The beginning of the Pleiku Air Base Association and the reunions over the years. By Harry Beam
The start of the reunions occurred in 1988 when a group of transportation veterans from Pleiku met in Pennsylvania. A small gathering of four veterans: John Pike of Melrose, MA; John Reiley of Boston, MA; Bob Edwards of Franklin, PA; and hosted by Terry Csanadi of Coopersburg, PA. Memories from Pleiku were shared and promises were made to find others and hold another at Bob Edwards home in Franklin, PA. Thus the reunions were started in a small town in Pennsylvania.
The reunion in 1989 grew to a total of 11 veterans. The four veterans from last year, John Pike of Melrose, MA; John Reiley of Boston, MA; Bob Edwards of Franklin, PA; and Terry Csanadi of Coopersburg, PA; two from Kentucky, Steve Trosper and Mike Mattingly; two from Oklahoma, Bob Dougherty and Ray Chenier; from Ohio, Herb Richardson; from Wisconsin, Rich Barnhardt, and from California, Dennis Masa. The group gathered at Bob Edwards home in Franklin, PA for a picnic and a visit to the local War Memorial (South Park) to pay respect and say a few words for those who paid the price.
Kentuckian Steve Trosper held the next reunion in 1990. The place was Bowling Green, KY with about 40 middle aged veterans and some wives and girl friends showing up too. The reunion was held at a picnic shelter to share memories, food, and drinks.
In 1991 the reunion was held in Dayton, OH, the birthplace of aviation. Larry Goodman from Centerville, OH hosted the reunion in August and a large group of over 40 veterans with wives and girl friends gathered at the Marriott Hotel for a 4 day event touring the local area and having dinner at the Hotel and paying tribute to our comrades that did not return home.
The August 1992 reunion was the fifth to be held and the veterans gathered together in the Cape Cod, MA area and were hosted by John Reiley and John Pike. The reunion was held at the Fourth Cliff Family Recreation Center operated by the USAF out of Hanscom AFB about 30 miles south of Boston. Over the four day event we had a picnic, a dinner, and an old fashioned New England clam bake with live entertainment. A large turn out showed up for this reunion and fun was had by old and new friends. As usual the veterans paid tribute to those airmen that did not make it home with a laying of a wreath, taps, and a salute.
In 1993 the reunion was planned to be at Cape May, NJ but were switched to Philadelphia, PA. Pleiku Association members from Philadelphia such as Matt Cresta, Joe Motto, Jim Ulmer, and Bob Politz managed to make arrangements to have the reunion in the heart of the historical district there. Once again a large turnout to do sightseeing in Philly and Camden, NJ with a dinner and dancing on Saturday. As in the past we also had memorial services at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial near Penn Landing and we also had an A-10 fly by in honor of the fallen airmen who did not make it home. A wreath was laid and taps were played.
In 1994 plans fell through for the reunion that was to be held in Colorado Springs, CO. The reunion did not take place and the only thing that happened that year was the gathering of five Pleiku veterans; Harry Beam, John Pike, John Reiley, Steve Morasco, and John Wetzel went to Washington, DC on Veterans Day in November to visit the Wall. Many of the Association members were disappointed that a reunion was not held and a group of the members vowed to make sure that a reunion would be planned every year.
In 1995 Tom Rushnock made plans to have the reunion in Washington DC in August. Sightseeing, memorial service at the wall, and a dinner guest speaker from the National League of Families (MIA-POW Organization) gave a talk about the MIA issues. It was a very hot August that year but we had a good turnout.
Pleiku Association and long time supporter Charles Hazard from Nashville, TN area was the organizer for the 1996 year. A night out at the Grand Ole Opry, and a dinner at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge was held on a Saturday night in September. During those 4 days sightseeing and memories were shared. For the first time in many years, a group called the Starlighters of Pleiku AB got together and played some of those songs they did back in 1968. The group played at different fire bases and areas that USO performers could not go. James "Bull" Durham singer and guitar, Marshall Whitner on guitar, Ray Course, guitar, and Steve "Mad Dog" Trosper on drums.
In 1997 the reunion was held in Niagara Falls, NY in September over a 4 day event. Al Schreier and new wife Pat managed to make all of the arrangements for this years reunion. Sightseeing, a memorial service at a monument site near Buffalo, NY and a dinner at the hotel we all stayed at on Saturday night. We all enjoyed an encore performance by the Starlighters playing those old tunes one more time. Sadly one of the members passed away, Marshall Whitner, before the next reunion and is sorely missed.
Here it is again another year slipping by and the 1998 reunion was held in Las Vegas, NV. The hotel was off the strip at Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall. We all did a lot of sightseeing and going to some shows at the different hotels around Vegas. The Memorial Service was held at a cemetery near Boulder City, NV. The Southern Nevada Veteran's Memorial Cemetery and to have dinner at the local VFW Lodge #1753. The dinner was cooked by Quartermaster of the post, Larry Davidson and his wife. Tom Rushnock and Harry Beam with the assistance of his daughter Carrie Ann helped in pulling off this reunion from long distance. My daughter Carrie was living in Vegas and helped scout out locations for the events.
In 1999 Matt Cresta planned the Baltimore, MD reunion. The group stayed at a hotel just outside of Baltimore in Timonium, MD and we rode the MARC Train into the inner harbor area to tour shops, ships, and to do some dining at the many restaurants. Dinner was at the hotel and Al Mayberry set up the memorial service at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial for us and had the honor guard perform a tribute to our brothers that could not make it home. Additional excitement was provided by a hurricane passing through the area.
For 2000 we decided to make a return trip to Dayton, OH at the Air Force Museum in Fairborn, OH. We stayed at the Howard Johnson Express Inn on I-75 just north of Dayton and west of the museum. We all had a good time and it is a favorite place of mine and we got to see a few more aircraft that were not on display when the reunion was held in 1991. Bill Chambers and Pete Dunkel were a big help in setting up the hotel and being our local people to do some of the leg work and make contacts to set up the reunion.
In 2001 the reunion had a major challenge as we all will remember for the rest of our lives. The reunion was held in Pittsburgh, PA from September 12th thru 15th. When that terrible day in history 9-11-01 took place we all debated what to do about the reunion and we decided to let it take place the best we could and paid tribute to those that lost their lives on 9/11 and to our comrades that did not come home with us. We held the laying of the wreath at the Soldiers and Sailors Hall in the Oakland district of Pittsburgh, PA. The dinner was at the Green Tree Raddison Hotel just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. A good turn out was held despite the tragic day of 9/11. It was a good way to vent some of the feelings we all had about that day and we all will remember where we were when we first heard of what was taking place in our country.
For 2002 we held our reunion in Indianapolis, IN at the Clarion Waterfront Plaza Hotel in the Speedway section of town. The memorial service was held at the new Medal of Honor Memorial in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The dinner was at the hotel. Once again we had some storms in the area and a tornado came within 6 miles of where we were staying.
In 2003 the reunion was held in Winston-Salem, NC and a hurricane became a problem for some members to get to the reunion. Those that arrived were able to make the best of it. The Hawthorne Inn and Conference Center was where we stayed with the dinner at the hotel. The outdoor memorial service was held near by to pay tribute to our fellow brothers that did not return home with us.
For 2004 the reunion returned to Philadelphia, PA at the Holiday Inn International Airport in Essington, PA just south of inner city. The memorial service was held at the hotel due to hurricane Ivan that hit Pennsylvania Friday and Saturday. The final wreath services was held Sunday morning at 10:00 AM. This year we also paid tribute to Ben Barto of VA, Howard Pugh of PA, Jack Westfall or WV, and one of the original members Richard Barnhardt of WS. All passed away since the last reunion. The banquet was held at the hotel and a meal and memories was shared by those staying at the hotel and those that lived near by.
No Reunion was held in 2005.
The 2006 Reunion was held in Bowling Green, KY - a return visit from 16 years ago - when the 1990 Reunion was held there. The Ramada Inn was the headquarters.The Friday evening "cook out" under tents in the courtyard of the motel was outstanding. A great opportunity to visit, eat, and enjoy the outdoors in Bowling Green. Weather always seems to be present at our reunions, and this was no exception. Heavy thunderstorms during the evening, but under the tent things were fine. The tour of the Corvette plant was impressive. Thanks to advance planning by our folks, our tour guides were Vietnam Veterans. We learned a lot about assembly line production and watched completed Corvettes come off the line. Then a tour of the Corvette Museum. The Business Meeting was held Saturday morning and determined our Association leadership for the next two years, with Branson, MO beIng the site of Reunion 2007.
The Pleiku Air Base Association Reunion for 2007 at Branson, MO was one of the best turn outs we have had in a while. We had more than 30 rooms booked and about 60 members and guests for dinner on Saturday night. The Reunion was held at the Welk Resort that provided a great area for our hospitality room. Three rooms with refrigerator, microware, rest rooms, and plenty of seating for anyone that wanted to sit and chat. There were plenty of activities with the different types of shows around the town of Branson. The temperature was ideal for those that wanted to swim, and that was something for the third week in September.
The reunion for 2008 was handled by Tom Rushnock making reservations with the hotel and Air Force Memorial. Harry Beam handled the bus transportation and arrangements for the meal on the bus. Matt, Tom, Tim and Harry went to the Visitors center in Fredericksburg and the owner of Trolley Tours met with us at the hotel in June and made arrangements for the trolley to give us a tour of Fredericksburg, drop us off in town and take us back to hotel. At the same time we made arrangements for the flowers and wreath. I believe the prearrangement's done in advance came off in a timely manner and a successful reunion was accomplished once again. This had to be one of our top reunions we have made over the past 20 years. It is a team effort of Tom Rushnock lead reunion coordinator, Matt Cresta, Harry Beam transportation, Tim Meighen Hospitality Room coordinator and financial payments to vendors, and Larry Anduss, newsletter and notice of reunion coordinator.
Here it is 2009 and another reunion in Myrtle Beach, SC. This year's reunion was at the Landmark Resort on the Oceans edge. We just had to walk out the back door and the beach was there. The weather was great as it has been for the past 3 reunions. Matt Cresta and Tom Rushnock were lead personnel to handle events at this year's reunion. Harry Beam was in charge of reservations and display boards as well as advertising the event in magazines. Tim Meighen made sure we had refreshments in the hospitality room and paid the bills plus keeping track of Veterans addresses. Mike Tusoni did a great job as Chaplin this year. Even though Larry Anduss was not able to attend this year's event he was a key player for every successful reunion keeping up our web page and those newsletters we get in the mail. Next year's event should be special at Columbus/ Dayton, OH placing a plaque at the museum in Fairborn, OH near the birthplace of aviation.
The 2010 Pleiku Air Force Vietnam Veterans Association Reunion was held on 8 - 12 September in Columbus, Ohio A highlight of this reunion was a bus trip to Dayton, OH placing a plaque at the Wright- Patterson Air Force Base Museum in Fairborn, OH near the birthplace of aviation. They say it could not be done to top other reunions but this has to be up at top of the list. We had great attendance going over 80 Vets, Spouse's, and guest of Veterans. The lead host this year was Tim Meighen with the assistance of Tom Rushnock. Additional support was from the spouses of Veterans Tim Meighen, (Roberta) and Tom Rushnock (Barb).
The memorial service was held this year on Friday so that it could be included in the plaque dedication. The Air Force Museum conducts dedications only Monday thru Friday. We had a great day for this with the Color Guard and bugler from USAF W/P Air Base and the firing squad was from the local Vietnam Veterans Association Chapter. We also had a gentleman to release white doves in the area during the ceremonies. Matt Cresta made contact with the newly formed 633 Air Base Wing under joint command of Langley-Eustis. Langley A.F. Base is one of oldest military bases in U.S. Col. Donald Gene Kirkland, 633rd Commander and the Wing Senior Enlisted Advisor, CMSgt. Charles V. Anderson spoke at the Saturday night dinner. What a great show it was. We had a model of A-1 with the help of Arthur "Doc" Halliday a crew chief of the 6th ACS/SOS stationed at Pleiku. Harry Beam kept track of reunion reservations and did photo IDs that were taken back at Pleiku or in that time period. Thanks to the wives that participated. It was a special moment in time.
Here we are another reunion in the books. The 2011 Pleiku Air Base reunion was the 22nd and held at Newport News, VA. We chose this area because the 633 Air Base Wing is assigned at Langley Air Force Base VA under the joint base operations of Langley-Eustis. We had the Commander, Col. Kirkland talk with us at Columbus, OH and thought it would be a good idea to pay a visit to our Wing that was established at Pleiku and formed again at Anderson AFB from 1989 to 1994. The wing was re-established at Langley AFB in 2010. The memorial service was held on Friday at Langley AFB Memorial Park and we had the honor of having Col Auch and CM Sgt. Howell with Lt. Col. Scott Foley, Commander of Security forces and a few of his defenders in attendance as well as the base Honor Guard. The banquet was held Saturday with Col. Reggie Austin, Deputy Commander of Joint Base Langley-Eustis as our speaker. In attendance were CM Sgt. Howell and Lt. Col. Scott Foley and wife. We had over 70 people attending this year's reunion and were treated to a special demonstration by the Security forces from Langley of weapons; K-9 training, and the firing range. If you missed this year's reunion you missed a unique one of a kind.
2012 Pleiku Air Base reunion is over for another year and planning for the next one in 2013 has already started. Tim Meighen and Roberta led the way to set up the activities this year with the assistance of Tom Rushnock and Barb , and Larry Hough and Ethel. We had a bus tour Thursday with a few mishaps. But a much more successful dinner cruise on the Mississippi Friday. On Saturday at the banquet we had a different program from the past years. A comedy skit that included the Veterans and some of the spouses during our dinner was used instead of a speaker. We hope you enjoyed this and the committee will continue to do something that we have not done in past. For next year we are planning on a trip for the first time to Rapid City South Dakota. Everyone that attended reunion still was up for this trip and hope your participation will be as good. Tim and the committee started to work on next year's reunion. Thanks for coming, hope to see more in attendance next year.
The 2013 Reunion was a once in a life time event. 53 Members and Guests were in attendance for this reunion. Not sure if we will return to this area of the Black Hills again but there were plenty of sites to see. A few Vets went early and camped at Yellowstone National Park and Little Big Horn before coming to the reunion. A couple of us arrived early to take in the sites around the Black Hills area. The 2013 Reunion will go down in the record books as having a great experience and seeing a part of the country that many of us had not seen. Some of the Vets have been here before but many have not and all concluded that it was a good experience. We also discussed where we will be in 2014 and that is Charleston, SC and will be Aug 31 until Sept. 6 2014 not in Oct. as we thought from last year. Tim is working on this and hopes to lock in a contract by Feb. 2014. Watch our web site and check the newsletter for more information on the reunion for 2014. For 2015 our most popular site for the reunion was Branson MO.
2014 25th Pleiku Air Base Vietnam Veterans reunion is in the books and had a very good turn out. Estimated 75 members and guests attended this year. We almost had 85 or more, but due to illness or accidents a few had to cancel. This years reunion at the Town and Country Inn at Charleston, SC was great. It was a little hot for me but everyone had a great time. We had a bus tour on Thursday, the Memorial service at Charleston AFB and luncheon Friday with Dinner at the Hotel on Saturday. Thanks to Tim & Roberta, Larry & Ethel Hough, Tom and Barb Rushnock, Janet Yocum and Arlene Arledge and all the ladies for their help in setting up the hospitality room and any of the ladies attending and helping with a successful reunion. It means a great deal to all of us attending. Many thanks from the officers and members of the Pleiku AB Association.
The 2015 Pleiku Air Base Reunion was held in Lexington, KY at the Hilton Suites. Thanks for the efforts of J.D. Smith and his wife Vickie making it all possible. On Thursday September. 10th a bus tour was made of Keeneland Race Course, a drive through Donamire Farm (where scenes from a couple of movies were filmed) and a visit to Magdalena Farm where we got to meet the horses face to face.. Following the tour lunch was served at the hotel. On Friday September 11th the group held the Memorial service at the Kentucky Vietnam Veteran's Memorial at Frankfort. We had a nice day for it with blue sky which included a "fly over" of a flock of geese and outstanding support with the bugler, honor guard and firing squad. After the service we made our way to Buffalo Trace Distillery for a boxed lunch and a tour of the distillery. Friday evening we had a pizza party with Kentucky Derby pie and Vickie Smith made some of her bourbon balls which were a very big hit. The annual business meeting was held Saturday morning with the banquet on Saturday evening closing out the reunion.