2014 All-FAC REUNION REPORT
The "Second Mother of All FAC Reunions" is now history and what a great one it was! Approximately 400 FACs and their guests attended the reunion in Ft Walton Beach, FL, 22-26 Oct 2014. The weather was perfect the entire week and camaraderie, fellowship, and old war stories abounded.
The week's activities began with a pre-party BBQ at the poolside FAC Hooch at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort on Tuesday evening which was attended by about 130 early arrivals. Registration began on Wednesday and continued throughout Thursday. Official activities began Wednesday afternoon with a poolside "Homecoming" cookout followed by a "Welcome" party and Authors Book signing table event. The FAC hooch that night (and every night) was a lively place as old friends reconnected and new friend were made.
Thursday's main event was a charter bus tour to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL. One of the highlights of this visit was a presentation on the new National Flight Academy and the summer camp programs being offered to young people to introduce them to aviation. The Academy is billed as America's number Aviation-themed learning adventure for 7-12 graders. The camp's entire week's training is based on the premise that you are living on an aircraft carrier. A tour of their brand new facilities followed. Information on the Flight Academy can be found at: www.nationalflightacademy.com.
Thursday evening was a chance to enjoy the beauty of the Florida gulf coast with a dinner at the nearby Crab Trap Restaurant.
Friday morning was filled with a several optional events that offered something for just about everyone. About 80 attendees went 40 miles north to the beautiful Sky Ranch Airport where everyone, including wives, were treated to a short flight in the 0-1 aircraft and lunch, compliments of the local chapter of the international Birddog Assoc. The birddogs also provide a four-ship flyby for the FAC memorial service on Saturday at Hurlburt Field.
Other Friday AM events included a golf tournament at the Gator Lakes course at Hurlburt, deep sea fishing from the nearby Destin harbor (the fish were biting!), and a tour of the Destin History and Fishing Museum followed by a visit to the Silver Sands Shopping Outlet Mall. The main event that afternoon was a Dolphin/Sunset cruise from the scenic Destin harbor on three different vessels (over 300 in attendance) and a seafood dinner at the newly opened Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville restaurant on the waterfront.
Saturday's events were clearly the highlight of the entire reunion. The day began with a bus tour of Hurlburt Field (it was amazing to see how much the base has grown), a Command Briefing on the missions of the AF Special Operations Command, and an excellent update briefing by the 23 Special Tactics Squadron on how our modern-day Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTACs) are carrying on the FAC legacy.
Everyone gathered at the Hurlburt Air park on an absolutely beautiful sunny day for a FAC memorial ceremony honoring our FAC brethren who Gave All. In addition to the 22 Honor Family members present, we were also blessed to have Dorie Day (wife of MOH recipient Bud Day, deceased) as a special guest. The Emerald Coast Pipes and Drum Corps provided music before and during the ceremony and the Gloryland men's chorus led everyone in a stirring rendition of the national anthem. The ceremony began with a few Hurlburt Reflections by Claude Newland and Col Dave Hill, FAC Assoc. Chaplain, provided a wonderful eulogy and a brief recap of the FAC mission. Following the Roll Call of names, the Hurlburt Honor Guard played taps and the four-ship 0-1 flyby occurred right on cue as the bagpipers played Amazing Grace. At the end of the ceremony a memorial wreath was place at the FAC memorial by the Honor Families and a number of group photos were taken with the various FAC Aircraft. The Hurlburt visit concluded with a buffet lunch at the Hurlburt Soundside Club which was followed by an afternoon FAC Association business meeting at the Ramada which included election of officers.
A full-house FAC Banquet was held Saturday night with 400 attendees. Darrel Whitcomb served as the master of ceremonies. Entertainment before and after the banquet was provided by our master of musical revelry, Roger Dodd, and his Seiko Watch Tool Band. Special guests for the evening included six FAC Aussie mates from Downunder: Peter & Carleen Condon, Huck Ennis & daughter Andi Ennis who lives in Fernie, BC, Ken & Burnadette Mitchell, Ken & Helen Semmler, Ron & Sue Slater, and Bruce & Sue Wood. Other special guests were Lynn Stegner and daughter Christina Camire. Lynn is the wife of Bob Stegner, deceased, who was the aviation artist that created the wonderful memorial and aircraft artwork that is inscribed in stone on our Hurlburt FAC Memorial.
Following the Australian and US national anthems, the effervescent Aussie Ken Semmler lead everyone in singing the unofficial Australian national anthem, Waltzing Matilda.
Col Ed Hubbard, SEA POW and author of, "Escape From The Box, The Wonder of Human Potential" was the featured speaker. He shared with us the many valuable lessons he learned during 2,420 days as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
The evening concluded with the FAC Association recognizing the leadership efforts of Charlie Pocock, Bob Gorman, and Peter Condon who were all instrumental in getting our FAC history Books, Cleared Hot, Vol. I and Vol. II, into print. The outgoing officers of the Assoc and the new officers were also recognized. The next FAC Association reunion will be held in Williamsburg, VA in 2016. Hope to see you there.