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June 2017 Newsletter

Vol 4, Issue 5

Ted’s Talk

Finding a Reunion-Friendly Hotel! 


We’ve been planning reunions for going on 30 years now. Something we truly specialize in is hotel contracting – with short form customized contracts at reunion-friendly hotels. We have many ‘favorite’ hotels coast to coast, but please tell us about your favorite hotel – send me an email to nominate your reunion-friendly hotel of the year!

For groups with less than 50 rooms per night we can steer your group to a partner hotel with great rates very quickly – and it costs the group nothing. That’s what BookMyReunion.com is all about – simple, attrition-free hotel contracts free of charge. Hotels pay a commission after the reunion and we absolutely get the best rates you can get.

Groups may also take advantage of our built-from-the bottom-up registration software. It’s customizable, affordable, and very user-friendly. To see a sample website please visit www.afr-reg.com/sample. For reunion groups large and small it’s the best thing since sliced bread. To find out more about our great registration software please Contact Us.

We are so proud to announce that Betsi Radd has joined Betsi Photoour staff as an Account Executive. For the past 15 years Betsi was the Reunion Salesperson for one of the top reunion hotels in the area: Holiday Inn Va. Beach/Norfolk Hotel. Betsi brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to help groups secure reunion-friendly hotel contracts nationwide. Betsi will be available on Tuesdays and Thursdays and may be reached at betsi@afri.com or by calling 757-625-6401. Welcome aboard Betsi!

The Featured Veteran this month is Jim Hayter, who went to radar school and reported in 1960 to the mighty USS Midway at its homeport in Alameda, CA. The association’s next reunion is Sept. 11 -13 in San Diego with the highlight being a flight deck dinner on the Midway for 400.

The Featured Reunion Destination this month is Branson, MO. Military reunion groups often say that Branson is their number-one destination of choice. Branson salutes veterans year round, and in keeping with a long tradition of gratitude, many of Branson’s live entertainment shows recognize veterans, military personnel and their families through special patriotic musical numbers.

The Must-See Museum this month is Patriots Point in Charleston Harbor, SC, featuring the USS Yorktown, USS Laffey, USS Clamagore, Vietnam Experience, and the Medal of Honor Museum. Since opening, Patriots Point has become one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions with more than 270,000 visitors each year.

For reunion groups with less than 50 rooms per night BookMyReunion.com can get your group attrition-free contracts nationwide.  For larger groups seeking a wide array of event planning services (including tour planning and onsite management) please visit www.afri.com.



Destination Photo 1Branson salutes our veterans and active duty armed forces year-round. Their service, commitment and ultimate sacrifice is honored with multiple special events, warm welcomes and VIP treatment. Men and women veterans and active duty personnel from all branches and from all wars, conflicts and peacetime service are appreciated in the Branson/Lakes Area every day of the year.

Earlier this year, the Branson Veterans Memorial Museum restored the Huey UH1-C helicopter upon its retirement from the 118th Thunderbird 3rd platoon ‘Bandits’ and relocated it to its permanent resting place at the Branson Veterans Memorial Museum. This display continually attracts visitors of all ages to view and learn more about the history of the very aircraft renowned for a countless number of rescues of U.S. military warriors during the Vietnam War. On March 9, Lt. Payne – the pilot of this very aircraft from 1966-1968 – reunited with the Huey which he flew during the war, and veterans travel from across the country to admire the helicopter that brought them safely back to the homeland from war.

City of Branson Mayor Best shared “Branson is known for its community character, one that exhibits commitment to family, faith, friends, flag and future. I am honored to represent one of the few cities in America that Veterans call their ‘second home’ because of the community-wide demonstration of support, recognition and appreciation we collectively show in honor of those who fought – and continue to fight – for our freedom. Our military servicemen and women pay an unimaginable price many of us cannot even fathom, and it is my honor and privilege to not only memorialize their work by the display of the Huey, but to host events that communicate how much Branson appreciates their devotion to serve our country.”

In keeping with a long tradition of gratitude, many ofDestination Photo 2 Branson’s live entertainment shows recognize veterans, military personnel and their families through special patriotic musical numbers.  Frequently the entire audience gives a resounding round of applause to say “Welcome Home” and “Thank You.”  This commitment to honoring veterans can be seen at area attractions, restaurants, museums and other businesses in a variety of ways. Military reunion groups often say that Branson is their number-one destination of choice.  Surrounded by the scenic Ozark Mountains, visitors enjoy pristine lakes perfect for fishing and sailing as well as beautiful countryside championship golf.  Experience for yourself the warmth of the Branson community’s genuine hospitality and appreciation of our nation’s heroes past and present.

Volunteer military reunion planners are invited to join the Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau for our Military Reunion Planners Conference, Aug 14 – 17, 2017.  This event gives you the opportunity to site visit hotels, preview shows, taste meals, and experience group transportation, giving you first-hand information for choosing your Branson itinerary and services. Take this knowledge and let the team at BookMyReunion know your choices when you are ready to plan.

BRANSON VETERANS HOMECOMING (NOV. 5 – 11)   Each year, Branson hosts America’s largest Veterans Homecoming celebration. Thousands of veterans, their friends and families arrive for a week of camaraderie. Annually, from Nov. 5 through Veterans Day on Nov. 11, Branson is filled with commemorative events, special appearances by high-ranking military personnel, tribute shows, military era based reunions and more. The Veterans Day parade is held in historic downtown Branson, always at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and marks the conclusion of Veterans Week each year.


Still On Board the USS Midway

Vet Photo 1

“Like nothing I’d ever seen before, incredibly massive, awe-inspiring and deadly all at the same time,” is how Jim Hayter described the first time he saw the aircraft carrier USS Midway. Enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1959, Hayter went to radar school and reported to the mighty ship at its homeport in Alameda, CA in 1960. He worked in the Operations Intelligence (OI) division for the entire 38 months he was aboard the Midway. This group operated the vessel’s five radar systems, which were manned 24 hours a day while underway. Promoted to Radarman 2nd class prior to discharge, Hayter did two western Pacific cruses, one off Laos, which at the time was among the first hotbeds in Southeast Asia and home to part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

“We were running figure eights off the coast and always watching the screens as things were starting to intensify,” said Hayter, 77. “We saw the recon planes coming back full of holes in their tails and wings. “The Midway was our tip of the sword in the Far East and out there ready in case something went wrong.”

Commissioned a week after the Japanese surrender and named after the Battle of Midway, which in 1942 helped turn the war in the Pacific to the allies’ favor, the ship became the longest-serving carrier of the 20th century and at 971-feet long the largest ship in the world until 1955. She served 47 years and saw extensive action in Vietnam, receiving the Presidential Unit Citation from Nixon, noting crucial and devastating aerial attacks against the enemy. She operated through the entire Cold War and was the Persian Gulf flagship in Operation Desert Storm. Over the decades she was home to more than 200,000 sailors before being decommissioned in 1992. “With its size, you’d think there would be plenty of room for the 4,500 crewmen and there was, but not in the sleeping quarters, where we were packed in,” Hayter said.

Hayter left the service in 1963, graduated from Texas Tech University and enjoyed a career with ATT. He left the company in 1989 and worked for Mindbank Consulting Group until in 2013, retiring in Reston, VA with wife Pammela. It would be more than 35 years, but in 1998 he got a call that would eventually put him back aboard ship. “I was contacted by a retired chief from the Midway who had started the OI Division Reunion Group, We always enjoyed our gatherings, but the numbers were kind of small, so we decided to open it up to more people in 2010 as the USS Midway Veterans Association,” said Hayter, Vice President of Reunions for the organization.Vet Photo 2

As the lead ship of the Midway class, she lives on as the USS Midway Museum, berthed since 2004 at the Navy Pier in San Diego. “It was an unbelievable feeling to step back on board the first time”.  Today she is the most visited museum ship in the world, just amazing and home to planes and memorabilia from 1945 to ’92,” Hayter said. “The first thing you do at our reunions is see someone you knew in your late teens, talk about what they did after their service and then start sharing some of the sea stories from our Navy days. The stories get bigger and better with each re-telling.  We reestablish old friendships and make new ones. As soon as you hit the deck the memories start flooding back.”

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. has been managing the association’s reunions for several years and will manage their 2017 gathering. “AFR is extremely helpful in planning our reunions and are a complete full-service operation, providing the total package or just tailoring what we need done, they do it all.”

The association’s next reunion is Sept. 11 -13 in San Diego with the highlight being a flight deck dinner on the Midway for 400 and retired Rear Admiral Mac McLaughlin, museum CEO as guest speaker. “We are so lucky, most ships from that time have been decommissioned and scrapped,” Hayter said. “To think that 50 years later we’re enjoying a meal and sunset from where countless planes were launched and landed makes for a very reflective moment.”

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.


Museum Must PhotoPatriots Point Development Authority was established in the 1970s to develop a naval & maritime museum on Charleston Harbor with the World War II aircraft carrier, USS YORKTOWN as its centerpiece. It’s also home to the Patriots Point Museum and a fleet of National Historic Landmark ships, the Cold War Memorial and the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the U.S., the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the agency’s official Medal of Honor Museum.

With general admission, you can explore the USS YORKTOWN, USS LAFFEY, USS CLAMAGORE, Vietnam Experience, and Medal of Honor Museum. With five tour routes on the YORKTOWN alone, maps and on-site navigation guide you to walk in the steps of the ships’ sailors and officers. Learn about the men who powered these great ships by visiting everything from the YORKTOWN’s Flight Deck, to the LAFFEY’s Mount 53 Experience, and the torpedoes of the CLAMAGORE.

Since opening, Patriots Point has become one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions with more than 270,000 visitors each year. The YORKTOWN boasts one of the largest education and overnight camping programs in the nation, with more than 40,000 school age children attending these programs each year.


Museum Gem PhotoOn November 18, 1951, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur and his family came to Norfolk, VA to dedicate a city park in honor of the General’s mother.  The General’s mother was born and raised in Norfolk, and during the festivities, he told city leaders that he felt he had finally come home.  Remembering this sentiment, in 1960 the City of Norfolk offered the General the 1850 City Hall Building as the site for a proposed MacArthur Museum.  Designed by John Singleton and United States Capitol architect Thomas U. Walter, the building had been at the heart of Norfolk for a hundred years.  In 1862, the city was surrendered to Union forces on its front steps.  In later years, presidential candidates often chose the site to make their case to the citizens of Norfolk.

General MacArthur accepted the city’s proposal on one condition – that he and his wife could be buried in the rotunda of the building.  Thus, the museum became a memorial.  The MacArthur Memorial opened to the public on January 26, 1964.  Today the Memorial is an internationally recognized museum and research center dedicated to presenting the story of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. The museum preserves and displays his personal papers, his library, and thousands of artifacts related to his 52-year military career.  The Memorial also pays tribute to the millions of men and women who served in World War I, World War II, the Occupation of Japan and the Korean War.