January/February 2016 Newsletter
Vol 3, Issue 1
MCRD San Diego, Camp Pendleton, and MCRD Parris Island. What former Marine doesn’t want to return? The National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Marine Barracks 8th and I Parade: all ‘must-sees’ for any Marine. Pensacola, New Bern, Miramar – epicenters of Marine Aviation. Armed Forces Reunions has planned countless Marine Corps reunions in San Diego, Charleston, Savannah, Pensacola, and the nation’s capital. In 2015 we handled the D.C. 70th anniversary reunion for the Iwo Jima Assn of America. This year we welcome The Chosin Few and 3/3 RVN vets back to San Diego. In 2014 Charleston was a busy year for our USMC groups, with visits by the 1st Marine Division, 4th Marine Division, 3/3 RVN Assn., and China Marines.
Longtime clients the Marine Corps Aviation Association return this year to New Bern, while the USMC Combat Helicopter Assn. touches down in Jacksonville. Also, it seems like a year doesn’t pass when we don’t have a Marine group in San Antonio. Having hosted the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions in years past this year we welcome the 5th Marine Division. In 2015 we hosted the Korean War Recon Marines and Anglico Assn. in San Antonio as well.
In contrast, some cities offer no historical military background but are so unbelievably military-friendly. Our Top Reunion Destination this month, Branson, takes top honors in that category. Every year in November the town honors and celebrates our veterans with a week-long series of events. No matter what service branch you belong to you’re sure to find a red carpet welcome in Branson, Missouri. Also, this month’s featured Reunion Specialist is Tiffanie Rogackie, Sales Manager for the Stone Castle Inn & Conference Center in Branson.
In this month’s Veteran Interview meet one of the Marine Corps’ finest: Gen. William “Spider” Nyland. We first met Spider in 2004 when planning our first MCAA symposium in New Bern, NC. Gen. Nyland was the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time and you can read about his many accomplishments in the interview – too many to list here!
No matter what branch you served in, if you want a 5-star reunion email us or call 800-562-7226! Our hotel partners give our groups the best deal on the books, guaranteed.
Branson 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.
In keeping with a long tradition of gratitude, many of the area 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 #1 destination of choice. Surrounded by the scenic Ozark Mountains, visitors enjoy pristine lakes perfect for fishing and sailing as well as beautiful countryside and 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/Lakes Area CVB for our annual Military Reunion Planners Conference, Aug 8 – 11, 2016. 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. Tens of 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, celebrities, 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.
Communication and Leadership from Cockpit to Command
Nicknamed “Spider” early in his career for a unique dress and singing style at a 1950s theme party, Marine General William L. “Spider” Nyland says the moniker stuck right away. “It’s the rules of call signs, you can’t pick your own and it’s usually given to you by a superior officer. It could have been a lot worse. My email is Spider and that’s all my wife calls me.”
Hailing from a family with a long military tradition, 1st Lt. Nyland first saw combat in Vietnam in 1970. Seated a foot behind the pilot’s cockpit, he served as the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) for 122 missions over Southeast Asia. As the second pair of eyes for pilot and crew, the job was complex: communications, navigation and maintaining course, monitoring air speed, altitude, dive angles, ordinance release parameters, weapon systems and ground and enemy aircraft fire, a broad spectrum of ever-changing critical information. All of his missions were in his beloved F–4 Phantom. “I was the back seat driver (but a welcome one!) so to speak, and there had to be a lot of load-sharing and coordination that all came back to communication,” says Nyland, retired Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. “We had some close calls. During an escort mission in combat spread over Laos, a ground-to-air SAM came up looking like a telephone pole and blew up between the two jets. That kind of got our attention. The sweet old F–4 was solid though, and helped us out of quite a few jams.”
The communication skills Nyland learned early helped him develop leadership qualities throughout his career, becoming the highest ranking Marine aviator and the only four-star aviation General inside the Marine Corps at that time. From 1985 to ’87 he commanded VMFA-232, the Marine Corps’ oldest and most decorated fighter squadron. He was promoted to Colonel in 1990 and Brigadier General in ’94, becoming the first NFO/RIO in the Marine Corps ever selected to Brigadier General and subsequent ranks. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 2000 and served first as Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources, then as Deputy Commandant for Aviation. Promoted to General in early September 2002, he assumed his duties as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps later that month. In these highly distinguished billets he joined other Marine aviators in additional combat missions over Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Hungary before retiring in November, 2005.
“It is a great privilege and pleasure to lead Marines, and I think a big requirement is to be a good communicator at all levels,” says Nyland, 69. “The balance of that is listening and less in transmitting. It’s very important to listen and discuss, whether with a Private or General, and everyone likes a pat on the back no matter what rank. I would say, and like to think, that I was a people person. To this day – even with the best of technology – we in the military are in the people business, which makes communication that much more important.”
In 37+ years of service, General Nyland received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; the Air Medal with eight Strike/Flight awards; and Joint Service Commendation Medal, along with many others. “I’m proud to wear them all because they represent the great Marines, sailors and others in the Joint Force that I was privileged to serve with across the years. They also remind me of the times I was in command and what a privilege and pleasure that was, he says.
Though in retirement, Nyland continues to serve and lead as a Senior Mentor for the National Defense University’s Capstone, Keystone and Pinnacle programs, sharing his knowledge with the rising brass of all services as well as the most Senior NCOs of all our services. “I’m there to answer questions, prod and explain what I’ve experienced. If I describe one thing to one individual that I learned the hard way, so they don’t have to, that’s what I’m there for,” says Nyland, who lives with his wife Brenda in Pensacola, Florida.
A former twice Chairman of the Board for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and former Chairman for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation, Nyland also served as the National Commander for the Marine Corps Aviation Association (MCAA) from 2007 to 2010. He remains active in the group, which has about 4,000 veterans from WW II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Granada and other conflicts. In 2003, ’04 and ‘05 Nyland received MCAA’s Silver Hawk Award, given each year to the aviator with the earliest designation date. Association symposiums are managed by Armed Forces Reunions (AFR) with the next gathering in New Bern, NC in May. It was at the first symposium AFR managed, in New Bern in 2004, when AFR President Molly Dey, who stands at 4’11”, earned her ‘aviator’ moniker “Too Tall.”
“I’m very proud of the Silver Hawk Awards and MCAA as a whole,” Nyland says. “I really enjoy seeing all the people I served with and renewing those friendships. I especially like watching young Marines get their awards.”
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 in the hospitality business for 15 years and working with military reunions for the past 6 years. I started in catering, helping to make reunions a success by making sure everything was to their specifications. I’ve been at Stone Castle for just over a year and have enjoyed working with the reunions that have been here and I look forward to working with many more reunions in the future.
BMR: What’s so significant about military reunions and how does the reunion market differ from other markets? The history. The stories never get old and the men and women that you get to meet are amazing. The difference between the military market and other markets: the people. They are coming together to share stories, remember their fallen, and have a great time. I enjoy working with the military and I plan to continue to do so for many years to come.
BMR: What does your hotel do for reunions that’s special? Our property works with each reunion to make sure that we are a fit for them. Every reunion is different and has different needs. We are independently owned and I am proud to say that our owners put so much back into the hotel. We are currently getting new carpet in our meeting spaces and hallways. Improvements are always being made. Being an independently owned property also allows us more flexibility with our groups.
BMR: What makes Branson so attractive to reunion groups? Branson is very military oriented. Veterans are recognized in every way possible with many of the shows recognizing and thanking them for their service. Our city welcomes them with many events that are planned throughout the year. Our biggest event for veterans is Veteran’s Homecoming Week; November 5–11 every year. Each branch is recognized along with the Veteran’s family members that attend. I don’t think that a military group will ever feel more welcome than they will in Branson.
BMR: How will BookMyReunion.com benefit your hotel? BookMyReunion.com connects me with new reunions and lets people know that we are a reunion friendly hotel. I enjoy connecting with the planners and making their reunions a success and BookMyReunion.com allows me this opportunity.