2021 Reunion Wrap-Up

4 months ago

We have just completed our largest, most complicated Reunion and from the feedback I’ve received so far, it appears that we have a success story to tell. I think that those people who attended will agree that the Crystal Gateway Marriot was a great improvement from the Rosslyn Holiday Inn. We were also blessed with beautiful weather all week. There were a few facility hiccups like the broken escalator and due to staffing shortages, they were unable to serve lunch in their restaurant. I’m not sure how many folks actually attended but we sold around 320 tickets (we’re still doing some final accounting work).

First of all I want to thank our Reunion Planner, Jackie Snow. This year was a major challenge for her and although we toed the edge of the cliff a few times, we never fell off the edge. Next I want to thank Dave Hathaway and his Quartermaster Store Volunteers (sounds like a Bluegrass music band) who assisted during the auctions at the Saturday night banquet. We had a larger silent auction this time and we’ve never had a live auction before so their participation helped tremendously (kudos to Ryan Ball's father for calling the live auction). Without these volunteers, the evening would have been even longer than it was. I also want to thank Gavin McIlvenna (1997-98) who coordinated the Centennial Week events and seminars. We had a smooth blending of Centennial and Reunion activities. And finally, a thank-you to Sergeant of the Guard SFC Jason Hickman (2012-16, 2021-Present) and Assistant Sergeant of the Guard SGT Gabriel Silva (2019-20, 2021-Present) who guided us on tours of the Platoon Quarters during the entire week.

Centennial Week started on November 8 with a Tomb Guard Badge Ceremony, followed by seminars from one of the Arlington National Cemetery and American Battle Monuments Commission Historians and a lecture from author Philip Bigler.

November 9th started the public flower ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, followed by Naval Seminar at the Navy Museum and dedication of a special plaque where the World War I Unknown Soldier arrived 100 years ago.

November 10th concluded the seminar series with a lecture by Mark Miller (1990-91) who found an brought the USAF C-141 crew that flew the Vietnam Unknown Soldier home from California in 1984, the unveiling of the lithograph “Century of Silence and Respect”, bugler historian Jari Villanueva and author Jeff Gottesfeld.

Day 1 of the Reunion was after the previous days Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington which included a Presidential wreath laying ceremony. The two days before Veterans Day, the public was allowed to lay flowers at the Tomb and there were thousands of people who came by to pay their respects. Highlights of Day 1 included the Never Forget Run, Richard Azzaro’s “Voices from the Tomb” presentation, Gavin’s talk on the France visit and a lecture by the authors of the children's book, “The Unknown Soldiers Journey Home”. The evening Society Ice Breaker was held in the Skyview Lounge open atrium area.

Day 2 began with our General Membership Meeting in one of the Salons of the Grand Ballroom. This was followed by a presentation and music by the US Army Band. The group included current and retired band members. An excellent lunch buffet was then served in the Grand Ballroom foyer. The evening, was of course, dedicated to the Gathering of the Guards banquet. The evenings activities included the awarding of the Order of Saint Maurice to Gavin McIlvenna (1997-98), John Ranum (1960-61) and I, and the Order of Mercury to Assistant Sergeant of the Guard SGT Gabriel Silva (2019-20, 2021-Present). All of us were surprised and honored in receiving these awards. After dinner, our guest speaker was Michael Sledge, author of the book “Soldier Dead”.

The evening culminated in the live auction with the big star of the auction being the 1911 Colt 45 Centennial Commemorative pistol donated by Colt and Iron Valley that went for around $9,000!

Day 3 we participated in our Tomb wreath laying ceremony with 115 Tomb Guards placing roses on the plaza (the largest ever!). That was an amazing sight to see as we ringed the plaza in a large semi-circle from press pit to the Sentinel’s box. This was followed by our group photo and visitations to the columbarium niches and graves of former Tomb Guards (now totaling 30).

We have started negotiations with the Marriott for Reunion 2023 which will be November 3, 4, and 5. Hope to see you there!

Larry Seaton (1970-71)
Treasurer/Historian/Reunion Chairman
treasurer@tombguard.org
2095 Penny Lane, Unit B, Napa, CA 94559
(707) 974-1748

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