Reunion Articles and Stories
Last Updated January 05, 2007
By Walt Ranallo
The Brevard Veterans Council held their General Membership Meeting and Christmas Lunch on December 13th. After the Presentation of Colors, Invocation and Pledge, there was a brief meeting which was over by 10:30 AM. After that we were entertained by the Golden Tones from the Palm Bay Senior Center until 11:30. Members of the DDMBC in attendance were Maury & Emma Meisner, JJ & Martha De Martini, Ben & Kippy Densley, Hutch & Carol Hutchison, Walt & Kim Ranallo, Dave & Diane Brand, Judy Porter, Marius Burke, Steve Stevens, Nick Beninate, Ron Dixon and Dick Amos and his wife. Lunch was served around 11:30 and lasted until around 1 PM. It was an excellent fare with turkey, ham and all the trimmings. Everyone went home full and happy.
After the luncheon, I stuck around and talked to Maury about dressing a mannequin with the AA Uniform we received from Wayne Wright. We unpacked the uniform to see what we had. It turns out there were pants and shirt (excellent condition), one first officer shoulder board, a survival vest, combat boots and a flight bag. Hopefully, we will be able to find a second F.O. shoulder board or, even better, Captain Shoulder Boards. We also received a vest with survival gear attached from Hutch. Marius previously donated a hat which we can use once we get the mannequin dressed. Now if we could just get the AA Wings for above the shirt pocket, a jacket and the shoulder boards, I believe we can complete the uniform. I believe we can get by without the jacket and just use a survival vest. If we can’t find the AA Wings for over the breast pocket, guess we could make up a name plate with Wayne’s name.
We had breakfast at the Island Bar BQ again on December 16th and had 15 attendees; Maury & Emma, Judy, Ron, Hutch & Carol, Herm, Dick Elder, Steve, Nick, Larry Fraser, Tom Jenny, Emmet Sullivan, Bruce Burke and me. Tom hadn’t been to breakfast for several weeks and it was good to see him. He sat at our table and we had a lively “no one wins chat” about the Bowl Championship Game between Florida and Ohio State. The consensus was that OSU would win in a blowout. I offered to take Florida and the point spread, which I believe is 7 points, but couldn’t find a taker. It was also good to see Nick and to know that he is enjoying his association with our group. Nick is a very active member of the Board at the Veteran’s Center. Marius didn’t make this breakfast as he was in Quantico, Virginia attending his Godson’s graduation from Officer Candidate School. However, Vinetra stopped by briefly to say hello and talk to Judy.
Thought I’d mention that Bob McCormick has returned to Merritt Island from the cold & windy north. As many of you know, Bob is a computer guru and many of us here were able to keep our computers in repair and running because of him. Bob is available to repair computers again for those of you who may have a need. So if any of you need someone, who knows what he’s doing, to upgrade, repair or add security to your system for a fair price, suggest you call Bob at (321)745-2101.
On December 23rd, eleven of us shared breakfast at the Island Bar BQ; Dick, Don Clair, Marius, Ron, Judy, Steve, Herm, Bill & Patty Sherman, my son Brian and me. Bill and Patty were visiting from their new home in North Carolina and were staying at the La Quinta Inn, Cocoa Beach. Patty is the Treasurer for the AAA and has done a superb job over the past few years; she also is one of the biggest helpers at our annual reunions. It was really nice to have her join us for the holidays. Brian came home for Christmas and will return to Tallahassee on Tuesday. I hadn’t seen Don Clair for several weeks and for all the wear and tear he’s gone through, he looked pretty good and seemed to be enjoying the company.
Since this is the Saturday before Christmas, I had planned to issue the letter now so we could wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and advise that our next breakfast on December 30th will be at Kay’s Bar BQ in Cocoa. However, instead of attaching this letter to the e-mail I sent out, I attached the previous letter that was prepared for November. It appears nobody noticed (or perhaps no one bothers to read these letters anymore) and consequently I wasn’t advised so I could correct my error. Anyway, we did have our breakfast at Kay’s Bar BQ in Cocoa on the 30th, so I’m revising this letter to include it. We had a total of 13 people show up which is pretty good considering. Bob McCormack, Marius, Steve, Herm, Dick, Ron, Don, Hutch, Judy and I sat at a table in the back room and Michie Stevens and her friends, Ann & Gerry Worley sat at a table in the main dining section. Since this is definitely the last letter of the year, I wish you all a very Happy New Year.
Walt & Kim
November & December 2006
By Walt Ranallo
Operation Stand Up got off to a good start. The Brevard Veterans Center (BVC) Booth was up and running by early Saturday morning and opening ceremonies began at 10 AM. Although the crowd wasn’t real large, there was a steady flow of people throughout Saturday and Sunday. We had set up a tent to sell bricks for the "Memorial Garden" we are planning to construct at the BVC and also to promote new memberships. Mary Bevan arrived with her daughter after we got the tent set up. Phil Franklin, a friend from my working days with United Space Alliance, Steve Stevens and Emma Meisner helped set up the tent and afterwards Phil and Mary stayed to help man our booth. Others who helped man the booth were Dave Brand (my neighbor), Larry Fraser, Ben Densley and Herm Jackson during the weekend. Since Mary's the Commandant for the Marine Corps League, we hung the MC League banner and handed out MC League applications to those interested. Maury Meisner relieved me on Saturday afternoon and brought his son to work the booth Sunday. Maury's son left around noon and later Emma joined us. Around 4 PM Sunday, Maury, Herm, Larry and I took the tent down and closed shop.
I wasn’t able to attend the breakfast meetings on November 11th, 18th and 25th, but Maury sent a summary of attendees for the 25th breakfast, which included Ron Dixon, Herm, Emmett Sullivan, Don Clair, Marius Burke (with 2 guests), Judy Porter, Emma & Maury, Larry, Steve and his guests John (J. J.) & Martha De Martini. As far as I know, this was the first time J.J. and Martha had attended our breakfast. J.J. also came to the December 9th breakfast, and I learned then that he had flown both fixed wing and choppers for AAM back in the late 60’s.
Due to a Christmas parade in Merritt Island on December 2nd, it was finally decided to have breakfast in Cocoa at Kay’s Bar BQ. I was reluctant to go there as had been unsuccessful in the past in reserving the back room for our large crowd. But the majority decided to take a chance on Kay’s, and as it turned out, we (all 16 of us) were seated in the back room without having a reservation. Attendees were Gary Clark, Ron, Herm, Emmett, Maury & Emma, Hutch, Marius, Bruce Burke, Dickie Elder, Judy, Ben & Kippy , Nick Beninate and me. This was first I’d seen Gary Clark for quite some time. This was Nick’s first breakfast with our group. Nick is a veteran of 3 wars starting with WWII. He really enjoyed himself and, in fact, joined us again on December 9th. The food at Kay’s wasn’t too bad, but I had a problem with their grits, which in my opinion were too watery and tasteless. Although nobody agreed with me, I won’t be ordering grits next time we eat there. But I would like to go back again since the layout is very good allowing everyone to sit at one table.
We returned to the Island Bar BQ for the December 9th breakfast and again had a large number of attendees; Maury, Judy, Ron, Marius, Hutch, Herm, Dicky, J.J., Ben, Steve & Michie, Nick, Bob McCormick, Smokey Searcy, Bob “Rocket Rat” Cooper, Larry and me. Bob had recently returned to Merritt Island from the Chicago area and is just getting settled in to his new apartment. Smokey had worked with Steve in Guatemala and “Rocket Rat” was another friend of Steve who had worked at KSC.
Larry Fraser took a few pictures and attached are pictures of the two tables of attendees at the December 9th breakfast fused together. Pretty cool. Their names are in the above paragraph. That’s all folks.
By Walt Ranallo
I attended the Operation Stand Up meeting held in the Brevard Veterans Center on Monday, October 2nd. There was a very good turnout and several new organizations were there to offer their support for the Operation Stand Up event to be held November 4 & 5 at Wickam Park. A proposed agenda for the event was passed out and participants were requested to review and suggest changes before it is finalized. On Thursday, October 5th, I attended the Marine Corps League meeting and they approved a donation of $100 for Operation Stand Up. The Operation Stand Up poster and two solicitation documents were approved and are now being distributed. A second meeting was held October 17th and support for the event continues to increase. A final meeting will be held at 7PM on Tuesday October 31st at the Veteran’s Memorial Center on Merritt Island. Anyone interested in supporting this noble cause is welcome to attend.
The DDMBC breakfast of October 7th was attended by 13 people; Emmet & Kathy Sullivan, Steve Stevens, Larry Fraser, Dickie Elder, Maury & Emma Meisner, Ben Densley, Bill Hutchison, Herm Jackson, Ron Dixon and his friend, Bill Hosch, and of course me. Kathy has taken a new job with the Space Coast Marine Institute (Sponsored by United Way) located in Eau Gallie. So she doesn’t have the long drive she had for her previous position. Larry and Maury got together about the Armed Forces Memorial Golf Classic being sponsored by the Veterans Memorial Center. Hopefully Larry can put together a group to represent the DDMBC & the Air America® Association.
I wasn’t able to attend the DDMBC breakfast meetings on October 14th or 21st, but understand there were good turnouts at both affairs. During this period, I had my brother Joe over from Inverness. Joe has suffered from a stroke, cancer and the loss of his wife of 50+ years, all within the last 3 months. So you can imagine he’s not in best of health. He did enjoy his visit though. I took him back to Inverness October 20th, and Kim and I proceeded on to Tallahassee on the 21st to see our new grandchild and watch the “Noles” get their ass handed to them. Not a good year for FSU football.
We had a very good breakfast meeting the 28th, with seventeen attending; Dickie, Herm, Hutch, Steve, Don Clair, Judy Porter, Ron, Marius & Bruce Burke, Ben & Kippy Densley, Emmet, Maury & Emma Meisner, Larry Fraser, Charlie Harvey and yours truly (me). Since it is so close to the end of the month, I’ve decided to stop here and get this out now, so I can remind everyone that Operation Stand Up will be held next Saturday and Sunday (November 4 &5) at Wickam Park. Come on down and support your homecoming troops. Cheers.
Return to SEA Reunion Update
by Les Strouse and Mac Thompson
Another "Return to SEA" reunion has come and gone, 21-24 Sept 2006. I think that all attendees will agree that it was a great success. A bit of a scare when we became aware of a coup in progress on Tuesday evening and the normal sound of airplanes at Don Muang airport was missing on Wednesday morning! No, the airport was not closed it was just that the low overcast and heavy humidity muffled the normal sounds that we were used to hearing. WHEW!!
The registration was opened a bit prematurely on Thursday but was soon organized by our capable Thai colleagues and the anxious early arrivals started to file into the hospitality suite which was still getting the beer chilled. By noon everything was moving smoothly and there were many…."when was the last time we saw one another" plus the, "hey didn't I see you at the last xxxxx reunion….. The normal early morning Bloody Marys (mix concocted by Lek Dreith.) were in evidence as soon as the bar opened a bit before noon. Two reunion-experienced bar tenders, Sunee Thompson and Bob Vaughn, helped get things started off. Some new "trainee" barkeeps assisted greatly, Tamara Britton from the UK, Khun Saritporn's grandson, Khun Pop, Phil & Lek Dreith's daughter, Kat.
Air America® was the most prominent group in attendance. Fred Platt made sure that China Post 1 had their banners prominently displayed. TLCB was well represented and had their banner displayed as well. John Sweet, the TLCB Assistance chairman, was doing his best to get some donations to the Assistance fund. The Coast Guard may have been the only military organization that did NOT have representation in the 150+ reunion attendees. Other organizations represented included: SKY, State, IVS, USAID, Embassy, Army, USAF, Marines, Navy (was there actually a Squid there?), Thai SGU, CASI, SKY FAG, ACA, TLCB, Ravens, AmLeg CP1, a couple of Hmong from the U.S., Les' former AirAm secretary from Saigon, and several SEA associated civilian folks who we know. We were also honored to have many of our Thai friends join both the reunion party room and the banquet.
The banquet on Saturday night attracted somewhat over 250 folks. The center piece was an ice sculpture of an airplane placed prominently on the stage. There was no featured speaker. MG Larry Taylor, USMC Retired, gave a briefing on the medical condition of former ambassador to Laos, William Sullivan. Thai Major General Chaleurn (ret., and former SGU LT in Laos) gave a short talk, BG Heinie Aderholt, Air Commando One, attracted many guests to his table and we were truly honored to have him here with us.
The buffet went over well and there were a lot of mini-reunions taking place throughout the banquet room. Some of the Thai VIPs who were scheduled to attend were noticeably absent due to the political situation but that did not put a damper on the festivities. Entertainment was furnished by a professional singer as well as some attendee amateurs doing the karaoke thing (made Sunee's day!). There were even some couples taking advantage of the dance floor in front of the stage. As the evening progressed most moved back to the hospitality suite and carried on until sometime after midnight. Prince Yugala, a real Thai Prince and former Air America® pilot, was one of the last to leave emulating his performance at the 2002 reunion. Les Strouse had the honor, for the second time, to tell him that the bar was closed and he would have to leave.
One of our wheelchair attendees tried to outdo the escalator slide of the 2002 reunion by doing a wheelie with his chair. A bit of negative CG put the chair and occupant on their backs....right there at the table! Son of a gun never even spilled his drink!
Sunday morning was more Bloody Marys and the good byes started. People continued to arrive even as things were closing down in anticipation of the noon official shut down of the reunion. It appeared that the last to leave had also been the first to arrive. All good things must come to an end and this was no exception.
No one knows when or if another Return to SEA reunion will occur but the internet will surely let you know if another is planned.
The Assembly of Expatriates South East Asia (AESEA) thanks all of those who attended for their support and we do hope to see all of you again soon.
August & September 2006
By Walt Ranallo
It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for the Log and haven’t attended many break-fast gatherings since my last letter covering June and July. My computer went KAPOOT a month or so ago and just now getting it up and going again. I had planned to buy a new computer, but ended up purchasing a CPR built by Emmett Sullivan. Although I have a lot more computer now than I previously had, it took me quite awhile to get things working right. But I now have a computer that can be upgraded without too much problem and hope this will be my last desktop (at least for the foreseeable future). Thanks to my good neighbor and Bob McCormick, I’ve got everything loaded I need to keep it running smoothly.
On August 12th most of our breakfast club members went to a luncheon at the IRCC (Indian River Colony Club), where the Legendary Billy Waugh was the Guest of Honor and Guest Speaker. This luncheon was hosted by the AFIO (Association of Former Intelligence Officers). Billy summarized his 50 + years career with the Special Forces and as contracted employee by the CIA. His talk followed pretty much his book, “Hunting the Jackal” and was very interesting. Billy is in his mid 70’s and is still involved with the military in a training capacity at Mc Dill AFB, Florida. Air America® & DDMBC members at this function were Marius & Vinetra Burke, Herm Jackson, Judy Porter, Steve & Michie Stevens, Walt & Kim Ranallo, Ben & Kippy Densley, Bill l& Carol Hutchison, Maury & Emma Meisner, Don Clair and Herm’s friend, Bill Dillard (USAF Col Retired). Tom Jenny was supposed to be there, but couldn’t make it.
The breakfast meetings on August 19 and August 26 both had good turnouts and the following attended either one or both of them; Emmett & Kathy Sullivan, Judy, Marius, Hutch, Ben, Dick Elder, Larry Fraser, Herm, Steve, Don, Maury, Charlie Harvey and Walt. I don’t recall what we talked about at these meetings, but sure that lots of lies were told.
For the next few weeks, Kim and I used the weekends to visit my brother in Inverness on our way up to Tallahassee to visit with my son, the Morrison’s and our granddaughter, Marley, and to watch the “Noles”. My first breakfast after that was September 30th and we had a turnout of 9, which is pretty good considering many of our members were in Bangkok for another reunion. Attendees included Herm, Emmett, Maury, Hutch, Charley, Larry, Tom Jenny (drove down from Deland) and Ron Dixon (drove up from Palm Bay). Hadn’t seen Ron or Tom for a couple months although they had been to breakfast the week before. Many subjects were covered during the main breakfast meeting, but afterwards, Larry, Charlie, Ron, Maury and I sat around and solved all the political problems our country is having. We finally settled on letting the Illegals stay in country long enough to build a fence from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific, pay them the minimum wage and afterwards, return them to Mexico where they would have enough money to buy home and live happily ever after. This would probably satisfy both the Liberals and Conservatives and even a few of us in between guys who can’t make a firm decision.
Well, that’s about all I have for this letter, so take care and enjoy.
June & July 2006
by Walt Ranallo
As most of you know, I had back surgery on May 31, so was unable to make breakfast on Saturday, June 3rd. In fact, not sure anyone even showed up since most of the breakfast group members were in Arlington, Virginia for the Air America® Association reunion. But we did have a breakfast gathering on Saturday, June 10th and had a very good turnout. Mike Seale was missed however, since he had returned to Idaho on Thursday when Herm refused to extend his stay. At the main breakfast table we had Mike Kandt, who will be returning to Las Vegas on June 12th, Bill Hutchison, Ben Densley, Marius Burke, Maury & Emma Meisner and Herm Jackson. Since I was late, I sat with the late comer’s booth that included Steve Stevens, Judy Porter (because she preferred our company) and Robert D. “BOB” Jones. Bob was a Communications Type with the agency who was stationed in Udorn from 1971-1974. After that he was stationed at TakLei. He presently lives in Indiatlantic which is about 25 miles or so south of here on A1A. Although it’s quite a drive for breakfast, we hope that Bob will be able to join us whenever he can. The main table was pretty secretive about what they discussed and we didn’t hear from them until Marius came over to collect for breakfast. After breakfast, Mike and I took a ride to Melbourne and returned via the beach route along A1A; we also drove through Port Canaveral, since several cruise ships were in port.
On Saturday evening, several of us went to diner. After dinner, we all sat around and talked about the general member meeting that was held at the AAA Reunion. Since I had missed the reunion, it brought me up to date on Association’s business and especially the controversy regarding the AA Wing’s Trademark. Hopefully that matter has been resolved and we can get the Association back on the proper reason for being, which in my opinion is to maintain the friendships that were developed among employees and the Esprit de Corp that was Air America®.
Mike Kandt stayed through Sunday and spent most of that day at Judy’s to complete turnover of documents and other information regarding the General Secretary functions for the AAA. That night, Kim cooked a delicious steak dinner and afterwards, we sat around and talked about old times in Saigon. Mike was a witness for Kim and I when we were married. He and his late wife Phanh lived in the same apartment complex in Saigon when our daughter Christina was born, and in fact, they had driven us to the 3rd Field Hospital when Kim went into labor. So you see, we go back a long way. On Monday, Mike took Judy Porter and me to lunch. Afterwards, Judy drove Mike to the Orlando airport for his return to Henderson, NV.
On June 17th there were 10 folks at breakfast; Herm, Marius, Hutch, Steve, Maury, Ben, Judy, Don Clair and sister, Kathleen, and me. Steve had brought some picture albums of previous reunions. Maury and I talked about the Brevard Veteran Center’s recent election of Directors and Officers at the General Member Meeting on Wednesday, June 11th. Marius and Herm attended that meeting and reminded me (and Maury confirmed) that if they hadn’t voted for me, I wouldn’t have been elected to the Executive Board. I’m pretty sure I got a few other votes though, since quite a few folks showed up to vote.
I missed the June 24th and July 1st breakfast gatherings, since Kim and I were in Tallahassee for the birth of Marley Ann Morrison, our first grandchild. Marley was born the 25th of June, which is the day after my birthday, so looks like our family will be celebrating two birthdays around the same time. Anyway, Marley weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was 19 ¾” long at birth; a beautiful healthy baby. Kim and I spent the week at the Morrison’s home enjoying the time with our kids and especially the baby. Unfortunately, we had to leave on Saturday, July 1. We did however stop over at Inverness, Florida on the way home to visit with my brother Joe and his family. We returned to Merritt Island on Sunday, July 2.
The breakfast gathering on July 8th was attended by the following 18 attendees; Don & Kathleen Clair, Marius, his daughter Susan and her husband Ken, Geza Eiler, Steve, Maury & Emma Meisner, Hutch, Dickie, Herm, Judy, Ben & Kippy, Byron “Buz” Pheasant, me and my son Brian (who was visiting from Tallahassee). This was the first time Buz had come to a breakfast this year and it was good to have him. We welcome him back and hope to see both him and his beautiful wife more often. I had brought some pictures of my granddaughter to show off to all my good friends.
On Monday, July 10th, I met with other members of the Memorial Garden Committee at the Brevard Veterans Center. The Memorial Garden will have War Monuments celebrating the various conflicts over the years, Korea, Vietnam, WW II, etc., placed in and around the area where the two helicopters are displayed in front of the Veteran’s Center. There will be walkways leading to the various displays and memorials and we plan to sell bricks to be placed in said walkway to honor individuals and organizations that support our veterans. It has been agreed that the Air America® Association will purchase one of the large bricks in the name of Air America®. We also received word that the Army was giving us a surplus tank for display in the Memorial Garden. We hope to start selling the individual bricks soon and anyone interested in having their name or a friend or relative honored on our walkway should let me know. There will be three different sizes for the bricks and the pre-construction price will be discounted substantially.
The Brevard Veteran’s Center held its annual Installation of Officer and Appreciation Luncheon on July 12th. Hutch and I were in attendance at this function and Herm joined us after he finished delivery of his “Meals on Wheels” route. During the ceremony, new members and organizations were introduced and voted in by the general membership in attendance. This included membership of the AAA, which I submitted this same day. This is a lifetime membership. Membership literature and any correspondence will be sent to Mike Kandt, the AAA General Secretary. I was sworn in as a new member of the VMC Executive Board. Certificates of Appreciation were given out to members of the Center including some of our AAA members. Hutch and I received ours and the others will receive their’s from Maury at breakfast this Saturday.
The AMVETS held an Operation Standup meeting on June 20 at the Vietnam Veterans Bunker in Cocoa. The purposes for Operation Stand Up are 1) Welcome home troops, 2) Honor our returning military wounded-in-action from all recognized conflicts, peacekeeping or humanitarian actions, and 3) Raise funds for the care of our wounded veterans. Purpose of the meeting was to review the plans being developed by the various committees for the Operation Stand Up function planned for November 4th and 5th at the Wickham Park Main Pavilion in Melbourne. Anyone interested in helping out with this function should attend the next meeting to be held Tuesday, August 1st at the VN Bunker in Cocoa.
We had an enjoyable breakfast meeting on July 15th that was attended by Herm, Dickie, Phil Peyton, Hutch, Kathleen & Don, Judy, Maury, Steve, me, Marius and his son Ed. Ed was in town for a painting party at the Burkes. Was good having him and also Phil who was in town from Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Since there’s so much news in this letter, I think I’ll cut it off here. Cheers
By Walt Ranallo
We had 10 people show up for breakfast on May 6th; Steve Stevens, Judy Porter, Hutch Hutchison, Herm Jackson, Maury Meisner, Marius Burke, Dickie Elder, Phil Peyton, Larry Fraser and me. Marius updated the status on Don Clair, who has been moved from Holmes Hospital to the Avante Rehab Center (Room 216), 1420 S. Oak Street, Melbourne; Phone 321-723-3315. In fact, Don called Hutch during breakfast and talked to Judy and Marius. He sounded pretty good. If any of you has time, please call him and wish him well, he would very much appreciate hearing from you. It gets awfully lonesome laying around in bed all day with nothing to do but watch TV and eat. Steve and Maury got into a pretty good question and answer session on digital cameras. Maury plans to buy wife Emma a camera to take on a cruise to the Bahamas next week. Phil Peyton hadn’t been to a breakfast for quite awhile and it was good to see him. He appears to be doing pretty well except for some stomach problems, probably acid reflex. It was also mentioned, that Emmett has been diagnosed with cancer and more information on this will be forthcoming. Emmett went to a gun show today and consequently didn’t make our breakfast. All in all, it was a good turnout with lots of news exchanged.
It is reminded that AMVETS of Brevard is having a meeting on May 16 at 7 PM at the VVB Bunker in Cocoa. This is in regards to their National Project to raise money for the wounded veterans of the county. They have invited other veteran organizations to participate and help with this goal. Funds collected in Brevard would be primarily for Brevard wounded veterans, but any surplus would be shared with counties that may have a shortfall. This is a nationwide effort by AMVETS and is supported by many other veteran organizations. All profits with exception of minor costs for flyers, etc. would go to the wounded. Labor is strictly voluntary and therefore no cost. It would be nice if some of our group would get behind this effort.
Sad to report the passing of Col. F. G. McClenon, USMC retired on 7 April 2006. Mac was well known to many of the former Marines who flew with Air America® and was on active duty during the evacuation of Saigon. Mac was also a regular at our Saturday breakfast gatherings until he became ill. Semper Fi.
We also lost another of our own, with the passing of Dave Conley. Dave served at Tachikowa while in the Air Force and upon retirement, joined Air America®. He was the Traffic Manager at our Saigon facility for many years and later worked in Iran before returning to Fort Worth where he worked for Lockheed. Dave was a good and trusted friend and Kim and I will miss him. Our prayers go out for his wife, Suong, and their family.
Due to medical problems, I wasn’t able to make breakfast on May 13th or May 20th. Appears I have a herniated disc in the lumbar region of my back and it’s pinching a nerve and causing all kinds of pain down my right leg. Will be reporting in to Holmes Regional Hospital in Melbourne on May 31st at 6 AM for scheduled surgery at 7:30 AM. I’m not looking forward to the operation, but hopeful it will stop the pain and enable me to walk again so I can get on with my life. I’ll let you all know how everything goes in my next letter.
On May 23rd, Herm and I picked up Mike Kandt and Mike Seale arrived at Orlando International Airport. Mike Kandt is visiting me and meeting with Judy Porter to coordinate turnover of the Air America® Association records. Mike will be made the new General Secretary at the reunion as Judy has decided to resign the post. Mike Seale is down for his annual visit to Herm. They plan to drive north on Sunday to visit Herm’s relatives in North Carolina and then head on up to Washington for the reunion. Jack Knotts will drive over from Tampa to join them for the trip. Steve Stevens and Mike Kandt will also be driving to DC for the reunion. On Friday night, Steve & Michie invited Mike and a few others over for diner. As usual, Michie made a feast that was fit for Kings.
On Saturday, May 27th, fourteen people came to breakfast. It was one of our best turnouts this year. Attendees included Mike Seale, Mike Kandt, Herm, Ben Densley and grandson, Benjamin, Kathleen and Don Clair, Maury, Marius, Judy, Dickie, Steve, Walt and Jack Knotts. After breakfast, Marius invited everyone over to his place for drinks and a little extra camaraderie. Later that evening, we had diner at the Olive Garden and about 13 people showed up. Judy didn’t know it, but the diner was to present her with a plaque for her services as General Secretary of the Air America® Association. All in all, it turned out to be a really good day.
Since it’s the end of the month, I’ll close at this time. For those who are attending the reunion, please have a drink for me and I wish you all enough.
By Walt Ranallo
There were 13 guests at the “April Fools Day” breakfast. Besides the core group, consisting of Dickie Elder, Maury & Emma Meisner, Herm Jackson, Bill Hutchison, Marius Burke, Judy Porter and me, Larry Frazer showed up. Larry just returned from an extended trip to SEA, spending much of that time in Laos. He had a lot of good pictures to share. Larry had been back a couple weeks, but had stopped to visit his son in Washington, D.C. Steve Stevens also showed up and he brought along Smokey Searcy, a good friend he had worked with while with DynCorp in Guatemala. Smokey is another of those “Rotor Heads”. Charlie Harvey also showed with his lovely wife Ruth Ann. Charlie isn’t able to make our gatherings as much as he’d like, so it was good to see him. Ruth Ann is a Realtor with Pruitt Real Estate in Viera, Florida. They are both very interesting people.
I joined 9 others for our breakfast April 15th. Herm, Maury, Ben Densley, Dickie, Hutch, Geza Eiler and Emmett Sullivan sat at one table while I joined Charlie Harvey who came with Larry Fraser. Hutch advised that Don Clair is in Holmes Regional Hospital in Melbourne and is scheduled for a heart cauterization on the 17th. I’m sure Don could use a word of encouragement and recommend you go see him or give him a call in the hospital. Steve and several others of our group were at TICO to help with some repairs to the Air America® Foundation’s C-123, and therefore were unable to make breakfast.
Ten people showed up at the April 22nd breakfast; Judy, Hutch, Emmett, Herm, Bruce, Marius, Ben, Dickie, Larry and me. I joined Larry at a side table, so wasn’t privy to most of the conversation at the main table. It was mentioned however, that Don Clair had some stints put in his heart twice. Apparently, they ran out of stints during the first operation and had to send out for more, so he ended up in a 2nd operation. Hutch saw him and reports he’s doing pretty well. If any of you have time, he’s at Holmes Regional Hospital in Melbourne. Go see him or call, I’m sure he would appreciate the encouragement.
Next weekend, Kim and I are headed to Tallahassee to see our kids, so this is last breakfast we’ll be reporting for April. However, I would like to remind you all that the recently built Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is being moved from BCC on Clearlake Road to Wickham Park on Sunday, April 23rd. An opening of the Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion will be started at 7 AM Monday, April 24, and will feature presentation of colors, the laying of wreaths, several speakers who helped in building the Wall, a rifle salute and taps. The memorial wall will be open to the public 24 hours a day through April 30th. Florida Today has an excellent article about the reunion in the April 22 paper (Section B). They tell of the wall, the reason it was built, the cost to build and specifications. This wall is 3/5ths the size of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The cost to build was $250,000 plus a lot of donated time and effort by the builders. Efforts are still underway to raise $84,000 in donations. The April 30th weekend reunion includes POW and MIA ceremonies, live music, military displays and vendors. This reunion at Wickham Park is free and open to the public, so let’s get some representation from our group down there and if you can spare a few bucks, put them in the donation boxes. I’m sure there will be some there.
Last, but not least, the AMVETS of Brevard is having a meeting on May 16 at 7 PM at the VVB Bunker in Cocoa. This is in regards to their National Project to raise money for the wounded veterans of the county. They have invited other veteran organizations to participate and help with this goal. Funds collected in Brevard would be primarily for Brevard wounded veterans, but any surplus would be shared with counties that may have a shortfall. This is a nation wide effort by AMVETS and is supported by other veteran organizations. All profits with exception of minor costs for flyers, etc. would go to the wounded. Labor is strictly voluntary and therefore no cost. I’d like to see some of us get behind this effort.
That’s all I have for April. Cheers Walt
By Walt Ranallo
Only six people showed for the March 4th breakfast. Several of our group had to attend a meeting at Patrick AFB. Attendees were Herm Jackson, Dickie Elder, Emmett Sullivan, Bill Hutchison, Maury Meisner and me. This was Dickie’s second week back and he looked much better. Seemed almost like his old self. Steve didn’t show, so we didn’t have any hot sauce for our eggs. Steve, Michie and Judy left for North Carolina on March 8; Judy has a doctor appointment and on the way back they plan to attend Dr. Leary’s Memorial Service.
Tom Jenny and Bruce Burke joined us for the March 11th breakfast. Last breakfast they were at was when we went to Kay’s Bar B-Q. Good seeing them again. Afterwards, Tom headed out for Orlando to make a stop on his way back to his home in Deland. Bruce mentioned he would be in town until mid May, when he’ll return to New York. Others at breakfast included Dickie, Ben & Kippy, Emmett, Maury, Marius, Herm, Don Clair and me.
We had a nice crowd at the March 18th breakfast gathering. When I arrived, Marius, Judy, Geza, Herm, Maury & Emma and Ben & Kippy were already seated, so I joined Dicky at a separate booth. Steve came a little later and sat with the main group as Kippy had joined our booth. It was a good crowd and lots of war stories were told. It was learned that Florida Senator Mel Martinez and Representative Dave Weldon would be at the Veterans Memorial Center at 9 AM March 23rd. So after breakfast, I sent out an e-mail urging our AA members and others who may want to support our bid for Civil Service Status to show up and try to convince these Congressmen to co-sponsor our bill.
Attendees at the Veterans Memorial Center on Thursday March 23rd were Ben & Kippy Densley, Bill Hutchison, Herm, Marius, Judy, Steve, Kippy’s sister, Dick Amos and me. I took a few pictures and will try to include them with this letter. We all tried to get a few words in with the Congressmen and I was especially impressed with Kippy’s discussion with Dave Weldon. She had his ear for at least 5 minutes and he seemed receptive to what she had to say. Dave was in the military and is very proud of that fact. Ben, Herm and Hutch also spent time talking with Weldon and Martinez. Marius was able to deliver packages with information on Air America® to both Weldon and Martinez. Afterwards, everyone went their merry way and I caught up with Herm and went to lunch. Well got to close and that’s it for the March letter.
February 2006 By Walt Ranallo
Nine people showed up for the February 4th breakfast; Maury Meisner, Emmett Sullivan, Ben Densley, Herm Jackson, Walt Ranallo, Steve Stevens, Marius Burke, Don Clair and Bill Hutchison. Judy Porter’s pending return Monday was discussed. She’s driving down alone from North Carolina and will overnight along the way. She anticipated arriving at her home Monday afternoon, but as it turned out, she made the trip in one day and arrived Sunday evening. Emmett is having a Super Bowl blowout Sunday at 4 PM and invited everyone at breakfast to come by his new home in Merritt Island.
Emmett’s super bowl party was a huge success. Herm and I got there around 4:30 and later, Marius, Maury, Ben, Kippy and Kippy’s sister arrived. Emmett’s next door neighbor Julius and his wife were also there. The food and drink was excellent and plentiful and everyone enjoyed the game in spite of some pretty questionable calls. The game lasted till after 10 and I left shortly thereafter. The Sullivan’s new home is really beautiful and accommodated everyone very comfortably.
On Wednesday, February 8th, the Veterans Memorial Center held their general membership meeting and had a very good turnout. Before starting the regular meeting, there was a ceremony to present several items for the Museum. One item was a WWII German artillery site presented by Major General Maurice Kendall (Retired) on behalf of Frank B. Travis, who was Captain of the 774th Field Artillery Battalion. Captain Travis lives in Bellingham, Washington. In addition, Air America®’s Boyd Mesecher presented a special AA cup and saucer that was donated by Rich Stine, a career CIA Ordnance Officer. Mr. Stine removed the cup and saucer from the Air America® Club on Watway Airport, Laos prior to boarding a Air America® CH-47 for a flight out of Laos on the 21st of June l975 - The last day of Air America® flight operations in the country of Laos. The cup was in his possession for 27 years prior to donating it to the Air America® Association for display in the Merritt Island Museum. Marius added a matching “dinner plate” to the cup and saucer display. Marius, Herm, Steve, Hutch, Boyd, Judy and I were in attendance. I’ve attached a picture of our group at the ceremony.
The Rainbow Embroidering owner, Sam Spencer and his lovely wife also presented a collection of embroidered panels with the names of all of our service personnel who have died in Iraq. These panels have been hung in the museum’s hall of honor and panels will be added as necessary until the hostilities are officially declared to have ended. A second set of panels will be presented to Arlington Cemetery at that time. You can take a tour of the Brevard Veterans Center by going to http://members.aol.com/VetCouncil/.
We had a terrific turnout for breakfast on the 11th. We held this breakfast meeting at Kay’s Bar-B-Q in Cocoa. Steve Stevens showed up and actually ate. Kathleen Clair from NYC, who is visiting her brother, was also there. It was Judy’s first breakfast since returning to Florida and she’s looking much better. Bruce Burke was there for the first time in several weeks and he sat with Ben, Maury & Emma Meisner and me. Jim Roberts came over from Orlando for the first time in several months. Jim advised he’d been tied up for the past few months, but hopes to get over more often. Tom Jenny was also down from Deland. Tom still registers travel time block to block in minutes; he made the trip from his house to Kays in 59 minutes. Claims it takes 64 minutes to the Island Bar-B-Q in Merritt Island. Mickey Kappes who came to a breakfast a few months back also joined us and brought along four friends. Mickey was a SKY guy for 32 years (back on contract for the last six). He was the AA customer in Pakse and Long Tien. He brought Chuck Kleebauer, Rudy Enders, Dick Amos and Bill Amos. Chuck was a Special Forces combat vet in Nam and a SKY guy for over 20 years and was the AA customer in Savannaket, and former Chief of Ground Branch. Rudy was a SKY guy for 30 years including seven in Vietnam. His wife of many years was evacuated from Hue by an AA bird during the TET fighting while the HLZ was under hostile mortar fire. Rudy is also a former Chief of the Special Operations Group. Dick Amos was a former Marine combat jet pilot who won two Distinguished Flying Crosses in Viet Nam. Afterwards, he served 20 years with the DEA flying choppers. He currently flies medevac choppers on a part-time basis. Dick’s brother Bill, a dentist visiting from Indiana, had previously served in the Navy.
We returned to the Island Bar B-Q for breakfast the 18th. We had eleven guests for this breakfast including Geza Eiler, on R&R from his job in Columbia, Charlie Means, was up from Melbourne and Dickie Elder, joined us for the first time since he became ill. Dick looked good and seemed in good spirits and took over the finances. Hopefully, Dickie will be well enough to continue joining us on Saturday mornings. Others there were Ben, Emmett, Steve, Herm, Judy, Maury & Emma and yours truly.
Later that evening Kim and I attended the annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Cocoa Beach as guests of State Representative Bob Allen. Bob also invited Maury & Emma, Nick Beninate, and Greg & Maureen Welsh. Bob introduced us as representing the Brevard Veterans Center and our respective service branches and eras. The occasion was basically a political rally to promote republican politicians for various state offices becoming vacant, but mainly Charlie Crist who is running for Governor. Kim and I got to meet and talk with several state politicians who we only knew by name in the past.
The Brevard VMC War Museum officially opened as scheduled on President’s Day (January 20) and we had a very good crowd. Representative Allen and Brevard Commissioner Ron Pritchard were there to make speeches and cut the ribbon. They both had excellent messages, but I thought the best message about the museum came from our Museum Curator, Alex Terrero. Anyone visiting central Florida, should stop by and visit this museum, which I feel is one of the best in Florida. The items on display cover all the services and wars and there is an Air America® display case and cabinet full of handmade guns from Laos. The guns were donated by Emmett Sullivan, Bill Hutchison and Steve Stevens. Also present at the museum dedication were Herm Jackson and Hutch. By the way if you do come to see the museum, plan it so you can join the DDMBC for a Saturday morning breakfast. There was an article regarding the museum in local paper; see http://www.myhometownnews.net/index.php?id=3059/ . There was another article on March 1st in the Florida Today paper, but I couldn’t find it on the website. I’ll include a couple pictures of museum displays with this letter.
At the February 25th breakfast, we had Maury & Emma, Judy, Kathleen & Don, Marius, Hutch, Walt, Dickie, Herm, Geza, Steve and an honorary visitor from Tampa, Charlie Weitz. Steve didn’t eat, but made the discussions interesting for just about everyone there. Emmett attended a gun show in Melbourne, but I understand he stopped by a few minutes before going to the show. I talked to Charlie about the brunch meetings they have once a month in Tampa/St. Petersburg, and he advised they have pretty good turnouts. One month about 23 showed up. The next brunch will be next Wednesday, March 1st. Well, that’s all for now.
January 14 thru January 28, 2006
We had 12 people show for our January 14th breakfast; Bruce Burke, Maury Meisner, Emmett Sullivan, Ben & Kippy Densley, Herm Jackson, Walt Ranallo, Steve & Michie Stevens and their friends from Japan, Katsu & Kay Minowa and daughter Hanna. Michie advised that the Minowa’s would be around for another week or so and planned a trip to Key West. Steve brought his famous hot sauces which makes our breakfast at the Island BBQ that much better.
The January 21st breakfast was attended by Herm, Geza Eiler, Bill Hutchison, Kathleen and Don Clair, Ben, Emmett, Marius Burke and me. Herm had good new that Judy would have a final test on Tuesday and after that expects to return to her home in Titusville. Dick Elder status was also brought up. He’s still having problems, but has started getting acupuncture and it seems to be helping. Maybe he’ll be able to get back on the golf course soon. We all hope and pray for Judy and Dickie to get better and come join us again. Ben reported that he still hasn’t found work, but is hoping to interview for a Flight Safety Job in Ft. Lauderdale. Best of luck Ben. Marius was pretty upset that Steve didn’t show up with his famous hot sauce. It was mentioned that Maybe Steve could stop by McDonalds and pick up a breakfast bagel on his way to the Island BBQ, so we could have his hot sauce. It was mentioned maybe we could find another place, more to Steve’s liking, to have breakfast, but Marius ruled that out. Marius really likes the Island BBQ food. Enough said.
The last breakfast of the month was attended by seven people, and Steve stopped by and left his hot sauce with us after we had finished. He must have been feeling sorry for us. Too bad he didn’t make it before we finished eating. Anyway, Marius has taken charge of the sauce and will bring it next week. After that, someone else will have to take over as Marius is headed for a two week stay in Thailand. Others besides Marius at breakfast were Hutch, Maury Meisner, Herm, Emmett & Kathy, and of course, me. Dickie Elder and Judy Porter were talked about some. Judy has decided to stay with her daughter another week or so to have a stint removed and get better before driving back to Titusville. Although Steve and Herm had volunteered to go up and bring her back, she is determined to make the drive alone. Dickie is still having problems although he did golf the past week. He’s off the acupuncture and on a new medication. Emmett and Marius had expected him to make breakfast, but that didn’t happen. Our prayers go out to both Dickie and Judy.
The Veterans Memorial Center will have it’s general membership meeting on Wednesday, February 8th, at 9 PM and plans to make a formal presentation of several items donated to their museum for the Air America® exhibit by Rich Stine. We hope to have Rich there for the presentation. We also hope that by that time, Judy will be back and able to attend. Boyd & Claire Mesecher is planning to make a trip here for the occasion if they can make it. We are extending an invite to any others who care to make to trip over, especially, the Tampa Bay lunch group.
The Veterans Center museum is coming along fine and should be opened by the February 8th general membership meeting. The Air America® display case has quite a few items, but we are always looking for more things to display. Alex, the curator, is doing a fine job and has obtained a gun cabinet for guns donated by Steve Stevens. We hope to also have several guns (on loan from Hutch) for the gun case. Now we are looking for an AA Captain and/or 1st Officer uniform to dress a mannequin and display next to our exhibit. If any of you out there have old uniforms you’d like to loan or donate to the museum, contact me. That’s all folks.
Christmas Time and January 7, 2006
Judy Porter had the planned surgery done by that doctor at Duke University Hospital on December 5th. She hoped to return to her home in Titusville around December 20th, but had more complications and had to have more surgery. It doesn’t look like she’ll be able to return to the area any time soon.
On December 7th, I received the good news that Charlie Means is back in Melbourne and doing much better. He is at the Life Care Center (Room 401), 606 East Sheridan Road, Melbourne, FL. 32901 – Telephone 727-9778. He feels great and is accepting visitors & phone calls. Marcie also mentioned that he is improving and feels good about being close to home.
Seven people attended the December 24th breakfast; Herm Jackson, Marius Burk, Don Clair and his sister Kathleen, Maury Meisner, Ben Densley and of course me. Actually, Maury arrived late as he had an earlier breakfast to attend. Ben is still looking for a job, and hopes to get work in Afghanistan. But as previously mentioned, finding work at our age is pretty hard. Most of our discussions centered around Marius’s recent trip to China.
My kids were home for Christmas and it was really a joy to have them. Was hoping the kids would join our breakfast group on the 24th, but they opted to sleep in, since they had been out pretty late the night before. On Christmas Day, Herm came for dinner.
The December 31st breakfast was attended by Emmett and Kathy Sullivan, Steve & Michie Stevens and their friend Annie Worley, Marius, Don & Kathleen, Herm, Maury and me. With the Christmas Season in process, I expected there would be a small group for this breakfast. But quite a few showed up.
My son Brian came home for the New Year and the Orange Bowl. Kim and I went to a New Years Eve party and really enjoyed the evening with friends. The food was excellent and we toasted the New Year early and were home long before the “Big Apple” dropped the ball. On New Years Day, Kim cooked a standing rib roast and Herm joined us for dinner. On Monday, Brian and I drove to Hollywood, Florida and spent a couple days at the Mesecher’s home. We had dinner there Monday night and sat around talking that evening. On Tuesday, we went out for lunch and spent the afternoon at Hollywood Beach. Later Brian and I went to the Orange Bowl and watched a classic battle between the “Nittany Lions” and the “Seminoles”. After 3 overtimes, it was decided by a field goal and Penn State took home the trophy. Although somewhat disappointed, I was happy it wasn’t the blow-out that everyone expected. GO NOLES!!!
We had a good crowd for the first breakfast of the new year on January 7th; Marius, Don, Maury, Emmett, Hutch, Bruce Burke, Geza Eiler, Charlie Means, Andy Foley, Ben, Kippy & Benjamin Densley and of course me. Bruce was down from New York and is planning a cruise to New Zealand in a couple weeks. Geza was on time-off from his work in South America. Charlie was a complete surprise to me, although several others were apparently aware that he would show up. He had been very ill as I’ve been reporting and he really looks good now. He’s lost weight and walks about 1000 yards every day. Although he walks on his own, he takes along a walker in case he should stumble or fall. Andy was Charlie’s chauffer for this visit. I didn’t recognize Andy at first as he had lost 60 or 70 pounds since the last time I saw him. Good to see both of them out and about.
Well, that’s all FOLKS.