Welcome to Armed Forces Reunions, Inc.’s inaugural BookMyReunion (BMR) newsletter – dedicated to our veterans and those hotels, cities, and industry professionals who appreciate the value of the military reunion market. Of special interest in our monthly newsletters will be:
- Ted’s Talk – Insights on a variety of topics
- Meet a Veteran – Interviews with national heroes
- Destination of the Month – Columns highlighting Top Reunion Destinations
- Reunion Specialist – Interviews with leading reunion-friendly hoteliers
- This Month in Military History – Important events in our nation’s history
Having planned military reunions for 31 years it’s easy for me to say “My, how things have changed.” In the 80s and 90s hotel contracts were simple, straightforward documents – not so today. Seeing a Rooms Attrition Clause for the first time was terrifying. Hotel contracts have become so filled with legal gobbledygook it takes the fun out of contracting. Worse, reunion groups have come to believe they have no choice but to risk ‘financial ruin’ each time a dotted line is signed. BookMyReunion.com (BMR) has arrived to put reunion groups back in the driver’s seat.
BMR’s central premise is attrition-free contracting, the way it used to be. Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. (BMR’s parent company) has planned thousands of reunions in over 150 cities coast to coast. We know what hotels are reunion-friendly, and such hotels know that partnering with BMR will gain more reunion business. Our new attrition-free, short form BMR Hotel Contract is accepted by partner hotels nationwide.
In some cases we’ve booked reunions in the same hotels for 25 years – with the same hotel salesperson! Such is the case at the Holiday Inn Bayside in San Diego. Jodie Langhammer, National Sales Manager at the Holiday Inn, is our Reunion Specialist of the month in this inaugural newsletter – a column highlighting hoteliers whose careers have demonstrated unmatched service to our nation’s veterans. It is this kind of dedication to service that you will find at all BMR Star Hotels.
In our veteran profiles series, this month meet Bill Norwood, Founder of the Korean War Ex-POW Association. In future newsletters we’ll introduce What a Reunion!, a series of recollections by AFR employees about great reunions we’ve planned and national heroes we’ve worked with. At reunions there’s a bond unlike any other. It’s why we believe our work is not just a job, but a privilege and an honor. Serving those who served our country, like Bill and his fellow POWs, is what we proudly do.
Louisville, Kentucky: Veterans, families and friends shared tears of joy, honor and remembrance at the 39th and final annual reunion of the Korean War Ex-POW Association. More than 400 people from across the country assembled from July 27 – August 3 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. It was the group’s largest reunion since being established in 1976 by association founder, president and Korean ex-POW Bill Norwood.
“It was a big hurrah, a wonderful gathering and somewhat emotional as our last official reunion after 39 years,” Norwood said. “We saw many familiar faces along with veterans, families and friends we hadn’t seen in several years. A high level delegation came in from South Korea to present medals to our veterans in a heart-warming show of thanks and appreciation. It all was very, very special.”
The Louisville finale was packed full of activity, presentations, functions, dinners and engagements. The association is being dissolved as a non-profit entity, but members still plan on getting together on a casual basis with the support of their families.
Bill Norwood in 1951 had served in the Army’s 24th Infantry Division in Korea for less than a year before he and his company were ambushed. Though escaping the initial assault they were apprehended by the Chinese and marched for four months from the 38th Parallel to a camp in Ch’ang-Sang, with many prisoners dying from thirst and starvation along the way. Norwood became ill at the camp, but was nursed back to health by fellow prisoner and Tennessean Dave Dawson. They survived two years in captivity before being released and returning home.
After two decades of thinking about what happened to the other POWs, along with personal anxiety from the ordeal, Norwood began looking for fellow prisoners.
“When we came home we thought we’d just forget about the war, but that didn’t happen and I needed to see and relate with these guys,” he said. “I searched for two years before I found 12 of my former POWs and we met for the first time in Louisville in 1976.”
The association is the only group dedicated to representing all Korean War Ex-POWs from the United Nations and has more than 2,000 members. Their numbers include POWs from the United States, Great Britain, France, Ireland, Australia, Philippines, Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Belgium, Canada and South Africa.
“The reunions helped me and the guys get through some of the tough times we experienced, things we can’t easily talk about with other people, and it has been a real form of therapy for us,” said Norwood, who lives with his wife Elizabeth in Cleveland, Tennessee. “We originally tried to manage the reunions ourselves, but it was just too much. We found AFR and every year they’ve put it together like clockwork so we could take a load off, sit back and enjoy the camaraderie. Without AFR we would have had to give this up a long time ago. I really don’t know what we would have done without them.”
Norwood added that BookMyReunion.com will also provide a valuable service to the reunion and hospitality industries.
“With Ted, Molly and their team’s knowledge of the military reunion business, this new company of theirs will offer a great service and value to reunion groups, the hotels and the destinations they visit,” he said. “Everyone will benefit.”
While the Korean War EX-POW Association has been formally dissolved, Norwood said it won’t be long before he gets together with some of his fellow POWs and veterans – and likely at a BMR Star Hotel.
“We’re all getting up there in age, but now we’re past the business and paperwork and can carry on the tradition on a smaller and more casual scale,” he said. “The friendships and camaraderie will go on.”
Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for BMR.com; Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and former staff writer for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
Bill Norwood pictured here with AFR staff members Emily Dale and Molly Dey.
Virginia Beach is a dramatic and meaningful setting for military reunions. This coastal resort is centrally located on the East Coast and within a day’s drive of two-thirds of America’s population. Three military bases are located in Virginia Beach: Naval Air Station Oceana, Fleet Training Center Dam Neck, and Joint-Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
The greater Virginia Beach metropolitan area is home to nine additional major military installations representing all the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, including the world’s largest naval base and home of the Atlantic Fleet. The local military installations provide jobs for more than 33,000 service members and civilians, with a combined annual payroll of more than $7.5 billion. Seven of the world’s top defense-related firms have a major presence in Virginia Beach, supporting the largest active duty military population in the U.S.
In Virginia Beach, we pride ourselves in offering the very best customer service to these modern day heroes. At no cost to your organization, our full-time reunion coordinator will give you all the assistance you need to plan a successful military reunion including:
- Recommending attractions that will interest and excite your delegate base
- Providing lists and contacts for off-property venues, tours, and entertainment options
- Support amenities such as welcome desk kits, destination materials, and JROTC Honor Guard services
- Site visit coordination, attendance building tools, and on-site meeting assistance
- Suite Salute incentive program offering a marketing sponsorship to groups based on the meeting’s time of year and total room nights that adds $’s to programming
Once here, key attractions include: tours of master jet base Naval Air Station Oceana, the Military Aviation Museum, Naval Aviation Memorial Park, the Old Coast Guard Station, the Tidewater Veterans Memorial and Veterans Memorial Park, just to name a few. Virginia Beach is also home to many annual events that can enhance your reunion experience including Virginia Beach Restaurant Week, the Virginia Arts Festival, Pungo Strawberry Festival, Patriotic Festival, Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach Craft Beer Festival, and the McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach.
As a year-round meeting destination and Virginia’s most populous city, it’s no wonder Virginia Beach offers every kind of accommodation imaginable – from first class hotels in resort, suburban, or retreat settings to cottages, condos, and campgrounds. Whatever your group needs, you’re sure to find it in Virginia Beach with over 11,000 guestrooms.
Allow your new friends at the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau help provide you the perfect setting to reconnect with your old friends! Click here to search for hotels in Virginia Beach, or visit our website: www.visitvirginiabeach.com/meetingplanners/ or call toll free 1-800-700-7702 to get started today.
BMR: How long have you been working in the military reunion market, and how long at your current hotel? I have been working in the Military Reunion Market since 1990 when I started my career here at the Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside. Our hotel specializes in military reunions, and we have had the pleasure of hosting more than 30 reunions each year.
BMR: What’s so significant about military reunions and how does the reunion market differ from other markets? The reunion attendees are here to renew treasured friendships and to have fun! They like to see all that our city has to offer, and often will extend their stays to make the most of their trip. Our restaurant is always very popular with our reunion groups. We have great, reasonably priced food and offer a Senior Discount. Our staff always enjoys hearing members’ stories and makes sure that everyone feels that our hotel is their home away from home.
BMR: What services does your hotel provide for reunions that are special? The Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside offers special amenities to our military reunion groups, including a complimentary Hospitality Room. The venue is at the heart of the reunion, where everyone can reunite and reminisce. We waive the cost of any in-house audio visual equipment. Footage from past reunions can be readily enjoyed and the group’s banquet dinner and keynote speakers can keep everyone up on current events with no worry of additional costs. Group members also enjoy the complimentary 24-hour airport shuttle, waived parking fees and our affordable pricing.
BMR: What makes San Diego so attractive to reunion groups? San Diego is such a popular military town, especially for the Navy and Marine reunion groups, where many sailors and marines started their careers as recruits at NTC or MCRD. San Diego deserves its name as America’s Finest City, with its almost perfect climate, small town feel, great airline service, famous Zoo, and 70 miles of coastline. These attractions and many more make it a popular destination for all groups.
BMR: How will BookMyReunion.com benefit your hotel? We are excited to be one of the founding hotels in BookMyReunion.com and look forward to being a partner with this exciting new program. What a wonderful one- stop shop for military reunion planners. The new BMR contract makes it so easy to book a reunion, both for our honored veterans on the reunion planning side, as well as for our reunion specialists on the hotel side! Also, the e-newsletters going out to the reunion planning community will keep them informed with the latest reunion tips and topics, and will feature great articles such as “Destination of the Month”, “Meet a Veteran” and “Military History This Month.” It’s sure to be a hit!
September 1, 1939: WWII starts with Germany’s invasion of Poland.
September 2, 1864: Atlanta is captured by Sherman’s Army. “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won,” Sherman telegraphs Lincoln. The victory greatly helps President Lincoln’s bid for re-election.
September 5, 1970: Operation Jefferson Glenn, the last U.S. offensive in Vietnam, begins in Thua Thien Province.
September 12, 1918: The first stand-alone attack by Americans occurs as the U.S. 1st Army attacks the southernmost portion of the Western Front in France at St. Mihiel. The offensive is supported by an unprecedented 1,476 Allied aircraft used as part of a coordinated air-ground attack.
September 16, 1969: President Nixon orders the withdrawal of 35,000 soldiers from Vietnam and a reduction in draft calls.
September 17, 1862: The bloodiest day in U.S. military history as Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies are stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall 26,000 men are dead, wounded or missing. Lee withdraws to Virginia.
September 25, 1967: The Americal Division (23rd Inf. Div.) is formed in Vietnam for operations in I Corps. Division includes previously separate 196th Light Inf. Brigade and soon to arrive 11th and 198th Infantry Brigades.