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February 2015 Newsletter

Vol 2, Issue 2

Ted’s Talk

Ted onlyWe should all make note of important anniversaries to honor in our military history. This past June was the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and December the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. This month (February 19) marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. Armed Forces Reunions (AFR) has long handled the annual reunions for the Iwo Jima Association of America, and we are again planning this year’s event in the nation’s capital. This issue’s Veteran Interview is with LtGen. Lawrence Snowden USMC (Ret.), the most senior ranking survivor of Iwo Jima.

As General James L. Jones, 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps, said, “The valor and sacrifice of the Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima is, today and forever, the standard by which we judge what we are and what we might become.” Going forward, March 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first U.S. Combat Troops in South Vietnam, with April being the 40th anniversary of the end of that war. Follow us on Facebook, as we chronicle some of the most significant events in our nation’s military history. (www.facebook.com/armedforcesreunions.com)

For reunions large and small, hotel contracting is risky business. Regardless of the size of a group, the most important task a reunion chairman faces is to secure a hotel contract that meets the group’s needs without putting the group at financial risk. Reunion chairmen may change from year to year, and each new chairman is left to reinvent the wheel. Every group should know the room pickup from the last reunion (# of rooms used on each night from first in to last out).

Room Attrition Clauses should be taken seriously! In our short form BookMyReunion Hotel Contract the room attrition clause is removed entirely. With large groups it may not be possible to remove this clause, so past history and realistic expectations are critical. Never agree to a room attrition clause that requires your group to sell more than 75% of contracted rooms (preferably not more than 65%). Get a professional on your side to ensure your group is protected! When AFR books your group in a hotel that we do business with on a regular basis, the hotel is less likely to bite the hand that feeds it by pursuing damages against an AFR client.

Our Featured Destination this month is Norfolk, Virginia – our hometown. In 1983 I launched my career with military reunions at the Norfolk Convention Bureau. The CVB still leads the way in making Norfolk one of the nation’s true Top Reunion Destinations. Norfolk is the hub of the Hampton Roads area, home to more military bases and veterans than anywhere else in the U.S. And with our nation’s most significant historical sites within an hour’s drive (Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown), the hardest thing to do is decide what to do. Go to BMR’s Visit Norfolk page to learn about great incentives for reunions to meet in Norfolk.

This month’s Reunion Specialist is Ashley Leftwich, Sales Manager with the Holiday Inn Opryland/Airport in Nashville. We have booked dozens of groups in this hotel over the years, and consistent reviews go like this: “We’ve never been treated this well by any hotel anywhere, ever.” Hotels with such a history of outstanding service will sure keep us coming back.


Downtown-Norfolk-Waterfront-1Situated in the center of the mid-Atlantic coastal region, Norfolk, VA is a city known for its scenic waterways, lush landscape, thriving port, historic sites, moderate climate and diverse cultural and entertainment opportunities. Attractions celebrate the many faces of life in this historic city, one of America’s oldest. Norfolk’s universal allure is its vibrant waterfront location, attracting visitors from across the world.

Cruise the Elizabeth River harbor on a Tall Ship or lunch/dinner cruise. Dine at one of Norfolk’s 80 chef-owned restaurants or sign up for a pub crawl and taste Norfolk’s craft beers. Explore the Chrysler Museum of Art & Glass Studio or experience the annual Virginia International Tattoo. Navy buffs can engage in lively tours of Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval station and home to Nauticus-Battleship-Wisconsin-1more than 100 ships in the Atlantic Fleet. Norfolk is also home to Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest battleships in the world. Located within a day’s driving distance from two-thirds of the U.S. population, Norfolk is accessible from most major cities on the East Coast. Nearby Norfolk International Airport offers hundreds of flights daily.

Sail Into Savings

Book a reunion in Norfolk and receive a credit to your hotel’s master account! VisitNorfolk is offering this incentive for new reunions that book between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015 and meet prior to December 31, 2018. Planners who seeking destinations that are affordable and accessible – come Visit Norfolk! We are partnering with planners to reduce costs and provide you with one more reason to bring your reunion to Norfolk, Virginia. There must be a minimum of 20 peak rooms to be eligible. Reunions must not have held a meeting Norfolk within three years of contracted dates.


Immortalized in Joe Rosenthal’s photo of five U.S. Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman hoisting the American Flag on Mount Suribachi, the battle for Iwo Jima remains one of the most iconic and bloody fights of World War II. February 19, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the five-week struggle. Lt. Gen. Lawrence F. Snowden USMC (Ret.) was a 23-year-old Captain and commander of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. He was among the first waves of Marines going in and today is the most senior ranking survivor.

“The fighting was fierce and there was tremendous carnage on both sides, but it was for a very important strategic need,” said Snowden, 93, who lives in Tallahassee, FL. “Iwo provided the proximity for our new B-29 bombers to reach mainland Japan. It also became crucial for emergency landings of 2,400 of the planes. Of key importance was that it marked the first capture of Japanese homeland and the psychological impact on them was tremendous.”

Iwo Jima was the largest Marine amphibious operation of the war, and the costs of victory were extremely high. With nearly 27,000 Marine and 23,000 Japanese casualties, it was the only battle of the war where the Marines suffered more losses than the Japanese. The struggle was described as “being something out of Dante’s Inferno” in Hyper War: Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima by Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.).

In 1950 Snowden helped create the Marine Corps Development Center in Quantico, which charted operations and concept development for the future. He served as a Major and Battalion Executive in the Korean War, and in Vietnam he commanded the 7th Marine Regiment. “We did a lot of anti-Viet Cong missions, chasing guys who were farmers in the daytime and Viet Cong at night. It was pretty horrific; we lost a lot of arms and legs because of their trip wires. Now we call them IEDs.”

Snowden received five Legion of Merit awards over his thirty-seven years of service, two for combat. He was Chief of Staff of U.S. Forces in Japan from the early to mid-1970s. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on 1 September 1975 when he assumed the billet as the Marine Corps Operational Deputy to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He received a second Distinguished Service Medal for his service as Chief of Staff and retired in 1979.

Snowden will play a big part in two upcoming events to commemorate the 70th Iwo Cropanniversary of Iwo Jima. He and other battle veterans, families, friends and dignitaries will gather for the anniversary of the Iwo Jima Association of America’s Reunion and Symposium in Washington D.C. from Feb. 18 – 22. On Feb. 19 there will be a memorial service and a wreath laying ceremony at the WWII Monument and the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. The reunion will feature a wide range of activities and speakers, including U.S. government officials and the Ambassador of Japan. Snowden will be a moderator for many of the symposiums. The reunion is being managed by Armed Forces Reunions, parent company of BookMyReunion.com, which has managed many reunions for the association and other military organizations Snowden is a member of.

“Armed Forces Reunions does a very good job of organizing and administering the events; they have a lot experience,” Snowden said. “This will be a very important gathering, with media from around the world.”

The annual Reunion of Honor, a gathering of Iwo Jima veterans from the U.S. and their Japanese counterparts, will be held on Iwo Jima and Guam March 16-23. Founded by Snowden in 1995, the event draws hundreds of veterans, families, and officials from both countries. The idea for the reunion came to Snowden while visiting Japan during the Korean War and meeting former Japanese soldiers. It was the start of an attitude transformation for him and ultimately became a platform for a new understanding between the former enemies.

“I changed my mind in Korea about who our enemies were,” he said. Forty years after the battle, Snowden and other veterans of the struggle decided to visit the island. On the 50th anniversary in 1995 he and the group officially established The Reunion of Honor. “We didn’t and don’t go to Iwo Jima to celebrate victory, but for the solemn purpose to pay tribute to and honor those who lost their lives on both sides,” Snowden said. “It is a real alliance between the two countries. What I hope is that everyone understands that enemies can become friends, and that there is no more important bilateral relationship than between the U.S. and Japan.”

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.


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 June, 2011 when I started at the Holiday Inn Opryland/Airport. Our hotel has always been considered as reunion-friendly and we host multiple Military Reunions yearly.

BMR: What’s so significant about military reunions and how does the reunion market differ from other markets? Military reunions are the most fun-loving clients you can have! It is exciting to be a part of everyone getting back together and sharing stories. Two of my favorite things to witness at the hotel involve military reunions. The first is the smile reunion attendees have on their faces coming through the front doors, and seeing an old friend or their welcome banner hanging. The second is seeing pictures of the attendees during their time of service and hearing all the stories they love to tell. Everyone has such great style and there is always a great story to go along with the pictures. No other groups have those kinds of stories to share with each other. Other markets do not have the same family feel as military reunions.

BMR: What does your hotel do for reunions that’s special? Our hotel caters to reunions with complimentary hospitality rooms and guestroom for the planner, and hanging of your welcome banner. Our staff loves having military reunions stay with us! We even have a Wall of Honor that displays plaques received from military reunions. With over 8,000 square feet of flexible meeting space we have ample room to accommodate your banquet and pre-Opry meal. With our award-winning chef, our all-inclusive discounted military menus are sure to impress!

BMR: What makes Nashville so attractive to reunion groups? Nashville shines as Music City and Athens of the South. Our southern hospitality is evident in our friendly city. With attractions such as the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, The Hermitage, and War Memorial, we are more than just home to the stars. Nashville is an authentic historical location and also affordable. Reunions have so many interesting tours and sites to see here. Plus being within 600 miles of 50% of the population and having an international airport, we are easy to travel to and centrally located.

BMR: How will BookMyReunion.com benefit your hotel? We are thrilled to be a part of the BookMyReunion.com network! It allows for everything to be pre-negotiated with great rates and an attrition-free contract. It makes booking a reunion easy and sets both parties up for a successful event.