Katherine Whitley, Event Coordinator

Katherine has worked in the travel industry for 40 years, and as an author has been published in the Travel Age West and Travel Weekly trade publications as well as local San Diego papers. For 30 years she worked as an International Tour Manager escorting tour groups around the globe. Katherine now represents AFR onsite at reunion and Yellow Ribbon events nationwide.

Steve Padgett, Systems Director

Steve brings over 20 years of experience in computer and deep level SQL database programming to the AFR team, and is our go-to programmer.  Steve worked 10 years at the National Institute of Health, and holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Case Western University and certifications in JAVA, J2EE, along with a Master’s degree in computer science at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.

Ted’s Reflections on AFR’s First 25 Years

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.

AFR Planning 60th Anniversary of the Korean War in the Nation’s Capital

AFR is currently involved in planning the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Korean War in the nation’s capital. The dates of the celebration will be July 24-28, 2013. We have secured hotel contracts for the Korean War Veterans Association and the Korean Ex-POW Association. Special events being planned in conjunction with DoD and the Republic of Korea Embassy: a special Evening Parade at 8th and I Marine Barracks and reception hosted by Commandant James F. Amos, a DoD sponsored commemoration likely to be held at the Korean War Memorial on Saturday, and a gala banquet Saturday evening. AFR was involved in planning the 2003 50th anniversary celebrations, and we are thrilled to again be selected to handle preparations to honor our great veterans of the Korean WAR.

 

Korean War Memorial

AFR Awarded DOD Contracts

Over the past few years AFR has established itself as a highly acceptable Event Planner for DOD conferences. In over 25 years of event planning 100% of events planned by AFR have been military oriented. The Department of Defense took notice. We specialize in contracting for Returning Warrior Workshops, Strong Bond Retreats, Family Readiness Retreats, and other DoD conferences.

In July, 2008 AFR was awarded a two year contract (N0018908PZ739) to provide hotel and event planning services for a series of U.S. Navy Reserve Returning Warrior Workshops. for planning U.S. Navy Returning Warrior Workshops nationwide. AFR managed hotel, food and beverage, and conference services to support workshops in 31 cities from September, 2008 through July, 2010. The program served 4,100 Navy reservists and their spouses. Capt. Virginia M. Torsch, special projects coordinator for the Office of the Chief of the Navy Reserve, stated: “We selected AFR over other bidders because of AFR’s experience in planning and managing military conferences. Their understanding of military protocol and procedure was invaluable.”

In September, 2012 AFR was reawarded a contract (N0018913CZ002) to continue planning this series of U.S. Navy Returning Warrior Workshops in 2013 and 2014. Clearly, the Navy was highly satisfied with AFR’s performance.

In 2011 AFR was awarded and planned an Air Force Public Affairs conference for 250 attendees in the Washington DC area (FA7014-11-P-0055). AFR provided all logistical and administrative support necessary to conduct the seminar, from planning through execution, including AV and IT support, speaker support, and professional consultation, advice and research. Commented Brigadier General Les A. Kodlick, Director of Air Force Public Affairs: “Please accept my sincere thanks for your outstanding support to the Air Force Public Affairs Professional Development Seminar. Through the exceptional service provided by you and the entire Armed Forces Reunions Team, you helped ensure the event was a resounding success!”

AFR has also been awarded contracts in the past for Strong Bonds Marriage Retreats for the Virginia Army National Guard.

Art Sifuentes, Executive Director of the Marine Corps Aviation Association (MCAA) and a retired Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corps, said “AFR is absolutely golden. They work with the customer better than any other organization I’ve ever seen. Defense contracts are a perfect fit for them because they understand military culture so well and how to match it with the civilian side of hotel, hospitality, transportation and catering services. They are a complete organization.”

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