2006 Reunion Report - From our Chapter President, Gerry Regan :
For the fourth consecutive year, the 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Chapter of the 1st Marine Division Association enjoyed by far and away the largest turnout of any Chapter at the Division's annual reunion. Our annual reunion attendance continues to grow, because we are about fun and friendship. We had a lot of new faces show up this year, including Dave McInturff and a bunch of guys from Delta 1/5 who served in '67, and it reminded me that the more 1/5ers show up each year, the more likely it is that guys will meet their closest buddies from the Nam.
Denver and the Rocky Mountains were a great locale for our 2006 gathering. Most of our reunion attendees took advantage of the bus tours that were offered. Coors Brewery and the Air Force Academy were very popular. Many of the wives enjoyed downtown Denver 's mile-long shopping district. Nearly 100 folks attended our 1/5 annual dinner and we packed the place with chatter and laughter! On Saturday, we held our annual 1/5 annual memorial service at the Colorado Marine Memorial in Golden, CO. Despite the threatening weather with thunder storms in the surrounding mountains, we were able to conduct a fitting service to our fallen. Lt. Colonel Joe Griffis , USMC (Retired) spoke on behalf of 1/5's battalion commanders. I would like to personally thank Jim Webb – decorated Delta 1/5 company commander, famed author, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Virginia – for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak on behalf of 1/5 field commanders. At the end of the service, we released 21 doves in memory of the fine Marines and navy corpsmen we were privileged to know. Those of us who were involved in organizing our reunion worked hard to make our gathering enjoyable and memorable. The Chapter also went to significant expense to secure a hospitality suite so we always had a place to meet. I would like to recognize all those who helped out during the Denver reunion, and thank them for their time and effort. You all know who you are. We had a lot going on and I believe your efforts made our reunion a success. From me, a heartfelt “Thanks.”
From August 29 to September 2, 2007 , we will meet again, this time in Philadelphia , the city of “Rocky.” Not only is Philadelphia and the suburbs rich with historical, cultural and, for those interested, shopping sites but it is only a few hours travel to New York City, Washington, D.C., the battlefield at Gettysburg, the quaint Pennsylvania Dutch countryside in Lancaster, Baltimore's Inner Harbor or the seashore and casinos in New Jersey. The Lancaster-Reading area is renowned for antiques and factory outlets. New Jersey doesn't require a license to go deep sea fishing. Our annual reunion in Philly will be a great place to plan next year's vacation.
Between now and our 2007 reunion, there are two other events that you might want to know about. During the week of 29 January and 2 February, 2007 , a bunch of 1/5ers will be visiting Camp Pendleton for the 1 st Marine Division Anniversary. Those who attended previous anniversaries report that they had a great time mingling with today's young Marines. Events include a golf tournament, various tours (29 Palms, MCRD San Diego), a great parade and ceremony re-dedicating the Division's colors, a banquet and an entire afternoon blowing caps out on a firing range.
Later on (usually in early spring), all veterans of the Battle for Hue City are invited to the Mayport Naval Station, next to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, to attend the annual remembrance of that bloody battle during the Tet Offensive of 1968. The Captain and crew of the guided-missile cruiser, USS Hue City – CG-66, are excellent hosts. Events include tours of the ship, a golf tournament, a reception, a picnic with all the fixin's, a brunch for wives and widows, and a Memorial Service at the ship. At the 2007 Hue City memorial, the chapter plans to present a plaque with an Honor Roll containing the names of the Marines and sailors who were killed during the battle. The plaque will be placed on the ship so that all sailors on the USS Hue City will know for whom they sail. We will have more information regarding these upcoming events in future 1/5 newsletters. All 1/5 Hue City vets who want to attend this great event should contact Chaplain Jon Rozema, USS Hue City (CG 66) at 904-270-6500 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know that you are a 1/5 Hue City veteran who would like to attend. The chaplain will send you an invitation needed to get onto the naval base and a schedule of events once the dates are finalized. Since the USS Hue City is currently at sea, and their training schedule for next year is still undetermined, this event is not yet scheduled!
Now let me get down to business. During our Denver reunion, we conducted our annual 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Unit Chapter membership meeting. The following major issues were discussed:
Lifetime Chapter Membership; it was agreed to offer a lifetime chapter membership to all chapter members in good standing, starting in 2007. Lifetime Chapter Membership dues have been set at $250.00. The Chapter will organize a special mailing, which will include both a fund-raiser catalog and a Membership dues appeal (both Life and Annual). This will be mailed out to all those on our mailing list in January, 2007.
Care Package Program; it was nearly unanimous to also continue to send “care packages” to the 1/5 active duty marines while they are deployed in a combat zone. We all know how valuable those simple things are to young Marines putting their lives on the line far from home. We also voted to extend our care package program to the 5 th Marines CP Group (RCT-5) who are currently deployed in Iraq, and the crew of the USS Hue City, who are currently also deployed.
Reunion Support; over the past several years, several terrific volunteers who have helped out with various chores have made a difference in our reunion experience. Our chapter strives to make arrangements for a hospitality suite, a nice dinner, a memorable memorial service, and other events and facilities that serve to enhance our reunion attendees' experience. The challenge is that same reunion experience for those few volunteers suffers somewhat. We need more volunteers, people willing to take the responsibility to handle the hospitality suite, to sell fund raiser items, to organize the dinner or other events. It just seems like the same people help out every year, and we don't have a lot of volunteers to help out. I'd like to see more help next year. If we could have twice as many volunteers, each one would have to do about half the work, making each person's reunion experience even better. Stay tuned….
A lot of years have passed since Vietnam , a lot of miles have been traveled since then. Some guys can't remember many of the names of the Marines they served with and I have seen guys sitting around a table at a reunion talking, and suddenly realize that one of their best friends is sitting across the table from them. Between now and Philly, I am planning to put together a “Yearbook” with company rosters, unit diaries and command chronologies. This is no easy task but I believe it is do-able. The eventual goal is to have a yearbook for each 1/5 company for each year, with a request that guys submit pictures of themselves back in the Nam and in present day with a brief narrative of their lives after the Nam. The yearbook will aid guys in filling in the blanks about their time in the Nam and will serve as a legacy of service to our country for our families. As an additional effort to help guys meet up with old buddies, I am planning to make our 1/5 mailing list available so that guys can contact their old buddies and coordinate a meeting at our annual reunion. I should stress that we shall take every precaution to prevent the release of this information for commercial use or misuse. We will only release information that is publicly available. For example, as one precaution, some information includes confirmation of social security numbers with Headquarters, Marine Corps. While this might assist guys in locating their buddies, we will exclude this information.
On a personal note, I'd like to say that Vietnam and its aftermath was a difficult time for me. I thought I would be the very last person who would ever attend a reunion, let alone be active and committed to helping guys get together. When I saw at my first reunion in 1998 how spectacular a time guys were having, I was convinced that this was the right thing to do. Many have shared with me their initial hesitation about going to a reunion. I knew what they meant because I had been there. While it costs me considerable time and some money to do what I do, I see the value in the light in a guy's eyes and the spark in their voice when we're together. Fortunately, my wife, JoAnn, sees it too. To help “break the ice” for wives who are joining their husbands at their first reunion, she is going to organize an informal “1/5 wives breakfast“ so they can meet and enjoy the family atmosphere that we are all about.
We hope to see even more 1/5 Vietnam Veterans , their wives and families, at next year's reunion in Philly!