September 9th, 2021, with Sage (the dog) dropped off at Social Pet for boarding and the car loaded the evening before, we set out for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and the 21st annual reunion of the KAS 60-61 organization, a group made up of veterans of the Air Force, Navy and Marines who served on active duty at Karamursel Air Station in Turkey between 1957 and through the end of 1961. But we didn’t get far owing to a stop at the local McDonald’s for a hearty sausage and egg biscuit, potato patty and coffee. That done, we were now truly on the road to the reunion.
It was an easy 3 ˝ hour run that began in a slight mist of rain but broke into exceptionally nice weather…but not so nice that we didn’t take advantage of the ever strong and ever dependable air conditioner in old reliable – our 2003 Pontiac Bonneville SSEI.
In what seemed like less time than that we rolled up to the front entrance of the Beach Cove Resort in North Myrtle Beach. Wow! What is that? Scaffolding everywhere around the entrance! We learned later that an upgrade was in progress and the 3rd floor walkway from the Resort to the parking garage was being upgraded to a glass enclosed structure and the scaffolding was to support the roof of the lobby level drive through between the Resort and the parking garage. In any case, with no forewarning of the construction it took a moment to determine where and how you would unload bags. It soon became apparent though that some parking spaces on the lobby level of the garage had been reserved for unloading.
Did I say earlier “old reliable” car and “strong, dependable “air conditioner? Well, after unloading the car and moving it to a more permanent parking slot, a noise was heard followed by the air conditioner dying! The compressor had apparently the locked up, but a true evaluation of the problem would have to wait until we returned home…A/C turned off!
The actual reunion wouldn’t begin until the afternoon of the next day, but Bonnie and I (along with several others) always arrive early in order to complete a variety of last-minute preparations for the reunion; most importantly the purchase locally of provisions to stock our Hospitality Room. Before that though, a couple hours were dedicated to greeting those already arrived and any still arriving and relaxing after the trip getting to the reunion site followed by the usual trip to the old watering hole “Hamburger Joe’s” for a brew and a burger.
The next morning, Friday the 10th, we had breakfast at the Resort’s “Town Center” buffet since a limited staff meant the facility’s normal restaurant wasn’t open. It was good although a bit pricy and we decided future breakfasts would be at a different location. We’ll look forward to the restaurant being back in business next year.
In the new format we began a couple reunions ago, our welcome dinner at 6:00 PM marked the official beginning of the reunion. Prior to that though, the morning and early afternoon was spent doing some practice runs of the two special ceremonies that Jake Reece had developed to be performed at our Monday banquet. More about those events later. Following that practice, we set to organizing the Hospitality Room; putting out memorabilia, arranging a memorial display,
hanging our reunion banner and organizing the drinks and snacks areas. As in all previous reunions, we once again had members drop in to lend a hand with the setup.
Our welcome dinner was moderated by Jake Reece and began with the playing of the Air Force song during the entry and placing of the American and Air Force flags. Once placed, Jake called us to attention, directed “present arms” and the salute was held that during the playing of the National Anthem. Jake then welcomed all and read a poem “Cold War Warriors of the United States Air Force Security Service,” followed by a few announcements and then giving thanks for the food. The food was excellent, and it should be noted that it was accomplished even though the facility was challenged by less than adequate staffing, both in the kitchen and wait staff. COVID, you know!
After dinner we remained in the Hospitality Room and the real reunion fun began. The stories started, some new, many rehashed but with the usual annual enhancements. Who knows how close to reality they have become, but they remain fun to tell and entertaining to listen to. It’s always so rewarding to re-connect with members who routinely show up at reunions. This is especially true since, for the first time since 2000, we went a year without a reunion. COVID again! We also had a good representation of members’ sons, daughters, and in-laws with us this year. It’s encouraging to see them enjoying being in the company of all us geezers!
Saturday is always largely a free day with two usual exceptions. First, the corn-hole tournament began. It was an open event with no specified game-time schedule. You played when you chose to and could locate someone to play you. The winner stayed alive for another game (still unscheduled) but the loser was out of the race. Second, many of us (just over 70% of those attending the reunion) were scheduled to attend a show at the Carolina Opry that evening. Of course, the Hospitality Room was open basically the entire day so members could spend time there, at the beach or around Myrtle Beach. A few corn-hole challenges were completed, and most were pleased with the Carolina Opry performance although some also felt shows we had seen in previous years at the Alabama Theater were somewhat better. We’ll likely make that change for next year’s reunion.
Sunday the 12th had a similar structure to Saturday, but with different events. As usual the Hospitality Room was available for a significant part of the day and many took advantage of that or spent some time at the beach. The two major events of the day though were the putt-putt tournament in the morning and the always fun pool party in the evening. Two winners of the putt-putt tournament would be identified, one for the men and one for the women. The catch though was that nobody (including the players) would know who the winners were until Monday night at the banquet! In the meantime, more corn-hole games were played and at 6:30 PM, the Hospitality Room was closed and all gathered poolside for some outstanding munchies, a cash bar and lots of good conversation. Oh, and of course everyone was provided one ticket for a free drink from the bar.
Monday is always the big day of the reunion. In the morning we had our business meeting which always includes some Turkish Chi in the little glasses we all remember from Turkey. Chi abbi? Actual business conducted is usually pretty sparce; Mark reading the financial report is normally the business highlight. This year though we did make one commitment. Since we have money and other items of value in the Hospitality Room, it must be locked whenever there is no one in it. In the hope of easing the burden on just a couple people to monitor the Hospitality Room, making sure it’s available to members over the entire course of the reunion, we will now have a roster where people can sign up to be room monitor. Yeah, just like we did in grade school! 😊 The roster will be in 2-hour blocks and anyone who chose to do so can sign up for any time (or number of times) convenient for them. They will hold the room key and pass it on to the next person on the list. Remember though, it’s completely voluntary and the usual crew will fill in for any unassigned spots.
The business meeting always ends with Ed Watts’ great prize drawings of many splendid items he donates, culminating in the drawing for the terrific train set that Jake Reece has consistently donated over many reunions now. This year the train was won by Chick McCalmont. Lucky man! My number was drawn for a cool beaded Turkish change purse which I gave to my daughter Lesley who made her first reunion appearance this year. She loves it!
While the business meeting is in progress all the ladies had their usual tea in the Hospitality Room. They had the usual array of teas and munchies, both healthy and not so healthy I’m told. As usual, Janet Sprinkle brought along her prize-winning shortbread cookies! Yummo! I had my share+ of those! The afternoon was free and then in the evening we had our annual banquet followed by a short program.
Our annual banquet is the final big event of the reunion. As it always does, it began with an open bar for about 45 minutes before the buffet was opened. Dick Casseri, whom we have identified as our resident chaplain did his usual fine job of giving thanks for the meal we were about to receive…and then, “Katy bar the door!,” the rush for food began. In actuality, it was approached very orderly; not at all as we would have done it in 1960! Yet again the kitchen and staff did an outstanding job for us, especially given their short manning. Both the food and the service were excellent. In the many years we’ve been having reunions at the Beach Cove Resort they’ve never failed providing a wonderful last-evening buffet. For my part however, I failed to get any pictures of the good food OR of the folks participating! Bummer!!
Following dinner our short program began, first with some brief comments regarding many things, including our advancing years! In recognition of that fact, we watched a re-run of a video shown at our last reunion keyed to the song “Don’t Let the Old Man In.” Of course we also recognizing those members we’d lost since our last reunion. This year represented the largest number of losses we’ve experienced over the 21 years we’ve been having reunions; 10 members. Those members were:
We watched a memorial video including 8 of them, 2 having passed too late to be included in the already completed video. They were George Majors and Tim Zaso (no picture available), but both were remembered verbally following the video.
Following in that same vein, Jake’s first of two ceremonies encompassed setting the “missing Airman” table. It and the flag-folding ceremony that followed it were carried out by an “Honor Team” consisting of 6 members dressed in black slacks, black reunion t-shirts, black morale cap and white gloves. The Missing Airman table was organized somewhat different from our traditional memorial table. The ceremony involved setting the table with each item being identified and its representation being explained. Once that was completed, the emphasis changed from reflecting on our members who had passed to recognizing those of us remaining, using the Flag Folding Ceremony. We’re all familiar with how the flag is folded, however many are less familiar with what the thirteen folds represent…or perhaps that they even represent anything. Many likely think they represent the original 13 colonies, but that’s not true. Since their original meanings were never codified by the Government, they are routinely defined by the group folding the flag. In our case, they represent our progression from joining the Air Force to our assignment on Karamursel Air Station, through returning home from that tour. During the folding of the flag, the representation of each fold was read off. These two ceremonies were both enlightening and moving, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Jake for developing them, choregraphing them and leading the execution of them.
Finishing on a lighter note, we turned to presenting some awards and recognizing some people. We recognized our treasurer Mark Gransden, Jake Reece for his efforts toward organizing our reunions, Dick Casseri for arranging for our t-shirts, being our Chi-man and our go-to group chaplain, Ed Mitchell (not present) for taking on editing our Newsletter, our Supply Sergeant David Devlin, and Ed Watts for his long history of doing our business meeting raffle. We also recognized my wife Bonnie for her never-ending help over the year and at each reunion, guaranteeing their success.
Ed Watts, following some serious challenges, ended on top in the corn-hole tournament and was presented with the award. Congratulations Ed! Sorry I didn’t get a picture of you accepting the award…
Mark Gransden presented the two awards for winners in the putt-putt tournament. As I mentioned earlier, this was the first indication of who the winners were. For the ladies, Janet Sprinkle took the prize and for the men, Mark Gransden won. Congratulations to both! And my regrets to both of you too for not getting a picture…
The final award went to David Devlin for his long assistance in managing our store supplies and distributing them as they have been purchased. He was presented with a plaque that outlined his efforts and promoted him from Supply Sergeant to Supply OFICER while noting it represented no change in his pay grade! We actually could have doubled it, but then, twice zero is still zero… 😊 I don’t think he was terribly upset with maintaining the same pay grade (first picture)…it’s the title that counts! Thanks to Bonnie for saving me with pictures of this!
Following the banquet program, we all gathered again in the Hospitality Room for the annual group picture and for a few more hours of camaraderie before closing out the reunion for 2021.
The following morning we had our usual departure breakfast but as in the past, it didn’t include the entire group of people who attended the reunion. Some always need to leave early, and some come late to the breakfast, so many never get to say goodbye to everyone at breakfast.
Our reunion this year was quite low in attendance. There were many reasons for that, primarily I suspect being the continuing concern of COVID-19 and of course our growing age possibly complicating medical issues. This was in effect our second beginning at reunions since we missed last year. Coincidentally, or maybe prophetically, we had the very same number of members at this reunion as at our first reunion in 2000. In any case, it was truly a great reunion, just as our first was. It went faster than any reunion I can recall. I truly found it hard to believe that following the banquet, for all practical purposes another reunion was at an end! Those I’ve spoken to were all so happy to have been able to once again gather with fellow survivors of KAS, along with their wives and in some cases other family members. After a year’s regrettable hiatus, we are definitely back and I hope you’ll make a concerted effort to join us next year for our 22nd annual reunion. It is tentatively set for 9 through 13 September 2022 and of course at the Beach Cove Resort. I sincerely hope you’ll make an effort to join us!