The Pakawalups

Performing Tribute To Their Father’s Service

“The Pakawalups” Three-Sister Trio Honors All Veterans With Their Music

As a B-17 pilot and co-pilot with 33 missions over Europe during WWII, the late Vincent Ledray flew in some of the most intense aerial combat of the war. Assigned to the 615th Bomb Squadron/401st Bomb Group in the 8th Air Force, 1st Lieutenant Ledray saw action over Berlin, Hamburg, Schweinfurt, and at D-Day in 1943-’44. He and the airmen of the 401st Flying Fortresses played a pivotal role in diminishing Nazi Germany’s capacity to wage war.
Fellow crew member Charles Casner wrote a diary about the missions of the 401st. The group operated primarily against key military industrial sites, including factories, shipyards, missile sites, airfields, marshalling yards and submarine facilities. Ardently guarded and fortified by the Germans, crew casualties and the cost of downed and damaged planes were high. The 401st lost 95 planes in 256 missions. The attacks on the ball bearing plant in Schweinfurt, Germany were especially harrowing: “Never before have the Germans sent up so much fighter opposition…and flak was so damned thick over the target I swear you could have walked on it,” Casner wrote.

The valor and service of Ledray, World War II veterans and men and women of the armed forces are today honored by Ledray’s three daughters: Cathie Ledray Senff, Sue Ledray Murray and Vicki Ledray Grabicki. All with childhood musical backgrounds, in 2005 they formed The Pakawalups, a USO-style harmonizing trio named after their dad’s favorite B-17, the Pakawalup. Performing songs by Glen Miller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and the Andrews sisters, they also share anecdotes from their parents’ WWII life experiences. The Pakawalups joined the 401st Bomb Group Association and gave their first performance at a 401st reunion in Deenethorpe, England, where their father was stationed during the war.

“Our lives haven’t been the same since our first show in England; it’s just been wonderful,” Vicki said. The group sings at reunions (managed by Armed Forces Reunions, Inc.) and at a wide array of military and patriotic functions, including Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day gatherings, fairs and other events nationwide and near their hometown of Bellingham, Washington. In 2014 The Pakawalups were presented a “Certificate of Recognition” from the Lynden, Washington Lions Club at their Veterans’ Day celebration dinner.

“When we look into our audience we can see by their faces that we have transported them back to another time, a time that holds sweet and sad memories,” Susan said. “The 1940’s Greatest Generation was from a time of passion and romance, and love of country. Everyone pulled together to end the war and there really hasn’t been a time like that in our lifetime. After our performances, people come up and thank us. It’s very gratifying.”
The sisters were inspired to form the group after Vicki did research on their father’s service, including accounts from his flight log. Many of the early forays over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe were daylight missions, especially deadly, and the escort fighters didn’t have the fuel capacity, range or firepower to adequately protect the bombers from Luftwaffe fighters and anti-aircraft fire. Not until the advent of the longer range, more heavily armed P-51 Mustang fighter in late 1943, along with a more tightly-packed B-17 formation, did the losses begin to abate and the tide in the air turn toward victory in Europe.

“Dad said had it not been for the new P-51’s they would have never made it across the English Channel,” Cathie recalled. The 401st won two Distinguished Unit Citations for its role and had the second best bombing accuracy in the 8th Air Force. The group was often referred to as “The Best Damned Outfit in the Army Air Force.”
The sisters are currently working on a tribute CD and hope to have it out within a year, but their passion remains performing and their ranks are expanding. The sisters’ granddaughters, The Pak-A-Punches, now perform and travel with the group, as well as run the PX at 401st reunions. “Most important of all, our granddaughters are learning history directly from the veterans and their families,” Susan said. “When one of our veterans goes ‘forever aloft’ the girls cry too because they knew them and their stories personally.”
Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for, Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and former staff writer for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.


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Why Veterans Should Have Pets

If you’ve recently returned from a military deployment, you already know how hard settling back in to civilian life can be. Even if you’ve been home for years, you might still find it difficult to deal with the physical and emotional effects of combat and service.

Fortunately, many veterans just like you have found solace and support in the form of a pet. If you don’t already have a dog, you might not have considered getting one. You’ve heard of service dogs for people with physical disabilities, but how could a dog help someone whose difficulties are more mental or spiritual?

In this blog, we’ll explore why more veterans should have pets and how dogs have benefited members of the military.

Why Vets Need Pets

Veterans benefit from pets in two main ways:

Emotional Benefits

Many veterans such as yourself struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental afflictions after military service. Conditions such as PTSD can make it difficult to function normally in society. However, pets help heal these emotional wounds and aid you on the road to recovery.

Physical Benefits

Even if you don’t have a physical disability from combat, pets can have a positive effect on your body as well as your mind. Many experts agree that having a pet can reduce your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and decrease your triglyceride levels. Who ever thought a golden retriever could actually help you live longer?

How Pets Help Vets

Pets help veterans readjust to civilian life and overcome emotional struggles with the following.


Many veterans feel isolated and lonely when they come home from military service. Even those with close family members often feel misunderstood or like an outsider. Pets provide a valuable form of unconditional companionship to both veterans who live alone and those who live with others.


Civilian life lacks the rigor and structure of military duty. Many veterans feel like they don’t know what to do with their time, and they miss the purpose they had during their service. A pet can provide you with a valuable routine. When your dog needs to feeding, walking, grooming, and training, you have goals to work toward, not to mention a living being that depends on you.

Emotional Bonds

Some veterans, particularly those who suffer from PTSD, find it difficult to emotionally connect to their friends and family when they come home. A dog can help bridge the gap between you and your loved ones and rekindle your ability to feel an emotional connection.

Where to Get a Pet as a Vet

Many organizations help veterans find appropriate service or companion animals. We’ve listed three such organizations.

1. Paws for Purple Hearts

Paws for Purple Hearts teaches veterans with psychological wounds, such as PTSD, to train service animals that later go on to help physically disabled veterans. This program allows veterans to help and heal each other through their work with animals.

2. Paws4Vets

Paws4Vets pairs veterans with specially-selected shelter animals. Professionals train the animals to fit into the veteran’s lifestyle and prepare them to be around things like crutches and wheelchairs, as well as recognize symptoms of anxiety in their future owners. This program allows shelter pets to get a second chance and veterans to benefit from pet ownership.

3. Patriot PAWS

Patriot PAWS trains service dogs to assist veterans suffering from physical disabilities, emotional injuries, or both. These dogs can help with mobility as well as symptoms of PTSD.

If you’ve had a hard time dealing with life after military service, look for organizations near you that can help you find a service or companion animal.

Three WWII Battles That Influenced the U.S.

When German leader Adolf Hitler signed a nonaggression pact with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Great Britain and France became uneasy. On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and unrest turned into a declaration of war. America joined this war just two years later after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

World War II was one of the most shattering wars our earth has seen. Over a six-year period, it devastated millions and changed the course of entire countries.

This period was a time when America took a stand in the world. Comrades faced fear and death together, and war made another powerful and brutal stamp in the history books.

During World War II, numerous battles erupted worldwide, each with its own significance. Let’s take a look at three WWII battles that were particularly influential for the U.S.

The Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942)

Six months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the U.S. entered a four-day naval battle with Japan.

The Imperial Japanese Navy had already damaged the U.S. Navy during Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Coral Sea. They planned an attack on Midway to conquer more land, stop the U.S. Navy, and assert Japanese dominance in the Pacific. The U.S. had other plans, however.

American intelligence broke the code used by the Japanese navy, and they found out when and where the Japanese were planning to attack. The Americans assembled three aircraft carriers (the Enterprise, the Hornet, and the repaired Yorktown) to meet Japanese ships.

While U.S. torpedo bombers held Japan’s attention, dive-bombers finally arrived and attacked the Japanese carriers. The Japanese withdrew, marking a victory for the U.S.

While lives were lost, the U.S. triumphed overall. This battle reduced the sweeping invasion the Japanese planned. In addition, it raised U.S. morale after receiving such a great wound at Pearl Harbor.

The Battle of Guadalcanal (August 7, 1942-February 9, 1943)

In June of 1942, the Japanese chose the Solomon Islands’ Guadalcanal as a site for an air base. That August, U.S. Marines sprung a surprise attack on the Japanese.

Forces clashed on land and in the sea in an intense battle that lasted six months. The U.S. Marines, Infantry, and Navy fought to remove the Japanese from the island and prevent potential threats to Australia nearby.

At one point, the U.S. Navy planned to withdraw their forces when the Japanese Navy attacked them by surprise. With one Australian cruiser and three American cruisers sunk, the U.S. Navy decided they needed to leave quickly. The U.S. Marines were left alone to protect the island.

Month after month, Japanese forces attacked the marines to secure the island, but the marines fought with determination. In February, the Japanese finally withdrew from Guadalcanal.

This battle was a major turning point for the Allied Forces, particularly for the U.S. This fierce yet fruitful clash also brought with it a psychological turning point for the Allies. Japan’s advantage was diminished. The U.S. and her allies had switched from defense to offense, and were succeeding.

Operation Overlord, the Battle of Normandy (June 6Â -July 24, 1944)

On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), approximately 156,000 Allied Forces stormed five beaches along Normandy, France. In a gruesome battle, the American, British, and Canadian troops were able to secure the beaches in a week.

Paratroopers and glider troopers took over bridges and exit routes, so thousands more troops, vehicles, and tons of equipment could enter Normandy.

By August, over three million Allied troops were in France. The German Army had to retreat and pull needed reinforcements from the Eastern and Italian fronts. This brought weak points and delays in their defense. With Paris liberated from German control, the Allies soon pushed the Germans out of northwestern France.

Operation Overlord succeeded.

D-Day and the following weeks carried apprehension for both soldiers and citizens. Its acts of courage brought hope for the end of a prolonged and horrific war. Because of this great victory, the Allies could enter Germany from the west while Soviets entered from the east. And WWII would eventually come to an end.


Each of WWII’s many battles were important. Throughout its involvement, the United States saw heartbreak, terror, determination, and massive growth.

These three battles were noteworthy for the U.S. because they signify key traits America demonstrated-resilience, sacrifice, and immense courage. With these qualities and many human lives, WWII finally ceased.

Whether you or a loved one fought during WWII, or whether you’re too young to remember its events, it’s important to remember this war and honor those who fought so bravely.

Ted’s Talk March ’15

2015 will mark the hotel industry’s best year ever in terms of occupancy. We are in a seller’s market that is projected to last through 2020. A recent article in Successful Meetings by Tim Brown is one that hits the mark, telling how hotels are finding ways to expand profits through a host of added fees – beyond the main profit centers of Sleeping Room and Food & Beverage revenue. As Brown suggests, groups need to customize hotel contracts to keep rates and expenses in check. Military reunions are ‘special needs’ groups. Band together with AFR and your group’s special needs will be more than met.

In today’s seller’s market groups large and small need professional help to negotiate the best possible deal. It’s now easy for small groups that take advantage of the pre-negotiated BMR Hotel Contract, but negotiating with major hotel chains can be tricky for larger groups. Armed Forces Reunions’ network of reunion-friendly hotels will help groups navigate the next five years of expanding hotel rates and fees.

In February’s newsletter I discussed dealing with Room Attrition. Let’s take a look at Food & Beverage. Be conservative with expected numbers at meal functions, as F&B Minimums (the dollar amount your group must spend) are based on these numbers. Never calculate cash bar sales into the Minimum – only the meals. The F&B Minimum is based on the meal’s base cost, before service charge and tax are added. Put a lower than expected number in the Function Agenda – as long as the space a hotel reserves is adequate to handle your hoped-for numbers. If you plan for a head table and color guard aisle, guesstimate how many people a meeting room can handle by multiplying the total square footage by .06. Also, always get meeting room names listed in the contract’s Function Agenda, to ensure you have the space to meet your needs. Don’t assume that the function space a hotel assigns is adequate to meet your needs. Sales Managers may book meeting rooms according to a hotel’s Capacity Chart estimates – which do not take into account head tables, aisles, AV equipment, stages, or dance floors. My best advice is to get a professional on your side to make sure your needs are met.

Ted Dey, Founder

Call or email today for more information – or 800-562-7226

Meet LtGen Lawrence Snowden, USMC (Ret)

Lt. Gen. Lawrence F. Snowden USMC
Senior Ranking Survivor from Battle of Iwo Jima on 70th Anniversary
Immortalized in Joe Rosenthal’s photo of five U.S. Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman hoisting the American Flag on Mount Suribachi, the battle for Iwo Jima remains one of the most iconic and bloody fights of World War II. February 19, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the five-week struggle. Lt. Gen. Lawrence F. Snowden USMC (Ret.) was a 23-year-old Captain and commander of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. He was among the first waves of Marines going in and today is the most senior ranking survivor.
“The fighting was fierce and there was tremendous carnage on both sides, but it was for a very important strategic need,” said Snowden, 93, who lives in Tallahassee, FL. “Iwo provided the proximity for our new B-29 bombers to reach mainland Japan. It also became crucial for emergency landings of 2,400 of the planes. Of key importance was that it marked the first capture of Japanese homeland and the psychological impact on them was tremendous.”
Iwo Jima was the largest Marine amphibious operation of the war, and the costs of victory were extremely high. With nearly 27,000 Marine and 23,000 Japanese casualties, it was the only battle of the war where the Marines suffered more losses than the Japanese. The struggle was described as “being something out of Dante’s Inferno” in Hyper War: Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima by Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.).

In 1950 Snowden helped create the Marine Corps Development Center in Quantico, which charted operations and concept development for the future. He served as a Major and Battalion Executive in the Korean War, and in Vietnam he commanded the 7th Marine Regiment. “We did a lot of anti-Viet Cong missions, chasing guys who were farmers in the daytime and Viet Cong at night” Snowden said. “It was pretty horrific; we lost a lot of arms and legs because of their trip wires. Now we call them IEDs.”

Snowden received five Legion of Merit awards over his thirty-seven years of service, two for combat. He was Chief of Staff of U.S. Forces in Japan from the early to mid-1970s. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on 1 September 1975 when he assumed the billet as the Marine Corps Operational Deputy to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He received a second Distinguished Service Medal for his service as Chief of Staff and retired in 1979.

Snowden will play a big part in two upcoming events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Iwo Jima. He and other battle veterans, families, friends and dignitaries will gather for the anniversary of the Iwo Jima Association of America’s Reunion and Symposium in Washington D.C. from Feb. 18 – 22. On Feb. 19 there will be a memorial service and a wreath laying ceremony at the WWII Monument and the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. The reunion will feature a wide range of activities and speakers, including U.S. government officials and the Ambassador of Japan. Snowden will be a moderator for many of the symposiums. The reunion is being managed by Armed Forces Reunions, parent company of, which has managed many reunions for the association and other military organizations Snowden is a member of.

“Armed Forces Reunions does a very good job of organizing and administering the events; they have a lot experience,” Snowden said. “This will be a very important gathering, with media from around the world.”
The annual Reunion of Honor, a gathering of Iwo Jima veterans from the U.S. and their Japanese counterparts, will be held on Iwo Jima and Guam March 16-23. Founded by Snowden in 1995, the event draws hundreds of veterans, families, and officials from both countries. The idea for the reunion came to Snowden while visiting Japan during the Korean War and meeting former Japanese soldiers. It was the start of an attitude transformation for him and ultimately became a platform for a new understanding between the former enemies.

“I changed my mind in Korea about who our enemies were,” he said. Forty years after the battle, Snowden and other veterans of the struggle decided to visit the island. On the 50th anniversary in 1995 he and the group officially established The Reunion of Honor. “We didn’t and don’t go to Iwo Jima to celebrate victory, but for the solemn purpose to pay tribute to and honor those who lost their lives on both sides,” Snowden said. “It is a real alliance between the two countries. What I hope is that everyone understands that enemies can become friends, and that there is no more important bilateral relationship than between the U.S. and Japan.”

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