Wow, can you believe that another reunion has come to an end? For those that attended, I think that I can speak for us all by saying that it was another absolutely great time. Everyone that I spoke to during the reunion had a smile on their face and a story to tell of where they just came from or where they were headed next.
Bernie and I arrived on Sunday after cruising to Alaska with Don Smith & Christy Tyler and Leo & Estrella Oliver. Several attendees were already there and several others trickled in over the next few days until Thursday came along. That is when the remaining crew members checked in and it was officially the start of our 2015 reunion.
During the days before the official start of the reunion, we took in all that Seattle and the surrounding area had to offer. Mt St Helen, Mt Rainier, the Space Needle, Gig Harbor, Mariners Game, Wineries, Breweries, Casinos, Museums, Ferry Boats, Restaurants, Malls, and everything downtown had to offer.
Every night we all gathered in the Hotel Atrium for the Manager's Cocktail Special. We pulled several tables together and laughed and told stories.
If you have never been to a USS Richmond K. Turner reunion or for that matter, any other military reunion, it is something that you really need to experience. It is a weekend / week that you will never forget. You will rekindle friendships with former shipmates and create new friendships with shipmates from other era's that will last a lifetime.
To recap a few of the highlights from the reunion, let me try and condense it down to a few short paragraphs. The hospitality suite was set up on the 8 th floor in a Presidential Suite. It was the meeting hub of the reunion. It was kept stocked with beer, wine, soda, water and snacks by Jim & Sharon Jansen, Jesse & Anna McNear, and Doris Mock. We displayed past and present pictures and photos, cruise books, and other ship memorabilia. There were more sea stories told and friendships made at this location than anywhere else, and the laughter coming from the card game tables was present every night.
We had arranged several events and tours, which were attended by many of the crew and their guests. Thursday night started with a Meet and Greet in our Hospitality Suite where everyone enjoyed King Sized Shrimp. We then boarded a bus and headed downtown where we all enjoyed the waterfront area and great restaurants.
Friday morning was the trip to the Boeing Plant where we saw first-hand how they assemble Boeing 747's, 767's 777's and the 787 Dreamliner. It was immediately followed by a tour of Seattle which included a lunch stop by Fisherman's Warf.
Friday evening was our Dinner Cruise on Lake Union and Lake Washington. It was a perfect night to be out on the cruise. Everyone told me that their dinners were great and the cruise was even better.
Saturday morning, all of the men attended a ship's meeting where old and new information was discussed by our President Jim Jansen, our Secretary John Weaver, and myself. During the meeting, Doug Walters was elected as our new Vice President and Jerry Thorsell was elected as a new member of our Association Board.
Our present Association Committee consists of Jim Jansen – President, Doug Walters - Vice President, John Weaver – Secretary, Eric Miller – Treasurer, Robert Toussaint, Jesse McNear. Jerry Thorsell – Board of Directors.
I will also be staying on as the Reunion Chairman for the next reunion, which will be held in either Charleston SC, or Jacksonville, FL in September or October of 2017 . I, along with the reunion committee, will be visiting and e-mailing these areas over the next 3 to 6 months and we will make the exact location and hotel choice soon thereafter. Anything you can say or do to persuade us one way or the other would be helpful!
There was also a very successful Silent Auction and Chinese Auction held Saturday morning in the hospitality room. We asked all attendees to try and remember to bring something along from their home town and/or their area of the country. Several examples of items to bid on were: Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat, Beautiful Gift Baskets, T-Shirts, Canvas Pictures of the USS Richmond K. Turner signed by all attending shipmates, Home Grown Honey, Homemade Candy, Bronze Plaque, 10 lb Hershey Bar, Pictures, Picture Frames, Bottles of Wine, Books, Mugs, Hats, and Patches, and much, much more. Just like in previous reunions, it was a big hit and I will make sure that it is scheduled for our 2017 reunion.
Finally, this brings us to our Saturday evening banquet, which was held in the Embassy Suites Ballroom. Jackets, ties, beautiful dresses, beautiful women, and proud men. It was truly a sight to behold. We started the evening with a reception at 5:00 pm, which included a photographer to take pictures of the attendees, as well as a Complimentary Bar and Butler Passed hors d'oeuvres.
The 5 piece US Navy Band began playing at 6:00 pm. They were without a doubt an incredible addition to our reunion, playing all types of music. Most attendees told me that they got goose bumps while listening to them. The band led us right into our traditional 2 bell ceremony where we remembered all of our deceased shipmates who have passed on since our last reunion. It was immediately followed by “Taps” played by one of the Navy Band Members. There was not a dry eye in the room.
After dinner, I welcomed everyone to our Seattle Reunion and began a 20 – 25 minute comedy routine, picking on several of our shipmates. This was followed by our 3rd Annual Joke Telling Competition which was won in a close vote by Larry Gordon. Runners up were Doris (Carrying on the tradition set by Ron), and Doug Quamman. I'd like to extend a big “thank you” to all of them for participating in the fun and giving the audience a few good laughs. There was also a 50/50 drawing and a lot of door prizes and giveaways. We ended the evening dancing and enjoying music provided by a great DJ. The end of the night came much too quickly, but a good time seemed to be had by all.
Sunday morning was the day we were all hoping would never arrive. It was the day when we all had to say our good-byes. It was the day that we all made our promises of future visits, e-mails, facebook comments, and phone calls. A day filled with hugs, kisses, and handshakes.
On a personal note, this was my seventh USS Richmond K. Turner reunion and it was the seventh time that I left with more friends than when I arrived. It is something that is hard to explain in words, but if you attend a reunion, it is easy to understand.
In closing, I would like to say that I don't know what I need to do or say to persuade more of you to join us in our future reunions. They are more enjoyable than I could ever explain in any e-mail. I can guarantee every one of you that if you do attend any of our future reunions, the only reason that you would not have a great time is because you did not want to have a great time. It is a time when Officers are no longer Officers and Enlistees are no longer Enlistees. We are just one large group of former shipmates and sailors of the USS Richmond K. Turner.
Take care, be safe, and above all, stay in touch.
Thank you for your service to our great country!
SEE YOU IN THE GREAT SOUTHEAST
USS R. K. Turner Reunion Committee