

                 

The U.S. Army operates and maintains the Museum, which is located on 84 acres at Fort Belvoir, VA, less than 30 minutes south of our nation’s capital.  The main building is approximately 185,000 square feet and displays selections from the Army Art collection, artifacts, documents, and images.  The vast majority of these rare and priceless artifacts have never been seen by the American people.  The Museum predicts it will welcome an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 visitors every year.  So begin planning your future reunion to witness this long-awaited attraction in our nation’s capital region.

For over three decades AFR has booked hundreds of military reunion groups in the D.C. area.  We will secure your group great rates at loyal hotel partners in Crystal City, next to Reagan National Airport.  Want a large hospitality room where you and your comrades can relax over a cold beer and some snacks?  We’ll guide you to reunion-friendly hotels that understand reunions and their special needs.  Email Charley Dey at charley@afri.com   or call 757-625-6401.  Get a Professional on Your Side!

AFR is a National Tour Operator – Why does that matter for your group?

Armed Forces Reunions (AFR), family-owned and operated, has planned military reunions coast to coast for over three decades. Our business was built on military reunions and designed to cater to their specific needs. Military Reunions are unique in that tours of local sights, museums, and attractions are always a focal point of the week. To have a successful reunion, you need to rely on your tour operator to plan interesting and engaging outings for reasonable prices. This is what makes AFR different than other event planners out there, they don’t specialize in Military Reunions, so they are not tour operators. AFR is a extremely unique business in that we are event planners and national tour operators, something you will not find with general event planners.

In every city AFR handles the tour planning and books the buses, guides, and attractions.  AFR does not sub-out the tour planning to local tour agencies – and then add a percentage for profit. This is what a general event planner does to plan your tours, because they work with many types of groups – and yours is probably the only one they have to plan tours for. As a member of the American Bus Association and National Tour Association, AFR gets discounted prices for buses, guides, and attractions.  We then set and offer the best per person tour prices in the industry.  Our tour prices are sure to beat those offered by local tour operators.  Why?  Because AFR is more than just a tour operator, and earns income from negotiating commissions into hotel contracts.

If your group is 50 or more rooms per night, take advantage of AFR’s full range of event planning services – to include booking partner hotels with the lowest possible room rates, planning interesting and cost-effective tours, and handling pre and onsite registration.  AFR has sample tour programs for dozens of cities to help guide your group to Top Reunion Destinations with interesting tours.  AFR truly is your One Stop Shop – year after year!  For groups with less than 50 rooms per night, AFR will provide you with attrition-free hotel contracts and local tour operator recommendations.  If you have a preferred city in mind for the future, please give us a call.  If you are looking for reunion-friendly hotels or Top Reunion Destinations, you can rely on AFR’s recommendations from decades of nationwide experience.

And if your group is visiting the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area and you’d like to enlist the services of a tour operator you’ll need to give us a call.  Our subsidiary, AFR Tours, is the only licensed tour operator in Southeastern Virginia.  AFR Tours provides local tour planning services for military reunions, association groups and conventions, and inbound tours for special events like the annual Tattoo and Harborfest.  Our biggest market for local tours, though, is operating shore excursions for cruise lines that do stopovers at Nauticus in Norfolk.  In 2022 AFR Tours will be partnering with Norwegian, Carnival, Princess, Crystal, Seven Seas, and other cruise lines in providing tours from Norfolk and Virginia Beach to Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and the Outer Banks of NC.  On most days these big ships bring in over 3,000 passengers, and we’ll be hosting over 1,000 of them on professionally guided shore excursions.  We also tailor to smaller groups with walking tours, dolphin-watching tours, and even kayak tours of our local waterways, streams, and bays.

But just know this: wherever you want to have a reunion, if you book it with Armed Forces Reunions you can expect reasonably priced, customized tours planned by experts with decades of experience.   Get a Professional on Your Side!

Exclusive Veteran Interview: Alan “Doc” Sams, Marine Corpsman

Trapped Before the Long Road to Salvation

Marine Corpsman Alan “Doc” Sams at Death’s Door in Vietnam

The answer to why a friend, fellow platoon member and Christian died in Vietnam next to non-believer Alan “Doc” Sams came years later.  Arriving in Vietnam on Thanksgiving Day in 1967, Sams served as a corpsman in the 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines.  While he saw enemy fire or combat action nearly every day, the perils of war dramatically escalated one week after the start of the Tet Offensive in early 1968.

Marine engineers were building a supply road to serve Alpha 3 base along the southern DMZ and Sams was assigned with Kilo to provide security for the sweep.  An enemy bunker complex was soon discovered, followed by an eerie feeling the North Vietnamese Army was close by.  That feeling became reality and literally hit home in late morning on February, 7th.  “It started with one rocket propelled grenade, followed by tracer bullets over our heads and then all hell broke loose in a torrent of grenades, mortars and constant small arms fire,” said Sams, 72 at the time.  “I soon heard the ‘Corpsman up’ call and found a dead Marine, another with an arm blown off, one who lost an eye and another I performed a tracheostomy on.

The battle heated up even more and our platoon became stretched out into an L shape, before being overrun and cut off from the other units.  We had lost radio contact and were basically trapped and surrounded in a dire situation.  I got another call up and reached my friend Willie Adger who was the last soldier holding up the rear of the L.  Of strong Christian faith the last thing I heard him say very quietly and without anxiety was ‘Doc, I’m hit’ before slumping over with a bullet hole between his eyes.  I feel he saved my life by holding down the fort to the end and alerting me to escape any way possible.”

Sams and four other wounded Marines somehow survived a night of battle, but were still not out of the woods.  Marine artillery and tanks had taken it to the enemy and in the morning were mopping up remaining NVA.  “We could hear our boys close by and knew they’d cut down anything that moved, so I just started screaming cuss words, rose on my knees and they held fire,” Sams said.  “John Mick of Mike Company essentially rescued us.  We medevaced the four Marines out but lost 29 of our 50 man-platoon.”  Miraculously, Sams wasn’t wounded.

Sams remained in the field and saw more, but less severe, combat before transferring to a MASH-like 3rd Medical Battalion in Phu Bai.  He left Vietnam in November, 1968 and was released from the Marines as a Petty Officer Second Class in 1970 with a Bronze Star with combat “V” and Combat Action Ribbon.  Sams returned to the states and graduated from what was then the new Physician Assistant program at Duke University and then worked for 30 years at Emory University Hospital before retiring in 2004.

His life had changed, however, as in 1987 he found the Lord.  “It was a slow process because I had never been religious and just thought trying to be a good person was enough,” he said.  “My wife Diane had accepted Jesus 10 years earlier and while watching Pastor Charles Stanley program I felt he was talking directly to me.  Thoughts of that day, night and morning in Vietnam vividly returned to me and were an important part of my new life.  Later I saw on the 3/3 website that Willie Adger’s brother was looking to talk with anyone who had served with Willie.  I contacted him and said Willie died saving my life, which was a moment of joy for his brother and their terminally ill mother.”

Earlier this month in Pensacola, Florida Sams reconnected with fellow veterans at this year’s 3/3 RVN Association reunion, many of which have been managed by Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. He saw platoon Captain Don Frank, John Mick from Mike Company and many others.  “It’s just wonderful to get together as we’ve all become family and many have found the Lord,” said Sams, who lives in Atlanta.  “We of course talked about the ambush, still trying to put the pieces together from that tragic day.”

Sams and his wife are members of non-denominational Cornerstone Bible Church in Lilburn, Georgia and he often shares his story of Feb. 7th and 8th in 1968.  “It took me a long time to realize the acts of Willie Adger and John Mick were God’s intervention.  That I survived Vietnam was a miracle and turned out to be the seed of my salvation,” Sams said.

 

Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for Armed Forces Reunions and BMR.com, former Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and a former staff writer for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

AFR Awarded USAF Academy Class Reunions Contract

2021 is going to be a record year for Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. (AFR).  Military reunions and government groups that cancelled their 2020 events are rescheduled for 2021.  Groups that were supposed to have met this Spring shifted to Summer and Fall – so we will be plenty busy planning and overseeing dozens of events nationwide over the next several months.  A very exciting recent development was being awarded a contract to handle class reunions for the USAF Academy Association of Graduates (AOG) this year.  They too are experiencing the same Covid-related phenomenon, with all 2020 class reunions being pushed into 2021 – effectively doubling the workload for the AOG staff.

Their class reunions include the typical reunion functions and activities at the hotel, in addition to a full day on Academy grounds culminating to the highlight of the weekend – the home football tailgate and game. With double the reunions this year it was too much for the AOG to deliver top-flight events like the graduates are used to, but they knew where to turn for help! AFR’s involvement allows the AOG’s staff to focus on activities at the Academy grounds, fundraising, and promotion. We are honored to plan the 35th year reunion for the Class of 1986, of which Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark is a member.  AFR now has a full-time event planner on the ground in Colorado Springs to assist the Association of Graduates with executing multiple reunions over a six-week period in September and October.

AFR is well-known to the service academies as 1) we plan many reunions that pay visits to the academies’ grounds and 2) we plan and oversee the annual Service Academies Global Summit, which is a professional development and networking event for graduates of all five U.S. Service Academies.  All five Superintendents attend along with leaders from government, business, the military, and NGO/nonprofits.

If your reunion is headed to CO Springs be sure to seek AFR’s guidance and assistance with hotel contracting and tour planning.  Not a year passes without AFR hosting reunions in CO Springs and other top Air Force reunion destinations like Dayton and San Antonio.  But we’ve planned reunions in over 150 cities over the past three-plus decades, so no matter where your group wants to go, we’ve “been there, done that.”  Remember, when booking through AFR, your group will always get the best rates, the most concessions, and a contract as risk-free as you could hope for.  Get a Professional on Your Side!

Call or email us today and ask for Charley Dey at 757-620-2067 or charley@afri.com