This past September, 60 B Company men gathered in Norfolk, Virginia to be a part of a wonderful reunion. Many of the wives were present as well as some of our children and grandchildren. With sixteen 1st timers attending there were many special moments; lots of laughter, a few tears and memories shared while being reminded that the bonds formed so many years ago are stronger than ever. This year's newcomers included Pete Bucher, Carmen Deluccia, Joseph Douberly, Burnice Durant, Michael Friel, Ronald Gerhart, Larry Gilliland, Maximino Gonzalez, Vincent Gramuglia, Howard Lynch, Guy Madsen, Jacob Mau, Ron McWatters, Larry Newhouse, Robert Pederson and Charles, Rinchetti.
Each reunion has it's own unexpected special moments and this year was no exception. Friday morning, as most everyone was gathered in the Hospitality Room reminiscing and looking at albums, approximately 50 members of the hotel's staff entered the Hospitality Room waving American Flags and singing the Star Spangled Banner while parading round the room. It was a most unexpected and heartwarming moment appreciated by all. It was the Norfolk Doubletree's tribute and Welcome Home parade.
The Friday night banquet was opened by Fred Purvis who was our MC this year in Fred Golladay's absence. After the Pledge of Allegiance a blessing over our meal was given by Crystal Lake. After our buffet, Al Lake read the names of the "Original 13" men who were at the 1st reunion in Branson, Missouri in 2005. Special recognition was given to Rocky Lanham and Steven Enfante who have been at all ten reunions.
Tyler Patterson, son of Jerry and Sharon Patterson, was presented with honorary B Company dog tags as he has attended six of the ten reunions. The group recognized how important it is for the next generation to hear the stories that Vietnam Veterans have to tell. The Friday night auction offered four items including a Commemorative Silver Coin donated by Garry Root, Jr., an Army scrapbooking kit donated by Larry & Wanda Newhouse, a beautiful crocheted afghan made by Debbie Whitmire and a one of a kind quilt made by Angie Purvis. All items brought in a total $1160.
On Friday morning the "Ladies Get Together" which is always a very special gathering as we welcome all the new wives and have a chance to catch up and share our thoughts with each other.
Saturday morning took us to the smooth waters of the Elisabeth River and saw and learned about Nuclear Subs, Guided Missile Cruisers and so many more of the other ships that form the World's most powerful Armada. The weather was great and the cruise was enjoyed by 97 member of our group.
The Saturday night banquet began with a prayer offerd by Galen Vercher. Following our dinner, our guest speaker was Dennis Otte, who served with B Company in Vietnam from July 1966-July 1967 in the 2nd Platoon.
The following is part of what Dennis had to share:
" I have been asked to speak about the Boat People. The offical name of the ship was the USS Nelson M Walker. Officers trained together and stayed together. We were one of the first to train on the newly government issued M-16 Rifle. The next time we used our weapons was on targets thrown into the water while onboard ship. We were allowed to go home for a while after completing our training. A national airline strike made our return to Ft. Lews, WA difficult. We actually commandeered an entire train from Omaha, NE in order to make it back in time. But we did make it back. The ship was loaded with our equipment, weapons and then nearly 5000 men and officers. It was a beautiful day in mid-July when the 4th Division shipped out from Tacoma, WA. Max Gonazlez said "this looks like it will be a nice cruise". How wrong he was? The ocean is certainly the biggest body of water this Nebraska boy had ever seen. Some days the waves were huge. Men started getting sick. Turns out we were in a typhoon. Our ship finally arrived at Qui Nohm, Vietnam 2-3 weeks later. The ship was anchored for 2 days before offloading. Then we disembarked by going over the side climbing on rope ladders onto LSTs while carrying all our gear down those ladders. The LSTs did not take us all the way to shore. We all walked through water chest deep with all our gear. Orientation was given once ashore at Qui Nohn. We went to Pleiku by C-103s. Then trucked to Base Camp at Dragon Mountain to set up a perimeter and dig in..Then the monssons started. I remember it rained so much the rain drops would stack up on the red mud. Pete Bucher said "we are gong todrown in the fox hole". Thank you and God Bless the USA and Company B Brothers. Nine of the men who served with Dennis were with him at the reunion.
Command Sgt. Major Chris McMillian, son of Lindall and Donna McMillian was attending his first reunion and presented B Company with a gift of a 1/22nd guidon. Speaking of how honored he was to be at the reunion, he wanted to present Company with a gift that would follow them to each future reunion.
In the absence of Pat Villarreal (due to illness) who was the 2014 keeper of the Last Man Standing Bottle, Garry Root presented it to the group asking for another B Company Brother to be the keeper of the Bottle until the 2015 Reunion. Rocky Lanham volunteered to keep the bottle.
A moment of silence was observed in memory of the B Company men who have passed away. Captain Leslie Hardy called the men into formation. Following a prayer by Robert Lee Johnson, the Company was called to attention and to present arms for the playing of TAPS.
Most of those at the reunion would agree that the "Tenth Anniversary Reunion Tribute"video was the highlight of the reunion. It was another one of those unexpected moments that makes each reunion special. The video, created by Garry Root Jr., the son of Garry Root, was without a doubt thought provoking and left everyone in awe by the end of the 20 minute production. Everyone was given a copy to take home to share with friends and family.