NAFTS 2017 REUNION
September 21-25, 2017 @ San Diego, CA
(What you missed - as written by Rich Tetrault in the October Towline!!)
Wow! Another great NAFTS Reunion is over and if you weren’t there you missed a lotta fun. Bravo Zulu to our VP for Reunions, PJ Rolow, for all the hard work he put in to make it such a great success. PJ is also our Treasurer and he can do a day’s worth of work every hour. Great job!
We stayed at the Crown Plaza, a huge spread out rambling complex with an inviting pool right outside the two rooms we used as our Hospitality Room. NAFTS Board Chairman, Jim Wassmuth, spent beau coup hours in the pool cooling off on the hot days. The hotel staff was superb and catered to all our needs. PJ negotiated an excellent room rate of $119 per night (double occupancy) and we all got a free buffet breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. Additionally we could extend our stay for three days before and/or after the reunion and lengthen our time in California.
PJ stocked the Hospitality Room with snacks and drinks and it was a convenient place to gather and tell our sea-stories. The sea-stories become a game of “can you top it”. One member starts out with a tale of 30 degree ship rolls and by the time the tale is discussed around the table each sailor adds another 5 degrees to his personal tale. Thankfully the tables only seated about four of us or the last guy would have to boost his degree of rolls to 90 or more!
As folks arrived on the first official day and got settled in to their rooms we started things off with a Mexican Buffet Social in our Hospitality Room. Great chow and PJ provided some beer, wine and soft drinks to wash it all down. It was a nice start and members and their wives mingled, chatted and renewed their friendships. Most attendees have been to more than one reunion and reacquainting is always heartwarming. It was Thursday the 21st of September and tomorrow we were going to see the Blue Angels perform!
The Blue Angels was a spectacular show! Our bus picked us up at the hotel and drove us out to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station where we had box seats for the event. Many aircraft were on display for us to peruse and there were scads of vendors selling T-shirts and other military-type things. Lottsa food and drinks also. In addition to the Blue Angels we saw The Patriot civilian jet performers and a host of other military aircraft including the V22 Osprey, F35’s, Harriers, Helicopters and a C-130. Army Paratroopers opened the show accompanied by a Marine Corps band and patriotism was flowing through everybody’s veins. There were some “add-on” trips after the Blue Angels. Some went to the Seaside Buffet for dinner and some went to on a “hop-on hop-off” trolley tour of San Diego. It was Friday the 22nd of September and the next day would be filled with events and places to go.
Saturday was a busy day with plenty of options of things to do. One event was a trip to the Embarcadero, the area along the San Diego harbor on the east side of San Diego Bay. "Embarcadero" is a Spanish word meaning "landing place" and is home to the San Diego cruise ship terminal, the USS Midway Museum ship at Navy Pier, the Star of India and seven other historic vessels belonging to the San Diego Maritime Museum. Some members boarded the Midway for a self-guiding tour, some went to the Maritime Museum, some went on a 45 minute narrated harbor cruise, and some did a combination of the above. My wife and I boarded Midway and spent hours walking from deck to deck and compartment to compartment.
Sunday September 24 was an easy day with a tour of Mount Soledad National Veterans Monument, the local beaches, Cabrillo National Monument, and the former Recruit Training Center of San Diego. It lasted from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Later that evening would be our Farewell Banquet. It was an easy tour and allowed time to rest a bit before the final dinner that evening.
The Banquet signifies the end of the reunion and we all gather for a night of merriment and chow. Every year our banquet is different. Sometimes we have speakers. Sometimes we have music. Sometimes we have entertainment. But we ALWAYS have fun. The last time we were in San Diego we had Commander Lloyd Bucher of the USS Pueblo come and speak to us. This time we were entertained by a NAFTS member’s family and it was spectacular. NAFTS member, Master Chief Roque (“Rocky”) Pangelinan is from the San Diego area and I believe he was originally from Guam. He has passed down his island heritage to his children (some of whom were USMC Veterans) and also his grandchildren and they all came to demonstrate their island dances for us. It was the highlight of the evening and they even dragged a couple of our members up on stage to teach them the dance moves.
We also gave an award to our outgoing NAFTS Chaplain and Secretary, Bob Campbell. Bob has done an amazing job in both capacities and even stepped in to run things when our late President, Ted Hillman, took ill and passed away. I can’t say enough about what an asset to this organization Bob has been. He’s not going anywhere and will still be serving NAFTS but not in an official capacity. The award is the NAFTS Founders Award and is dedicated to Bob Yates the initial founder of NAFTS. We give the award out annually to a member who has served above and beyond the call of duty in our organization. Bob and his lovely first mate, Cindy, have done so much for NAFTS in the past that I’d have to devote an entire magazine to their deeds to report on them.
Monday the 25th we said goodbye to one another at breakfast in the morning. Those who live locally get in their car and drive home. Don Gray and his wife, Lillie Jo, drove all the way from Arkansas! Others head to the airport at varying times for flights back to their homeland. Still others stay on at the Crown Plaza to extend their stay. Some, like my shipmate Paul Coverdale and his first mate, Teri, continued their vacation and went elsewhere. The Coverdales went on to Hawaii! NAFTS member Alvin Johnson and his first mate, Lesley, returned to their home in Australia. Al & Les come to every reunion, all the way from Australia. If we offered a prize for the furthest distance traveled they would win hands down every year.
And speaking of prizes, members bring items to donate to our raffle held at the banquet. We raffle them off to help defer expenses and we also have a 50%-50% raffle where we split the amount received with the raffle winner. Again, we also got a souvenir Tee shirt of the reunion for every attendee. A nice simple shirt with the NAFTS logo and the words “San Diego 2017”.
So as quickly as it began it was suddenly over. Time flies when you’re having fun. Most folks who go to a reunion get hooked and return to a future one. And here’s why: Our reunions are designed to be a true vacation event. Yeah, sure, there are sailors who sit around and reminisce about the old days but they bring their spouses (we call them their first mates), they bring their kids, they bring their neighbors and their friends and everyone has a grand old time. We choose varied locations around the country, typically visiting the east coast, then the west coast, the gulf coast and the central region of the U.S. This allows us to see a new part of the country each year and it lends an opportunity for members who live nearby to get to a reunion without much travelling. And the costs for it all are spaced out so as not to be a sudden wallet drain. You’ll pay for your tours etc. initially to NAFTS. Then later on you can purchase your travel tickets. And lastly you pay the hotel bill as you go out the door to head back home.
Next year we are going to Baton Rouge Louisiana! We expect to be going sometime in mid-October so set aside the time and come on down and bring the family. It will be another great one. We’ll put the info on the Baton Rouge Reunion in the April and the July issue of TOWLINE so be sure to check it out and make plans. You won’t be sorry that you did.
Again a hearty thanks to all those who came to San Diego and a big thank you to PJ Rolow for setting it all up for us. Also thanks to all the NAFTS Board members. Our new President is Dennis Colton. Our new Secretary is Paul Coverdale. Our new Chaplain is Cliff Marsh. Leon Maierhafer is Vice President Ombudsman.