wingsCharleston, SC 2016

Our members chose Charleston, SC for the 2016 reunion and what a wonderful choice it was.  Held October 19-23, our headquarters for the four day event was the Charleston Crowne Plaza Hotel near the airport.  Joe Bretton, our Association Vice President and Reunion Coordinator, over the past 6 months, has done just an outstanding job making this event come together almost seamlessly.  The only SNAFU was that the Crowne Plaza ran out of rooms a few weeks before the reunion.  Swiftly, Joe squeezed a few more rooms out of the Crowne Plaza and then obtained backup rooms at the nearby Hyatt Hotel.

With the exception of 1990 and 2014 events in Jacksonville, this reunion was the best attended VP-45 Association Reunion ever.  We had 187 attendees with members coming from as far away as Hawaii and Sweden. Bob Hall, a regular attendee, brought his bride to the reunion from England. That alone is a testament to the loyalty of former Pelicans to this group and just more evidence that there is no other squadron association that compares to us.  Just take a look at our professional website and the newsletters we put out and try to find any group that can compete.

A quick shout-out to a few other people.  Doug Mitchell, our President, always seemed to be here, there and everywhere, silently backing up Joe with the numerous chores associated with an event this complex.  Additionally, Ron Christopher, our Treasurer, relentlessly manned the Hospitality Room while acting as an “XO” to Doug. And their wives, Dolores Christopher and Victoria Mitchell, pitched in; providing many, many hours of assistance in keeping the Hospitality room organized, supplied, secure and uncluttered. Thanks to all!
rreunion 2014

Myself….I’ve been to five reunions in the past ten years and, to me, this was my “second best.”  Second only to my first reunion in San Antonio in 2006.  And that one was the best probably just because it was my first.   Much to my chagrin, Becky could not come this time so, instead of flying,  I made my travel a “road trip” out of Austin, TX.

Following the Magnolia Plantation tour, Thursday evening officially started it off with the “Meet and Greet” in the Hospitality room.  Besides all the soda, beer, wine and fine liquors available for FREE, this year Joe added sandwiches, wraps, veggie plates and an array of snacks – almost no need to find dinner elsewhere.   At one point, the room got so crowded we had to ask the hotel to let us overflow into an adjoining room.  Grippin’ grinnin’ and partying continued until the wee hours.  I hit the sack around 1:30am, saying goodnight to a few hardcore Pelicans still telling tall tales.

Most people slept in on Friday morning; except for those souls who had signed up for tours.  120 took the eye-popping tour of the Charleston Historic district and 45 toured the Charleston Harbor.  That evening was a “make your own group” night and many visited the many local restaurants nearby.  A lot of us stayed close to the hotel since still more free eats and drinks were available in the reunion Hospitality Room.  New attendees continued to arrive and I personally reunited with four fellows I had not seen in over 40 years.

If I do say so myself, the highlight of Friday night was the showing of the four period videos (PBM Years, P-5M Years, Remembering 1970’s and The 1980’s).  Filled with some humor and lots of nostalgia, no one left the room - even for popcorn.  Later, I wimped out around midnight as I had to attend the Association Business Meeting in the morning.

reunion coinAlmost forgot to mention…at check-in, each reunion attendee received a handsome 2016 Reunion commemorative “challenge coin" (see image to left).  Jack Keane, our Secretary, came up with this spectacular idea and I helped with the layout and design.  Incidentily, this coin is about the size of the old silver dollar and much better looking than the image in the picture. We intend to continue to strike a coin for each future reunion.

The 8am Saturday morning business meeting was well attended despite the early hour.  Doug Mitchell called the meeting to order and reviewed the minutes from the previous reunion meeting.  He then covered new business items and showed a short film regarding the National Flight Academy.  Afterwards, the attending members agreed to continue our annual $1250.00 donation to this fine organization.  Finally, Doug announced that each of the five currently serving Association officers had offered to continue to serve for at least two more years.  That motion was seconded and passed with lightning speed.

The most popular tour was the Saturday day tour to Patriot’s Point that presents a number of attractions including the USS Yorktown (CV-10) Museum.  Jack Keane and I, along with Brian Prindle and Jay Thomas, tried to also squeeze in the afternoon Fort Sumter tour.  Probably not the best idea as we didn’t really have enough time to see all there was to see at Patriot’s Point.  But we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were awed by the history at both locations. Next time!

Saturday evening brought well-dressed Pelicans and their beautiful ladies to the semi-formal (flexible coat and tie) banquet at the Hotel.  I approached my seat at a white table-clothed table, perplexed at how I could possibly use all the forks and wine glasses at my place.  Doug opened the evening with a welcoming address and then the hotel staff wowed us with a delicious, hot meal.  This is quite an undertaking considering they had to serve nearly 200 meals simultaneously. Bravo to the Crowne Plaza staff!

Following dinner, Doug Mitchell took some time to introduce the guest speaker, RADM Jake Tobin, USN (ret), a Pelican himself during the P-5M and P-3A eras.  The good Admiral kept the audience at rapt attention and he spoke to his storied career and VP-45 Reunion 2016entertained us with accounts of personal events that shaped his life. Good times continued until late in the evening as we tried to fit in our final sea stories; knowing that it would be another two years before we would all be together again.

Most of us met for a quick breakfast before heading out for home.  I left Charleston to spend a few days visiting family on the east coast.  Then, during my four day drive back to Austin, I had ample time to reflect on the success of this reunion and what it meant (again) to me.  I have seen new familiar faces at each reunion so it is never a repetitious affair.  And, as I headed west down Interstate 35, my SUV on cruise control and a Dr. Pepper in a Yeti mug in the console, I chuckled to myself…often.  What other squadron has such a loyal, fun group?  None, I’d bet.  And at 68 years old, these reunions become…well, just more fun; and…perhaps more important.  When we were Navy men, young and Pelicans, we did develop rock solid relationships…and these reunions give us the opportunity to relive those days, reestablish long lost friendships, remember the accomplishments, snicker at the mischief we caused and recollect how much we loved being in Patrol Squadron Forty-Five.

Bill Hobgood (WebMaster)

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