Reunion XX---Colorado Springs, CO 4-7 August, 2005
By Chuck Schmidt & Dave Tessier
Reunion XX Co-Chairmen
Colorado Springs proved to be a great venue for the 20th Annual Reunion of the 11thACVVC. One of only two locations in the United States with an 11th Armored Cavalry Regimental Memorial, as well as being a major destination vacation spot, the Springs offered an ideal setting for more than 1,000 members, family, and friends to gather for the four day event. Although Colorado Springs boasts about 300 days of annual sunshine, the 56 golfers who entered the tournament on Thursday were hard to convince because it poured down rain well into the afternoon in 50 degree temperatures! The golfing diehards would not let that deter them and they journeyed the short distance to Fort Carson and teed off on schedule. As the rain continued, most called it a day after 9 holes but a few hardy Troopers went for all 18! The luncheon and awards ceremony allowed everyone a chance to dry out, and the weather will give fodder for stories for years to come. One report is that on some drives the club slipped from the golfer’s grip and flew further than the ball!
On Thursday while the golfers were getting soaked, Troopers and their families began arriving in earnest and by evening the “Bunker” was alive with activity. Although the “Bunker” closed at 12:00 midnight, reliable reports indicate that the 11th Cavalry’s Vietnam Veterans shut down the bar in Rickenbacker’s Club well after 2:00AM on this and every night through Saturday. As the weather began to clear in the afternoon, many took advantage of unscheduled time to begin their vacationing sight-seeing and participation in various activities offered in Colorado Springs and surrounding mountains. Never say that we do not move around the country---last year at sea level on the white sands of Daytona Beach, FL, and this year at over 6,000 ft elevation in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Next year, we will split the difference by heading off to Kansas City, MO.
Friday’s scheduled activities included bus trips to Cripple Creek, the 4th Annual Veteran’s Seminar, and a great “Bunker Party” that lasted well past the scheduled closing time of 12:00 midnight. About 200 took the sojourn up to 9,000+ feet to try their luck at the “slots” and tables of the historic gaming and mining town. Word is that there were a few winners, and more who returned with less money than when they departed the Sheraton. The “Bunker Party” was well attended with all the tables set for 750 occupied during the evening. This was a wonderful way for friendships to be renewed with plenty of food and drink to keep everyone happy.
With the “Bunker Party” going well past the midnight hour there were a number of bleary eyed Troopers at the Annual Business Meeting which convened promptly at 8:30AM on Saturday. The agenda for the meeting was jam-packed with reports from the Secretary, the Treasurer, and the numerous volunteer committees that keep our great organization functioning efficiently. Committee Chairmen covered the past year’s activities and accomplishments and discussed future planned activities. Of particular interest was the progress made by Allen Hathaway on the verification of our list of KIAs. It was pointed out that we were down to verifying the last Trooper, and that we had another 11th Cavalry soldier added to the Wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day this year. Allen’s important project has resulted in changing the list of our fallen comrades from 768 to 726 KIA due to inaccurate reporting from the field in Vietnam as well as subsequent mistakes at the Department of the Army. We are now 99.9% sure that our records are accurate and we can proceed to update and upgrade our Memorial Monument located at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, KY. The plan is to correct all data on the plaques on the monument and to list names of our Troops who made the ultimate sacrifice by Squadron and Troop/Company alphabetically for easier identification and location by visitors.
The “Welcome Home” party planned for our Regiment as it returns from a year-long deployment to Iraq was discussed by Jerry Hensley, and members present at the meeting voted to provide $15,000 to show our support and appreciation of the 11th Armored Cavalry’s role in fighting this war. Members of the 11thACVVC remember the lack of such actions upon our return, and vow it will never happen again and that our soldiers will know that their service is an honorable way to demonstrate devotion and dedication to the ideals and values of their grateful Nation. All 11th Cavalry Veterans are invited to attend this celebration which is being planned for Fort Irwin, CA in April 2006. Specifics will be announced in future editions of Thunder Run and on the www.11thcavnam.com website.
Elections were held for President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary and Director. Incumbents, Charles L. Schmidt (President), Ollie Pickral (Treasurer), Frank Cambria (Secretary) and Robert Moreno (Director) were re-elected for their present positions. Gene Johnson, current Vice-President, decided not to run for a second term and Allen Hathaway was elected to that position. With Allen changing jobs from Director to Vice-President a vacancy was created and Rod George, current Quartermaster, was elected to fill the remaining year of that term of office. All positions become effective on 1 January, 2006.
The final item on the agenda was to “pass the hat” for the Trooper Reunion Assistance Fund and $1,114 was donated.
Following lunch, reunion attendees boarded busses to the “Shrine of Remembrance” for the annual Memorial Service. The Shrine is the location of the 11th Armored Cavalry memorial tank, plaque, and Medal of Honor acknowledgements. More than 500 enjoyed the outstanding weather and beautiful setting to pay honor to our fallen comrades and to remember those of our ranks who passed away this past year. Adrian Vaaler played “Taps” following a 21 gun salute to our never forgotten “Brothers” by Troopers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment stationed at Fort Carson, CO. 11thACVVC Chaplain, Larry Haworth, once again arranged a superb tribute to our Troopers who paid the ultimate price in service to their country. Jim Holt sang some inspirational songs fitting the solemn occasion.
The Saturday evening banquet topped off the formal activities for the day. The program included an update on the Regiment’s deployed units by Major Christopher Emond, former CO of the 58th Combat Engineer Company, recently returned from Iraq. Major Emond’s presentation included two video clips from the theater of operations by Colonel Bayer and Command Sergeant Major Pring, Regimental Commander and CSM respectively.
Lieutenant General (USA, Ret) Thomas M. Montgomery was the guest speaker for the evening. General Montgomery spoke of his time in the Regiment in Vietnam as Commander of “H” Company, 2nd Squadron, in Vietnam in ’68-’69 and how that experience with the soldiers in combat served to allow him to make a decision to make a career in the US Army. He went on to elaborate on how his time serving with the Troopers set the stage for his successive command positions culminating in command of operations in Somalia in ’93-’94. General Montgomery stated his firm belief that our war in Vietnam played a crucial part in winning the “Cold War” in the late ‘90s, and that 11thACVVC members can stand proud of their service to the Nation.
The highlight of the evening came when Major General Richard Rowe, Director of Operations for Headquarters U. S. Northern Command, which is responsible for the Homeland Defense Mission, presented three soldiers from A Troop Bronze Star Medals w/”V” device for valor in combat during operations in March 1970 in Vietnam. Troopers Francis “Bud” Smolich, Bill Daniels, and Donald Dush were all belatedly cited for bravery in fighting the enemy during what has been dubbed the “Anonymous Battle”. Our congratulations to these Troopers who finally are getting their recognition more than 35 years after the fact! A tip of our hat to John Poindexter, then the CO of A Troop, who has spent hours researching this battle, writing the citations, coordinating the paper work and doggedly pursuing just awards for his soldiers!
Other awards that were presented during the banquet include the “Jack Quilter” Award that was passed from John Effinger to CSM USA (Ret) Donald Horn for safekeeping over the next year. The award is presented to a Trooper who has exemplified the values of the 11thACVVC over a period of time and who has contributed to the enhancement of the Regiment and our organization and members. Since this was the 20th Anniversary Reunion, research showed that five of our members have attended all 20 reunions from the first in 1986 to this year’s gathering. Jim Haines, Bill Lewellen, Larry Haworth, Mike Cricco, and Bill Squires were surprised to receive recognition in the form of a 20 Year Plaque. In 20 more years, we hope to see all of them receive a 40 year version! “Outstanding Trooper” Awards were presented to Tony “Doc” Balas, Gene Johnson, and Dave Tessier for their contributions over the past few years, and the “Trooper of the Year” award went to John Poindexter for his support of the 11thACVVC programs and his untiring efforts to pursue recognition for his soldiers involved in the “Anonymous Battle”.
The final activity of the banquet was to recognize our Scholarship winners for 2005 and draw the winning raffle tickets for this year’s fundraiser. Four scholarship awardees were in attendance, and each drew and announced one winner. Winner of the $1,000 prize was Ron Jackson from San Pedro, CA, followed by Joe Vela (L Troop) of Sag, MI, for $500, James White (Air Cavalry) Caledonia, MI, for $300 and fourth prize of $200 went to Terri Christian (K Troop) from Copperas Cove, TX. Congratulations to our Scholarship winners and to the raffle winners!
The evening concluded with the always emotional Vietnam song by Jim Holt and the outstanding “Blackhorse Salute” followed by dancing to a DJ ‘til midnight.
Chaplain Haworth held a well attended worship service on Sunday morning, and farewells carried well into the day as the 11thACVVC concluded another successful reunion. See you all next year in Kansas City, MO!