Reunion Update From Bob Reynolds Crew-5
Greetings to my fellow shipmates, VO-67 families and friends of the VO-67 brotherhood. I have intended to bring you all up to date as best I can on the happenings at our Third Reunion and Memorial dedication held in Pensacola Florida this last May. This has taken a little longer to do since my business workload here at home seemed to double when I returned.
The Reunion was attended by several new VO-67 members attending their first Reunion. It was really great to see them again after 34 years. I told Roger Ringgenberg that I was going to kiss him on the forehead when I saw him but he beat me to it and I received a big wet one from him. Also nice to see George Hilkens after all the years. As usual a great time was had by all and many stories were shared about that time in our lives back then in Thailand, Laos and elsewhere in 67-68.
Barney Walsh and Rip Jacobs did an excellent job in setting up this Reunion. We had bus transportation to and from the VO-67 Memorial dedication and the Naval Air museum. If you ever get a chance to visit the Pensacola Air museum don't pass it up, it's great! Speaking about the museum, we are going to be placing a VO-67 Squadron patch into the many hundreds now on display. We are looking for an original, new, VO-67 patch (one piece). If you have an extra and would like to donate it please contact our Archivist, Corie Squires at 408-559-1036. We thought it was a shame not to have our patch on display at this historic museum.
The VO-67 Memorial is very nice indeed. It is set in a beautiful Airpark at Hurlbert Field, Florida. The dedication went pretty smooth until I forgot to introduce our guest speaker, Bill Ogle from the Navy's HAL-3 helo. Squadron. Thankfully Bill forgave me. Bill was a great speaker and reminded us that although we members of VO-67 do not always feel that we did anything special, that others, looking from the outside in see the accomplishments of our air and ground crews as remarkable and of the highest valor. Bill said that he thought they were the craziest people in the Vietnam War, that was until he studied our history. He said to pull a bunch of aircraft and personal together that fast and fly such successful missions is a great credit to our Navy history. He now says that we were crazier than they were. To fly that low and slow for over 2 minutes through the most heavily defended air space in the war is something they would not like to do. This from a guy that was a member of the most decorated Navy squadron of the war, HAL-3. A short Bell Tolling ceremony was performed by members of the Remembrance committee. Our new addition to the team, Mansour Salahu Din, assumed the Bell Captain position and rang our bell with pride and precision. Sue Anderson spoke for our KIA families.
The Memorial can be seen on the VO-67 website (http://www.vo-67.org). Dick Bonin did a great job on the Memorial. We were pleased to have many KIA family members in attendance to share this most memorable day in the history of VO-67. A wonderful lunch was served after Memorial dedication at the officers club. My only complaint was that we just did not have enough time to tour the historic WWII and Vietnam era aircraft on display. Our Memorial was placed between two FAC aircraft.
The Reunion banquet was held Saturday night and as always was jammed with good food, great stories, outstanding speakers and lots of hugging. Many "Certificates of Appreciation" were presented to our fellow shipmates whom have been a great asset to this squadron and VO-67 Association. A raffle was held before dinner, which included several donated hats, belt buckles and a 6-inch piece of PSP parking ramp from NKP. The ramp section came mounted on an oak board with a certificate of authenticity signed by the Deputy Governor of NKP. The raffle brought in $ 525.00 and was placed into our general fund. A Bell Tolling ceremony was completed and reading of names of VO-67 members who have passed on since the squadron was decommissioned in 1968. Now, let me take this opportunity to say few things about the Bell Tolling Ceremony. As a member of the Remembrance Committee please understand that this ceremony is something we are entrusted to do for our shipmates who paid the highest price for our country. When performed it is done with honor, not sadness, celebration, not mourning. We take pride in the fact that we knew these men of ours that were lost. They are not forgotten. By the same token these remembrances are not the center focus of our Reunion gatherings. Our Reunions consist of a lot of smiles, handshaking, hugging, brotherhood, and sharing of stories. We do a lot of catching up during a short time. To bad the secret nature of our mission cheated us out of many years to renew old and make new friendships. I personally have made new and lasting friends within our ranks. You know, these OFFICERS are not bad fellows. :-)
The squadron Archives have grown by leaps and bounds. Several unique items were placed into the displays this year. All items are VO-67 issue, no surplus items here. Some new items are VO-67 flight helmet, flight suit, flack vest and girdle, flight vests, gloves, unused parachute, survival knives, flares, maps, bush hat, uniforms, flight jacket ect. Written material, logbooks, histories, news articles, pictures and the list goes on and on. It is a great expense to get these items to each Reunion but this is the only time that they are on display. The expense doesn't matter in the end because these are your archives, your only chance to handle, read, examine and admire your VO-67 history.
On Sunday morning a squadron business meeting was held and election of new VO-67 Association Officers took place. Some changes were made in the By-laws of the Association. We added a Vice President and "Members at Large". Dues for Association membership were reduced to $10.00 per year and then placed on hold until a direction and productive purpose for the Association can be formalized. The dues can be once again assessed when the board deems it necessary.
The new board and committee chairman are as follows:
President: Bob Reynolds
Vice President: Hank Morris
Secretary: Earl Litz
Treasurer: Mike Walker
At Large: Mansour Salahu Din
At Large: Andy Zedebski
Chaplain: John Shilliday
Archivist: Corie Squires
Historian: Larry Gire
Electronic Communication: Ed Dewhirst
Roster Keeper: Doug Donohue
Webmaster: Dave Steffy
USS Milius Liaison: Jim Koci
Newsletter Editor: Dick and Earlene Bonin
Awards: Kerry Bignall
Awards Review Board Chairman: Lefty Nordhill
Remembrance: Ralph Womack
Shipmate Location: Alex Alexander
We have several Committees that will be filled in the near future including Reunion Chairman. The Reunion Chairman will not be appointed until you, the members of the squadron choose where and when you would like the Reunion to be held. We like to have the chairman as close to the Reunion place as possible. Dave Steffy will be taking a poll of members shortly to resolve this issue. Many members at the Reunion expressed a positive view of Las Vegas because of the direct flights and reasonable rates. San Diego was also very high on the list.
In closing I would like to say that many of you have asked that this VO-67 Association evolve into something more than a Reunion get together every two years. We showed that we could achieve great things on the battlefield in years past and bringing Crew-2 home and the placement of a VO-67 Monument in honor of ourselves and our KIA's in 2003 were monumental. Perhaps the Reunions can be the highlight of our on going projects. What we do does not need to be earth shattering. It can be simple in nature but positive. Several ideas are being tossed about. Scholarships for young persons of VO-67 families and Associates in the name of our KIA's. Support of children, seniors and handicapped persons in the NKP area via the TLC Brotherhood Association (http://www.tlc-brotherhood.org/ ), support of USS Milius personal and families in need, or the USO charities. Do you have a suggestion? Please e-mail your ideas to Bob Reynolds.
I will be writing to you soon regarding the Ceremonies held at Arlington for Crew-2. I wish to Thank all who wrote letters during the "Bring Crew-2 Home " campaign. The Crew-2 burial was of the highest honor and consisted of horse drawn wagon, caisson, honor guard and full Navy band.
Please call me anytime with your concerns, or questions.
Bob Reynolds Crew-5
VO-67 Association President