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September 2015 Newsletter

Vol 2, Issue 9

Ted’s Talk

Ted onlyReunion chairman, aren’t you tired of doing all the work and seeing everyone else have all the fun? Relax and even earn your group money: anywhere from $100 to $2,000. Just by letting Armed Forces Reunions negotiate your hotel contract. In any city, at any hotel, at any time! Contact Us to learn more about this special promotion. If you want Five Star Reunion Planning we offer that too. Get a professional on your side!

Our Destination of the Month is Providence, Rhode Island. Providence has become one of AFR’s most faithful reunion destinations – and most especially, the Crowne Plaza Providence/Warwick is one of our favorite reunion hotels anywhere. Providence is so central to great reunion tours: Newport, Mystic Seaport, Battleship Cove, Boston, and Foxwoods Casino. If New England is where your group wants to meet, Providence is where you’ll find reunion-friendly deals. If you’d like a proposal, contact AFR.

In this month’s issue we meet Jack Stempick, president of the USS Missouri Association. We are especially proud of our partnership with the Missouri vets, as here in Norfolk is the MacArthur Memorial and Museum. It was aboard the Mighty Mo on September 2, 1945 that Gen. MacArthur formally accepted the Japanese surrender. Also, the Missouri’s sister ship, and majestic Iowa–class battleship USS Wisconsin, is permanently moored in Norfolk as a floating museum, a short two blocks from our headquarters. We also plan the biennial reunions for the USS Wisconsin Association and are looking forward to their return to Norfolk in 2016.


Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the nation, but it packs plenty of excitement into its borders. The state’s hundreds of miles of coastline, rich Colonial history and acclaimed restaurants help create a memorable reunion destination.

With nearly 400 years of history, Rhode Island has many stories to tell, and an array of things to do for all tastes. RI’s state capital, Providence, combines the charm of a New England town with the cosmopolitan flair of a big city. Compact and walkable, Providence is heralded for its world-class dining scene and beautifully preserved historic architecture.

Visitors will find lots of options for their free time in Providence. The RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design showcases more than 91,000 works of art ranging from the ancient to the avant-garde. Foodies will want to see the one-of-a-kind Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University, which displays 500,000 food-related artifacts, including a complete diner. Theater lovers can take in a show at the beautifully gilded Providence Performing Arts Center or at the Tony Award-winning Trinity Repertory Company.

Conveniently located in the center of the state, Warwick is a quick 10-minute drive from Providence. Warwick features a variety of hotel and dining options and is known as “The Retail Capital of Rhode Island.” Home to two malls and hundreds of stores, Warwick is ideal for those looking to do some shopping while in town. Travelers flying into Rhode Island will arrive at T.F. Green Airport, named the seventh best airport in the country by Condé Nast Traveler in its 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards. The Rhode Island Military Organization (RIMO) lounge at the airport is a great place for members of the military to relax before and after flights.

Rhode Island boasts several attractions dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of theBattleship Cove - USS Massachusetts military. And with its coastal geography, it is no surprise that the state has strong ties to the Navy. The U.S. Naval War College and its Museum are located in nearby Newport. The museum highlights the history of naval warfare dating back to ancient times and the naval heritage linked to RI’s Narragansett Bay.

The Seabee Museum and Memorial Park – the original home of the U.S. Navy Seabees – in North Kingstown, is another popular spot to visit. Just down the road, the Quonset Air Museum, features three acres of displays, including 28 aircrafts dating back from 1944 to 1983. Battleship Cove, located right over the state line, in Fall River, Mass., harbors the largest collection of preserved U.S. Navy ships in the world.

The Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau (PWCVB) is available to assist you with all of your reunion needs. The PWCVB offers planning assistance, destination information and much more, including providing military lapel pins for your group.


Joining the Naval Reserve in 1950, Jack Stempick had been training as a medic in New Haven, CT when he was called to active duty service in Korea in 1952. But when his official orders came from Washington he was listed as a seaman. “They said I had a choice to serve as a medic or at sea. I always wanted to be on a ship and the North Koreans made a practice of killing medics, so I opted for a destroyer or submarine,” said Stempick, 83. “They put me on the battleship USS Missouri. The first time I saw Mighty MO she just got bigger and bigger the closer I got; mammoth.”

In the U.S. Navy Iowa-class, the Missouri was the country’s last commissioned battleship and the site of the Japanese surrender in World War II. She served in World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, conflicts around the world and in the Persian Gulf before being decommissioned in 1992. Today she is a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, near the USS Arizona Memorial.

Stempick was first assigned as a deck aid, then upper hoist powder operator in turret 2 and then to the trainer of the turret, one of three that held three massive 16-inch guns capable of launching 2,300-pound armor-piecing shells more than 20 miles. He was promoted to upper hoist powder operator and saw action up and down the Korean coast, helping wreak heavy bombardment from Wonsan to Chongjin.

“We were in Wonsan harbor when the North Koreans opened up on us, not doing any real structural damage, but raining down heavy shrapnel everywhere,” Stempick recalled. “The order was given to prepare for a broadside, when all nine 16-inch guns are trained on the target and fired at once. It was like an earthquake at sea, deafening, bone-rattling, debris, glass and stuff flying everywhere. I’ve never experienced anything close to it.”

Stempick left the service in 1954 as gunners mate 3rd class and enjoyed a successful civilian career in the printing industry. Today he’s retired and lives with his wife Rachel “Raye” in Hamden, CT.

More than 34 years after his service, a coincidence in 1988 reconnected Stempick with Mighty MO. “The wife and I were on vacation at Catalina Island when a guy saw my USS Missouri hat and said there was a big reunion coming up in Long Beach. I did a little research, found out it was the USS Missouri Association (BB 63). I joined, booked a flight out and have been with the association ever since.”

The group has about 2,000 members and Stempick has served as president for more than eight years, presiding over their reunion last week in Charleston, SC. Armed Forces Reunions, has managed many of the USS Missouri Association’s gatherings including the Charleston event.

“The glue for all of us is not just the ship and the memories, it’s also about meeting new people who served on her before and after me, and especially reconnecting with former shipmates,” Stempick noted. “The Robinson brothers were with me in turret 2 and I hadn’t heard anything for decades. Last year I got a call out of the blue. They joined the association and boy have we shared some tales.”

One tale Stempick won’t forget was nearly as harrowing as battle off the Korean coast: “The armistice was signed and we were heading from Japan to the U.S. when we got caught in a super typhoon. There was a periscope in the turret and you could see the bow plunging under, shaking the ship like hell and coming back up. Then we heard a big thud and the call came down that a 2,000-pound shell had jarred loose and was just rolling around. I looked out from the periscope again and on the starboard side I could see a destroyer riding the top of this monster wave with its propeller just spinning out of the water. It disappeared in the trough and then came up rocking on an even bigger wave, again and again. We were all mighty glad to be on Mighty MO.”

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.