First of all, thank you for allowing me to host this year’s reunion. We had a great turn out. Many of those who attended this year in Norfolk have come to me and my family with praises and compliments. It was “one of the best reunions,” I’ve been told. Others said, “so much fun and thoroughly enjoyed it.” I want to thank everyone for their gracious remarks.
I checked in on the first day around noon to deliver all the goods for the hospitality room and to get set up to welcome everyone. This year, the welcome bags were a ditty bag full of sundry items. Everyone received a souvenir pint glass with MARS logo to take home. If someone who attended did not receive one, please contact me and I will send one to you. The city of Norfolk gave bags to us with city guides, coupons and a little mermaid pin – which is Norfolk’s symbol that you would have seen the mermaid statues throughout downtown.
As a welcome surprise to all, I had a huge 4ft by 10ft banner hung in the hotel lobby. This was my donation to the MARS reunion. I will pass down to the next host as it can be reused.
Our Harbor Cruise event was very nice. No one missed ship’s movement. It was narrated by the Captain of the Victory Rover. We were able to take in the sights of the Elizabeth River and Norfolk Naval Station with views of our mighty naval ships in port.
After the cruise, we were able to visit the Nauticus museum and the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy. We explored its deck through a self-guided tour. The ship’s big guns took us back in time to experience this majestic ship that earned five battle stars during WW II.
On Friday morning, we paid tribute to those who are no longer with us. The Hampton Roads Chief’s Mess came through for me as they sent a color guard to support our brief memorial ceremony. The color guard were sharply dressed in uniform. We honored our veterans past and present and I read “The Watch,” quiet moving and there was not a dry eye during the playing of “TAPS.” The waterside view along the pier with Norfolk Shipyard in the background was picturesque.
Friday evening, our infamous Bob Schorfheide took the mic and lead the raffle. We were able to raise over $900 to go toward the reunion fund. There were some great items for raffle. The painting of the MARS under the golden gate bridge, donated by Vice Admiral Kavanaugh went to Ed Biddle. One of our shipmates, Patrick DeMars who served onboard 66-68, Machinist Mate, also sent in his donation of USS MARS ball caps which raised over $120.
On Saturday, we took a bus ride to Virginia Air and Space Museum. We were treated to a 3D IMAX theater show of Asteroid Hunting. It’s kind of cool in 3D, you think you are there in outer space. The weather was beautiful for us to sit outside and enjoy our boxed lunches which was catered by my sister. She did an exceptional job and it was delicious.
Finally, our farewell dinner banquet that evening was a huge success. We welcomed our guest speaker, Vice Admiral Kavanaugh, retired and was a MARS crewmember. He was delighted and gave us a “Bravo Zulu” for making this a “super reunion.” We also enjoyed Frank Cubillo, “Frank sings Frank,” our entertainer for the evening. Frank, a retired Marine Colonel who sung wonderfully, had us on our feet and dancing. You can catch the video on UTUBE of Frank and the MARS reunion chorus line: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lKHfzCGBhI.
I want to thank all of those who helped make this one of our best reunions, Paul, Anne, Bob, Ed, Gina, Tim, and my family to name a few. It was pleasant and endearing to have the comradery of the MARS crew and guests. Thank you all for coming!
If you have pictures and would like to send them to me so that I may create a photo album, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I am looking forward to seeing everyone next year in Spokane Washington.
Fair-winds and Following Seas!