Reunion Recap USS Forrest B. Royal

PortlandMore than 60 veterans and guests of the USS Forrest B. Royal reunited in Portland, Maine this past week for their bi-annual reunion.  The host hotel was the Best Western Merry Manor Inn where the service is friendly and the accommodations are comfortable and affordable.  The complimentary breakfast each day was a hit, as was the inviting hospitality room stocked with snacks and drinks.

The group enjoyed a busy but fun reunion.  On Friday, they headed up to Bath, Maine for a guided cruise around Bath Iron Works and a tour of the Maine Maritime Museum.  After lunch in Freeport, most visited LL Bean’s flagship store.  Once Saturday’s business meeting was complete, a trolley picked the group up to explore Portland.  After lunch in Old Port, they saw the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Bug Light, the Liberty Ships Memorial, as well as other notable landmarks.  The Banquet at the hotel wrapped up the event on Saturday evening, and most headed home w/ fond memories and high hopes for the next reunion.

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc has been honored to plan their reunions for the last twenty years including events in Washington, DC, Buffalo, Norfolk, Branson, Charleston, and more.

Reunion Recap: The Misawa Project Reunion

13490810_10209128163348661_4793135264475081681_oThe Misawa Project Reunion was held in Mobile, Alabama last week. The Misawa Project is composed of veterans who served with the US Air Force Security Service at Johnson Air Force Base (formerly Irumagawa Airfield), Misawa Air Force Base, or one of its detachments between 1949 through 1979.

The 2016 Reunion, hosted at the Holiday Inn Mobile Downtown, brought over 125 veterans, families, and friends to Mobile where attendees explored some of the city’s most popular attractions. First, the group visited Bellingrath Gardens, a sixty-five-acre floral wonderland. After lunch at Bellingrath’s Magnolia Café, the reunion attendees re-boarded the bus for a two-hour guided tour of Mobile. Some highlights of this tour included Fort Conde, Mobile’s official Welcome Center, and the famous historic districts.

The following day, included a trip to the USS Alabama with a catered barbeque lunch on-board the ship in the Ward Room. Following lunch, guests were able to explore the 42,000-ton battleship, which saw thirty-seven months of active duty, earned nine battle stars, and provided a home for more than 2,500 Navy seamen.

The reunion wrapped up on Friday evening with a reception and the Reunion Banquet Dinner. 2016 marks the second year, Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. has had the pleasure of planning the Misawa Project’s annual reunion and we look forward to future reunions with such a terrific group!

Tradition in the Cockpit and the Warrior Ethos – – MajGen Michael “Lancer” Sullivan USMC (Ret.)

LancerWith 8,700 hours in the air – 2½ days shy of a full year in the cockpit – MajGen Michael “Lancer” Sullivan USMC (Ret.) received the Silver Hawk Award in 1990 and 1991 for being designated as the longest flying Marine aviator at that time. He piloted several different fighter and attack aircraft, including the AD Skyraider, F9F Cougar, F3D Skynight, all models of the F-8 Crusader, F-4D Skyray, all models of the F-4 Phantom, A-4 Skyhawk, AV-8 Harrier, F-18 Hornet and four different types of British fighters while an RAF exchange pilot. Sullivan flew 400+ combat missions in his 1965 and 1969 tours in Vietnam. More than half his flight hours were in the F-4 Phantom. The game-changing long-range supersonic jet interceptor/bomber reached speeds over mach 2. Sullivan was in the first Marine F-4 squadron to go to Vietnam, VMFA 531.

“The F-4 was a rocket ship compared to everything else at the time,” said Sullivan, who enjoyed a 35 year career in Marine aviation. “The plane just had all-around superior performance, weaponry and was very rugged. It was not really designed to be a dogfighter, but we learned how and flew the hell out of ‘em. We bet our lives on the F-4. It could take a hit and always get us home as long as we had at least one engine and one set of hydraulics working.”

The acclaimed F-4 entered service in 1960 in the U.S. Navy and later versions were still in operation in the First Gulf War. The aircraft was a mainstay in Vietnam and the last U.S. fighter flown to reach ace status in the 20th century. Carrying a wide range of ordinance, including Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, Zuni rockets, along with napalm, Snakeyes, Rockeye, a gun pod and Daisy Cutter bombs, the plane was a threat from almost the ground up. “Release altitude ranged from as high as 6,000 feet for “slick” bombs to 200 feet for Snakeye bombs, and as low as you had the guts to fly for napalm. We could hit most any target and provide crucial support to our guys on the ground,” said Sullivan, 81, who lives in Craven County, NC with his wife Nicole.

In 1974 Sullivan won the Alfred A. Cunningham Award for Marine Aviator of the Year.  His command tours include CO, VMFA 323, CO, MAG-11, CO, MAG-41, CG, 10th MAB and CG and AWC, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, MCAS Cherry Point, NC.

In 1991 he was invited to join The Golden Eagles, an elite organization consisting of Medal of Honor winners, astronauts, fighter aces and naval aviators who have contributed significantly to naval aviation. It was established in 1956 and the membership is limited to 200 naval aviators.

“I hadn’t heard of the Golden Eagles when I was selected. At the induction banquet the next thing I knew I was sitting at a table with John Glenn and Joe Foss,” Sullivan said. Sullivan, who also received the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross and dozens of other decorations, retired in 1991 after serving as Deputy Commander, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, Norfolk, VA. But to hear him speak, you’d think he was still in the cockpit of the F-4. “Tradition and heritage are everything, what was done before and to carry on. If we lose our tradition we lose it all. Those who went before and mentored us are a lot of why we went, and yes, with a little swagger, working hard and playing hard. The warrior ethos – we’ve got to keep it going.”

 

Sullivan shares the tradition with his youngest son, Byron Sullivan, who served as CO, VMFA-232 Red Devils, F-18Cs, MCAS Miramar CA and will graduate from the National War College on June 18, 2015. Sullivan also shares tradition at reunions with fellow Marines and other service members, including the Golden Eagles reunions and the once-in-a-lifetime 2012 Marine F-4 Phantom Foray in San Diego, both managed by Armed Forces Reunions, Inc., the parent company of BookMyReunion.com.

“We like to enjoy carrying on the tradition at our reunions. There were over 800 of us and our families in San Diego. Like always, the first one to the bar gets to tell the biggest story. The only thing we really miss is not being able to smoke cigars anymore because of the PC rules.”

Interested in other veteran stories? Sign up for our newsletter! We feature a new veteran each month.

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

 

 

 

Veteran of the Month: LtGen Fred McCorkle, USMC (Ret)

The Featured Veteran this month is an old friend of AFR’s: LtGen Fred McCorkle, USMC (Retired). Fred and his wife, Kathy, attend two to three events planned by Armed Forces Reunions each year. The Marine Corps Aviation Association’s (MCAA) Annual Symposium (met in New Bern, NC in May), the “Golden Eagles” or The Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association (met in Orlando in April), and the USMC Combat Helicopter & Tiltrotor Association Coming up in Jacksonville in August).

Lt. General Fred McCorkle had plans to become a teacher and high school football coach after he’d served two years in the Marines. That was until a fellow Marine convinced him to go to flight school, where his career trajectory took off. “I’d never even been to an airport, so to start from there and go on to fly helicopters, jets and to even have the honor to fly the U-2 spy plane makes me feel like the luckiest guy in the world,” said McCorkle, a retired three star general and former Deputy Commandant for Marine Aviation, the highest aviator rank in the Marines Corps. “Being Deputy Commandant of Marine Aviation was a great privilege and job,” said McCorkle, 71. “In that position you’re in charge of all Marine aviation assets, selecting the new planes and helicopters, plus future command and control and aviation support equipment assets. This and taking care of the four marine aircraft wings becomes a big, but very rewarding responsibility.”

McCorkle attended Naval Flight School in Pensacola and in 1969 was designated a naval aviator and sent to Vietnam. Before the end of 1970 he had flown more than 1,500 combat missions and throughout his career was able to accumulate over 6,500 flight hours in 65 different series of aircraft. Many of his flights were helicopter rescue missions. “One of the most intense rescues was in Laos where we weren’t really supposed to be, but we had to get our guys out. We did an emergency extract pulling eight soldiers out of the jungle on a 75-foot ladder. We had to land about half way back to Vietnam and some of these guys were dying. We were taking fire and one soldier already had his arm shot off, but was blasting back into the bushes with his AK-47; toughest guy to ever live I think.”

McCorkle was awarded The Distinguished Service Medal; The Legion of Merit with three Gold Stars in lieu of second through fourth awards; The Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star in lieu of second award; The Purple Heart; The Air Medal with Single Mission Award and 76 Strike/Flight Awards; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” and The Navy Achievement Medal.

Read LtGen Mcorkle’s full story in our June 2016 Newsletter. To sign up for our monthly newsletter which includes a new Veteran of the Month story each edition, click here!

Reunion Recap: 94th Infantry Division Historical Society

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Over 75 veterans, family, and friends of the 94th Infantry Division met in Richmond, VA this week for their annual reunion.  Highlights of the reunion were a visit to Ft. Lee, a city tour of Richmond and all it’s historical sites, and just plain fun in the hospitality room!   At Ft Lee they were able to visit the US Army Quartermaster Museum and the US Army Women’s Museum.  During the city tour everyone enjoyed the cruise down the James River and the Virginia War Memorial.  The Division Rally was a successful event, and the Memorial Service was a moving tribute to the fallen of the Division.  Armed Forces Reunions, Inc has had the pleasure and honor of assisting with their reunion planning for over 15 years!