Rattler/Firebird Reunion 2014

When and Where

Marriott DFW Airport SouthThe 2014 edition of the Rattler/Firebird Reunion was held June 18-22, 2014 at the Marriott DFW Airport South in Ft. Worth, TX. We hope all who attended enjoyed themselves and had a safe journey home.

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About the Reunion

Our just completed 2014 reunion was attended by 140 men who served in our unit between 43 years and 49 years ago. The brotherhood that binds us together is just as strong as ever.

Three busloads rode out to Mineral Wells to see the remains of Ft. Wolters. It hurts to see a once vibrant military base become more like a ghost town. It was a first experience for most of the former EMs but not for the OFs and WOs.

The Women’s Meet and Greet on Thursday afternoon was the best ever with wine tasting, fruit and cheese and fun and games with real prizes.

Thursday night another three buses left the Marriott DFW Airport South and ventured to Billy Bob’s Texas, reputed to be the largest honky tonk in the world. We went for a delicious BBQ dinner. Some brave souls who had been shooting the bull got their photo made riding the bull (playlike).

Early Friday morning the Firebird Freefire golf group left the hotel followed by buses going to the George Bush Library, the Perot Museum of Natural History and the 6th Floor Exhibit.

Saturday morning was the time for our Memorial Service honoring our 55 men killed in action. Also mentioned were the 15 men who had passed away since our last reunion. At the sound of Taps a hand salute was ordered by Major General Tom Griffith, our senior ranking officer. At the order of, “Order arms” Lee Greenwood’s Proud To Be An American was played and sung by many.

The Association business meeting followed with the election of David Hunter (EM 69-70) to our board of directors replacing Jim Surwillo (EM 69-70) who had served 4 years and had to leave because of term limits.

Later, two busloads of our people took the tour of the Dallas Cowboy stadium. This 1.1 billion dollar edifice has to be seen to be believed.

A cocktail hour (and a half) preceded our banquet Saturday night.

Several of our men looked especially dashing wearing their military dress uniforms. This showed a lot of class by these men and the practice should be encouraged in the future.

The banquet began with the posting of the colors by our Firebird Honor Guard team. Following the Pledge of Allegiance and The Star Spangled Banner, our prayer before the meal was given by Reverend Eric Kilmer, our Association Chaplin. Dinner was then served.

At the conclusion of the dinner our Deputy National Director Johnnie B. Hitt took over to take care of our raffle drawing. The following won these prizes: Tom Silva - $250, JoAnne Esckilsen (wife of Stanley) – a new tail rotor chain bracelet, Grace Patterson (granddaughter of Chuck Carlock) - $250, Nancy Johnson (wife of Jerry) – a brass cyclic head, and Mel Jones took home a commemorative dagger. Nancy Johnson donated the cyclic head for future raffles.

Reunion Chairman Vic Bandini made special recognition of our World War II and Korean War veteran Jerry Meader. Also called out was LaRue Keller as an Army nurse who served with us in Vietnam.

During the Vietnam War untold Americans sought refuge in Canada. Not Wayne Bell, a Canadian who came to American to join the U.S. Army and fight for our cause. Bell received a rousing ovation when Bandini brought this to our attention.

The “Jesus Nut” award went to Mike Curry who had traveled the longest distance from his home in Talent, OR. The winner is determined by using the Rand-McNally web site on the internet and is measured from zip code to zip code. There are no repeat winners of this award.

The Unsung Hero Award went to David Hunter for his outstanding achievements while working in our maintenance section.

Doug Hopkins took the podium to present the Rattler Legend Award. This year the award went to Rattler 29 (pronounced two nine) George Bailey. A much deserved standing ovation followed the announcement.

Something that has become a fixture of our reunions came next. This was the playing of the Joe Galloway “God’s Own Lunatics” praise for Army aviators. If you are not familiar with this, go to our web site at www.rattler-firebird.org and at the top of the page put your cursor on “miscellaneous”. On the drop down menu, click on sounds. From there under movie sounds you will find this masterpiece by Joe Galloway.

Vic Bandini then introduced our guest speaker, B.G. Burkett, author of the book, Stolen Valor. Mr. Burkett held us spellbound as he related instance after instance of “wannabes” assuming the identity of war heroes. Before Mr. Burkett’s investigation into this phenomenon a high percentage of these “heroes” were just plain old run of the mill criminals using a heightened awareness of patriotism to milk the ystem out of the real heroes of the Vietnam War. Our unit has more than its fair share of real heroes with far too many unrecognized.

Because of Mr. Burkett’s diligence, Congress passed the “Stolen Valor Act” which was undone by The Supreme Court. A newer version of the “Stolen Valor Act” has now been passed by congress which should endure for a long time.

Throughout the reunion scores of attendees voiced their opinion that future reunions be held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area because of the convenience of moving our huge display material to include the slick and gunship. All these artifacts are stored just a 30 minute drive from our reunion hotel at Chuck Carlock’s home. The “company store” material comes from Ron Seabolt’s home which is about an hour’s drive away.

We have never been at a more hospitable hotel than we were for this reunion. Friendliness, service, and attention to detail were unparalleled for this 11th reunion. It began on Tuesday afternoon just before the reunion when the hotel staff was paraded in front of Ron and Kay Seabolt and Ray Casey to introduce themselves.

Dining choices abounded at the hotel location. We try our utmost to make your reunion attendance as economical as possible. Having multiple dining choices for dinner is one way of doing this.

Your Board of Directors will be deciding on the next reunion location but they will be hard pressed to beat the Marriott DFW Airport South of Ft. Worth, Texas!