June 2016 Newsletter
Vol 3, Issue 5
Our Featured Veteran this month is an old friend of AFR’s: LtGen Fred McCorkle, USMC (Retired). Fred and his wife, Kathy, attend two to three events planned by Armed Forces Reunions each year. One of them is the Marine Corps Aviation Association’s (MCAA) Annual Symposium, which recently occurred in New Bern, NC. The Symposium is the platform for the largest aviation-based award program in the country. 29 awards span the spectrum of Marine aviation & recognize Marines of all ranks who are nominated by their superiors and vetted through Headquarters Marine Corps. The Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron of the Year Award is justly named in LtGen McCorkle’s honor. Exhibits from top defense contractors take center stage along with the Awards Banquet. The Symposiums are usually held near Marine Corps bases to encourage participation of active duty aviators – who relish the opportunity to hear stories told by famous aviators such as LtGen McCorkle, Gen. ‘Spider’ Nyland, MajGen ‘Lancer’ Sullivan, and other top retired aviators.
Earlier this Spring we hosted The Golden Eagles (The Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association), in Orlando. Now there’s an elite club of the nation’s top former Naval and Marine aviators and astronauts! We also have the privilege of planning the biennial reunions for Popasmoke (USMC Combat Helicopter & Tiltrotor Association). Their reunion will be at the Jacksonville Hyatt this coming August. All aviators have call signs, and Molly Dey (President of AFR) long ago gained hers at MCAA – “Too Tall.” All of 4’ 11”, Molly has many admirers in the Marine aviation community. The photo here was taken at MCAA’s annual symposium in New Bern. Joining her are from left to right: ‘Spider’ Nyland and his wife Brenda, Fred ‘Assassin’ McCorkle, and ‘Lancer’ Sullivan and his wife Nicole. If you represent a Marine Aviation reunion group, we invite you to join AFR’s family of Marine aviation friends. Come see why we’re #1!
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 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 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. Call 417-243-2117 for details concerning the Conference.
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, 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.
Lt. General Fred McCorkle had plans to become a teacher and high school football coach after he’d served two years in the Marines. That was until a fellow Marine convinced him to go to flight school, where his career trajectory took off.
“I’d never even been to an airport, so to start from there and go on to fly helicopters, jets and to even have the honor to fly the U-2 spy plane makes me feel like the luckiest guy in the world,” said McCorkle, a retired three star general and former Deputy Commandant for Marine Aviation, the highest aviator rank in the Marines Corps. “Being Deputy Commandant of Marine Aviation was a great privilege and job,” said McCorkle, 71. “In that position you’re in charge of all Marine aviation assets, selecting the new planes and helicopters, plus future command and control and aviation support equipment assets. This and taking care of the four marine aircraft wings becomes a big, but very rewarding responsibility.”
McCorkle attended Naval Flight School in Pensacola and in 1969 was designated a naval aviator and sent to Vietnam. Before the end of 1970 he had flown more than 1,500 combat missions and throughout his career was able to accumulate over 6,500 flight hours in 65 different series of aircraft. Many of his flights were helicopter rescue missions.
“One of the most intense rescues was in Laos where we weren’t really supposed to be, but we had to get our guys out. We did an emergency extract pulling eight soldiers out of the jungle on a 75-foot ladder. We had to land about half way back to Vietnam and some of these guys were dying. We were taking fire and one soldier already had his arm shot off, but was blasting back into the bushes with his AK-47; toughest guy to ever live I think.”
McCorkle was awarded The Distinguished Service Medal; The Legion of Merit with three Gold Stars in lieu of second through fourth awards; The Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star in lieu of second award; The Purple Heart; The Air Medal with Single Mission Award and 76 Strike/Flight Awards; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” and The Navy Achievement Medal.
Of all the jets and helicopters he flew, McCorkle said that during his time, the F-18A/C/D were “the finest jets that God ever allowed man to build.” He personally helped make sure the MV-22 Osprey was built, a hovering helicopter with rotors that tilt forward to make it a fixed wing aircraft. “I get a lot of credit, but it was beyond a team of us that made sure the Osprey happened. It can fly up to 300 miles per hour, twice as fast as an average helicopter, go three times as far, handle a bigger crew, is capable of air-to-air refueling and has an overall flexibility we never had up to that point. Just ask any of the four-stars who served in in Afghanistan and Iraq what they preferred to fly in,” said McCorkle, who lives with his wife Kathy in Gray, Tennessee.
McCorkle was promoted to Deputy Commandant of Aviation in 1998 and several years later was invited to join The Golden Eagles, an elite organization of Navy, Marine and Coast Guard aviators. This group has included Medal of Honor recipients, astronauts, fighter aces and aviators who have contributed significantly to naval aviation. Established in 1956, membership is limited to 200. “I’m probably more proud of being in the Golden Eagles than any other group,” he noted. “There are only a limited number of us and someone has to die before you can come in.”
McCorkle retired in 2001, but remains close to his stellar career as a member of many other military organizations, including the Marine Corps Aviation Association and the USMC Combat Helicopter Association. Along with the Golden Eagles, these groups’ reunions are all managed by Armed Forces Reunions, Inc., the parent company of BookMyReunion.com. “It’s all about the memories and camaraderie, like going to meet with a bunch of heroes,” he said. “You get to see these guys from 45 years ago and talk about war, saving lives and everything else in between, sometimes until 2 a.m.”
McCorkle also serves on several boards of directors, including as Chairman of the Board for Atlas Air World Wide Holding, President of JURA Corporation, Rolls-Royce North America and the Lord Corporation. Earlier this month he took some time off for a very important occasion: to celebrate his and his wife Kathy’s 50th wedding anniversary on June 2. “My friends call her a saint because she’s put up, and still puts up, with me after all these years,” McCorkle said.
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.