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September 2016 Newsletter

Vol 3, Issue 8

Ted’s Talk

Starting Reunions From Scratch

teds-talk-email-photo-lsmThere is no group with a longer history with Armed Forces Reunions (AFR) than the National LSM/LSMR Association. When working at the Norfolk Convention Bureau from 1983-88 I launched the first national marketing program focused wholly on military reunions – and noticed the formation of the U.S. LST Association. I was invited to speak at their first reunion in Toledo in 1985, and in spite of howls of protest about the old signs in Norfolk reading “Dogs and Sailors Keep Off the Grass,” convinced the 400+ sailors in attendance to have their 1986 reunion in the New Norfolk. There were 1,376 in attendance.

I kept a list of reunions that were advertised in the service magazines, and noticed there were no similar umbrella organizations for other landing craft from WWII. When founding AFR in 1988 I decided to plan a first-ever national reunion for LSMers in Norfolk the following year. Notices were sent to hundreds of individuals who’d been seeking shipmates from their particular LSM. About 100 shipmates attended the June, 1989 reunion, officers were elected, and so began the National LSM/LSMR Association – which just held its 28th reunion at the Best Western Merry Manor Inn in Portland, ME. At their peak they had 1,700 in attendance.  In 1989 AFR similarly launched what would become the USS LCI National Association. That same year we began a relationship with the patrol Craft Sailors Association, which continues to this day. Such groups are like family to us.

The Featured Veteran this month is one of the founding officers of the National LSM/LSMR Association and a good friend – Dan Riley. No association was ever more blessed with such talent; at age 91 Dan still publishes one of the finest veteran newsletters in the business: the Alligator Alley.

There are two Featured Reunion Destinations this month: Bloomington MN and Colorado Springs. 

Bloomington has long been a reunion-friendly magnet for reunions.  Being home to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport, the Mall of America, and Fort Snelling it’s so easy to get to and such a great location once you’re there.

Colorado Springs is not only home to the Air Force Academy, making it a top destination for Air Force reunions, but also home to Fort Carson, NORAD, Garden of the Gods, the Royal Gorge, and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Not a year passes without AFR booking groups in Colorado Springs – and if you want a deal for your group at either destination get AFR on your side!

BookMyReunion.com can help find your group the best deal, with attrition-free contracts for groups of less than 50 rooms.  Armed Forces Reunions’ First-Timer Promotion gives groups a chance to earn money just by giving us a try:  http://www.armedforcesreunions.com/reunion-rebates/


Bloomington is the city that sits at the doorstep of the busy Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport and is home to the world’s premiere retail and entertainment complex, Mall of America®.

In Bloomington, you will find every amenity a military group needs to plan the perfect reunion – competitive room rates and complimentary hospitality rooms, along with FREE parking and shuttles. Our hotels are military reunion friendly, offering comprehensive amenities, impeccable service, and reasonable room rates.

As Home of Mall of America, Bloomington hosts more than 42 million travelers from near and far, who are making their shopping pilgrimage to the world’s foremost indoor shopping and entertainment attraction. In addition to the mall’s 520 retail shops, visitors can have an outstanding meal at one of the over 50 restaurants and countless attractions including Nickelodeon Universe®, SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium, and FlyOver America.  Plus, shopping without tax on clothing and shoes makes the Mall of America experience even more enjoyable – all under one roof.  The convenient Blue Line Light Rail will whisk visitors to downtown Minneapolis and the brand new Green Line will do the same to Saint Paul.  Hop on the Light Rail easily at Mall of America.

History buffs will treasure the opportunity to visit Historic Fort Snelling.  Built in the early 1820s, Historic Fort Snelling is a great place to learn about military history from before the Civil War through World War II, fur trade history, slavery in Minnesota, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and much more. Its location – at the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers in Bloomington – has been significant for centuries to many American Indian communities.  Historic Fort Snelling is a National Historic Landmark.

The city offers over 40 economy to luxury hotels and 9,300 hotel rooms, which is more than Minneapolis and Saint Paul combined, and impeccable service to all guests.  That’s why Bloomington is commonly referred to as the hospitality capital of Minnesota.  Hotels provide complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport and Mall of America, and there’s free parking throughout the city.

Planning military reunions can be a time consuming proposition. That’s why our expert military reunion planners are here to help you throughout the entire process – before – during – after. Here are just some of the ways that we can assist you in your military reunion planning:

  • Recommendations for the Twin Cities top attractions & tours
  • Referrals for transportation and bus companies
  • Create customized reunion website for your event
  • Provide exclusive brochures, maps, bags & coupons to restaurants and attractions
  • Provide speaker information
  • Provide commemorative Bloomington lapel pins for your attendees (call for quantity)
  • Post your group name on our “Wall of Fame”

Bloomington is a one-stop shop to plan your Military Reunion. Best of all, this service is absolutely FREE!  Click Here to learn more about Bloomington hotels.


Unrivaled natural beauty, endless blue skies, unique activities and easy access to the great col-springs-photooutdoors all set the stage for the perfect place to reconnect at a military reunion. Come together in Colorado Springs and experience a community that has a rich history of honoring active duty personnel and veterans.

Founded as a resort town in 1871 by Civil War hero, General William Jackson Palmer, Colorado Springs is home to five military installations: Ft. Carson, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, Fort Carson and the frequently visited United States Air Force Academy. Built in 1955, visitors are welcome to tour the Cadet Chapel, Visitor Center, Falcon Stadium and the athletic facilities from various scenic overlooks. During the academic year, see 4,000 cadets in the noon mealtime formation.

Reunion attendees can find unforgettable experiences at more than 55 attractions and activities, there’s an endless list of choices to build an itinerary. Popular group tours and attractions include the stunning Garden of the Gods Park. Stop in the Visitor & Nature Center to explore hands-on exhibits detailing the millions of years of history that have created the free, city park.

Other activities for your itinerary include the National Museum of WWII Aviation, 4th Infantry Division Museum, Peterson Air & Space Museum and the Pikes Peak Highway. This 13-mile winding road takes you to the summit of Pikes Peak with a view so stunning, it inspired the words to the beloved song America the Beautiful.

Located in the geographical center of the United States, Colorado Springs is easily reached from anywhere in the nation.  Visitors traveling by auto can follow Interstate 25 directly into the heart of the Pikes Peak Region and Colorado Springs.  Air travelers will appreciate the ease and convenience of the Colorado Springs Airport served by the major airlines with non-stop flights to many major hubs – Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

Discover the benefits of reconnecting in this vibrant, affordable destination. Start planning your unforgettable reunion by searching for Colorado Springs hotels HERE.


Signalman 3rd Class Daniel Riley and Tens of Thousands Saved by the Bomb

On board Landing Ship Medium (LSM) 256, Signalman 3rd Class Dan Riley helped support operations in the Philippines, Okinawa and islands throughout the warzone in the spring of 1945. “Okinawa had 5,000 Navy casualties, more than any battle of the war. We saw kamikazes nearly every day and night,” said Riley, 91. “One was heading down straight for us and just missed our fan tail by 20 feet. I could see the pilot’s profile before he crashed. I’d like to think we hit him. Some other rough times were in shallow water dropping off troops, tanks and supplies. We were armed with 40 mm, 20 mm and 50-caliber machine guns and vulnerable to strikes from the shore and above. The time between making successful drops and getting back out was tight.”

Riley was among tens of thousands of sailors and servicemen preparing for the November invasion of Japan, and well aware their chances of survival might be no more than 50/50 against the entrenched Japanese. “It was one of the best days of our lives when we heard the atomic bombs were dropped, and we had one of the biggest harbor parties ever held,” he said. “We celebrated with some hard drinking, 190-proof sick bay alcohol diluted with pineapple juice.  After 18 months of suffocatingly close quarters for 55 men on a 200 foot long vessel, shipboard antagonisms were put aside and suddenly we were all best friends. Later the thought of never seeing each other again set in, but we also knew the shared experience of combat and our love for each other would never be forgotten.”

After the war Riley returned home and graduated from the University of Rochester. He went to work in sales management for consumer products giant Lever Brothers and retired in 1987 after 31 years. Years later a chance reading of an ad in a Navy publication precipitated Riley’s finding his shipmates and his co-founding of the USS LSM/LSMR Association, which held its first reunion in 1989. The ad was placed by Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. “I spoke with AFR founder Ted Dey and they put the whole thing together for us,” said Riley, Assistant Vice President of the Association and editor of their newsletter Alligator Alley. “They’ve been managing our reunions ever since.”

The group most recently met in late August in Portland, Maine. Riley is the last surviving founding member: “We had several thousand of us when we first started and hundreds at the reunions. In 2000 we had 1650 people in Omaha, with an LSM on display that may have been the only one left in the world,” said Riley who lives with wife Elaine in Clifton Park, New York. “But our numbers have dwindled dramatically with age. We had 59 veterans including family members and friends in Portland. It was a great time as always, but a little bittersweet with the missing faces. Elaine and I have been to all of our reunions.”

Despite declining numbers, the association’s newsletter Alligator Alley is a well-followed publication, in which  Riley – a copy boy at age 16 for the Rochester Democrat and Chronical – shares stories, photos, and columns in a 32-page issue published three times a year. This year he published his first book, “My Life, My Words,” revealing an inside look at some of his war experiences and life in general through memoirs, essays and poems.

“I wrote the book for my fellow veterans, family and friends and it actually has sold some copies on Amazon,” Riley said. “I guess people still like old war stories and trials on the golf course.”

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.