Who was at the Reunion
Mariano and Chris AGUIRRE
Gary and Marilyn BISPLINGHOFF
Bill and Donna BLOOMFIELD
George and Shirley BOEMERMAN
Tom and Lana BYALL
Enrique and Cathy DEL ROSARIO
John and Dot EASTER
Marty and Carolyn ESTEP
Ken and Patricia FISH
Howard GIBERSON and Mary WHITMORE
Marcelo and Enriqueta GONZALES
Curtis and Linda GRAHAM
Henry and Maureen HEINZERLING
Benjy and Janelle JOHNSON
Mike and Vicky LAYMAN
Bill and Patsy MARTIN
Paul and Naomi MAYNARD
Isaac and Ina MAZE
Bob and Kathleen McEACHRAN
Dave and Hanne McGEHEE
Chuck and Rhonda McKINNEY
Hal and Guyann MEYER
Charlie and Kathleen MONCH
Mr & Mrs Carlos MOREAUX
Robert and Cindy NELSON
Bill SCHULDHEISZ and Rita TOBIAS
Jim STEWART (2)
Glenn and Mary Ellen TURLEY
Nick and Vicki WERVE
Peter and Ann WORDEN
Reunion 2002, Pensacola
Reunion 2000, San Diego
Reunion 1998, Pensacola
Reunion 1965, Futema
Mike Layman, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE MAGNIFICENT FLYING CIRCUS AT LZ RENO!!
The first person at the Reunion from the Squadron that Jim Stewart ran into was I.D. Maze. More than 40 years ago, when young PFC Stewart first reported to HMM-365 at MCAF Santa Ana, the first person in the Squadron that he met was also I.D. Maze. Stewart was asleep when he was awakened by three Marines who were rolling dice in a game of craps on the deck beside his rack. It was I.D., holding a bottle of wine, who said to Stewart, "Relax, Gunny, and I'll tell you a sea story."
There are many stories about the legendary I.D. Maze. Even before our squadron had deployed to Vietnam, I.D. had already "been there". He did a tour of duty with Air America in 1961, based out of Udorn, Thailand and flying missions in that secret war in Laos. But the ones that we like best are the stories of I.D. and cigarette lighters, particularly other people's lighters. He went up to this colonel and asked to borrow his lighter to light a cigarette. ID flicked the lighter, lit his cigarette, then flung the colonel's lighter into the ocean.
He seemed to have a particular liking for lighters belonging to colonels and he didn't care if they were Marine or Army colonels. Back in the states, at an army post, he asked an Army colonel for his lighter. After he lit his cigarette, I.D. flung the lighter far out into the tall grass. The flabbergasted Army colonel then reported the incident to a Marine colonel. The Marine colonel said, "Don't you know any better than to lend that man your lighter. Hell, he throws mine away too."
That night, I.D. walked past a squad of Recon Marines, all on their hands and knees, in the grass, looking for the lighter. One of them said, "When we catch the sonofabitch that threw away the colonel's lighter, we're gonna kick his ass."
Rich Bender and Hal Meyer used to drive the air control operators at DaNang Airfield crazy with their auto-rotation landings just for kicks.
One landing that Hal remembers well was the very last landing of a Yankee Mike on Vietnamese soil. One our last day in-country, while everyone was waiting to board the silver bird to fly back to Okinawa, Hal was ordered to escort one of the pilots of the squadron relieving us to Chu Lai. It was to be strictly an administrative hop. Enroute, the new pilot asked Hal why he was flying at 13,000 feet. He was soon to get an answer. As he started his descent into Chu Lai, the engine was hit by small arms fire - the oil pressure dropped immediately. Hal shut the engine down, auto-rotated the bird to a landing at Chu Lai, then turned the helicopter over to the new pilot. The new guy looked at Hal with eyes as big as silver dollars and asked, "Does this happen very often?" All the time, new guy. Welcome to Vietnam.
Forty years had gone by since we first landed in Vietnam, and yet our memories were as fresh as if it were yesterday. Forty years?
Cathy del Rosario had plugged a webcam into a laptop so that other squadron members who could not make it to Reno might view the reunion.
We get a message on the Instant Messenger board from someone asking to be allowed to view the proceedings. It is Pamela Chapic, the widow of our squadronmate, Frank Chapic. She says that she doesn't know why she decided to look at our webpage today but she did and she found out that our reunion is, at that moment, taking place. She says that something was telling her to look at our page just then.
We point the camera around the room and everyone present waves to say hello to Pamela. Cathy and Pamela type messages to each other.
A few days later, after we have returned home from Reno, I check my email and find this one sent by Pamela Chapic.
What fun to watch you all enjoying Reno.
I messaged with Cathy and she shared her computer name. Please tell her I did not write it down and closed the window by mistake.
I also would like to share with you a strange coincidence. My sister was also searching the net and put in Frank's name. She just found HMM 365 while we were doing the web cam. I guess we are all missing him
Laying on the tables in the Hospitality Suite were memorabilia of forty years.
From out of the Squadron footlockers, from closets, from storage boxes, came the photographs we had kept hidden for all these years. To others they were merely pictures, fading snapshots, off-centered, improperly focused, of no artistic value. To us, treasures of our hearts. We knew the meaning of every smile on the faces in the photographs. We felt the hot sun that came down on the tired faces. We could smell again the aviation fuel and the burned gun powder. We could hear again the beating of the rotors.
I brought 5 of my children to the Reunion. They weren't really interested in what the reunion was about. Out of boredom, they would look at the pictures and try to compare them with the older faces around the room. "Who is this , Dad? And this guy? Is this one you? It doesn't look like you."
Gene Rainville comes into the room like he just finished doing a photo shoot for Gentleman Quarterly. Except for a few gray hairs, Gene looks pretty much as he did 40 years ago.
In 1967, after I had gotten out of the Marine Corps, I was behind the operations desk of Continental Air Service in Vientiane, Laos. An Air America UH-34D lands on our tarmac and somebody jumps out and walks to where I was sitting. As soon as he walked through the door I recognized him. Right away he asks me if the Chief Pilot was in and if he could see him. I pointed to where the Chief Pilot's office was, then I said to him, "I know you". He looked at me, trying to place my face with a name or where or when our paths had crossed. I held my hand out to shake his, "I'm del Rosario. We were together in HMM-365 in Vietnam."
We worked together for different companies in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam until 1970 when I left Asia and returned to the States. Gene stayed with Continental. One day, someone should write a book about this guy, about the last flight out of Vietnam, about the last flight out of Site 20A in Laos to rescue General Vang Pao, about his career in aviation where he became an executive vice president for Gulfstream Aerospace.
The one who looks the most like he did 40 years ago is Dale Saunders.
I found a phone number for a Dale Saunders and decided to see if he were the Saunders I knew in HMM-365. To my surprise I found the right Saunders.
I lost track of Dale after leaving HMM-365. I got out of the Corps and Dale stayed in. He was a corporal when I knew him but he went on to become a Chief Warrant Officer and a full career in the Marine Corps. One day, in MCAS Yuma, Dale ran into our old commanding officer. Joe Koler, in the days of our Vietnam service, was a lieutenant colonel. When Dale ran into him again, Koler was wearing the 2 stars of a Marine major general and in command of Marine Corps Air Bases West. In a line to meet the general, when Dale and the general exchanged salutes and a handshake, Dale said "How are you, Colonel". Without any hesitation, General Koler answered back, "Very good, corporal."
7/8/04: The Squadron dinner was a hit. Mike Layman was our Master of Ceremonies, introducing guests Linda Braun (who recently lost her husband and our squadronmate Steve Braun to cancer), Sally Armstrong (the very special person to squadronmate Mike Comola, who is now in Iraq), Morgan Smith (an Eagle Scout who aspires to be a Marine someday), and Bob Nelson (HMM-365 Commanding Officer 1970). Very special and touching to all of us was General Joe Koler's message to the Squadron. General Koler could not be with us tonight but he sent a letter to the Squadron which Mike Layman read to us.
To the Marines of HMM-365. What a bunch - what a squadron. We did it all...troop lifts (remember Tak Ko), medevacs, pilot rescues, flood relief (taht was a birthday ball to remember). And we did it better than anyone else. We did other things, too, such as sea lion counting and flood relief in Orange, LA, and Santa Barbara Counties. We even had mascot. Who is the Marine that taught that bird to cuss? After we left I hope the girls in Santa Ana had as many laughs with that bird as we did.
We deployed to Okinawa and quickly made our presence known by wrecking the Group Commander's R4D by pulling it out of the hangar. That cancelled his farewell trip to Taiwan to pick up furniture, and it almost ended my career.
We went into Vietnam running full steam and quickly established a "Can Do" reputation by a couple of rescues of some army officers. In I Corps, we could do no wrong.
I wish I was there to hear some of the sea stories being told and retold. They get bigger and better with every telling. A couple stick in my mind that you may not have heard. Just taking command, I got a call from another squadron commander telling me that while driving down the riverside freeway he saw one of my aircraft parked alongside the freeway and no crew in sight...I thought what quick way to lose a command. Seems the crews were wet from the rain and decided to take a coffee break. Fortunately the Group Commander never found out.
Then there was the time when Gus was at PhuBai and in one SITREP reported seeing three pink elephants. I couldn't get to PhuBai fast enought to find out what was going on. Turned out it was the color of the mud on the elephants. Those were the days.
In conclusion, let me say - HMM-365 was the highlight of my career. We worked hard, played hard (and I won't elaborate on that) and we came home together knowing we'd done a great job. Thank you for your dedication, your service and your loyalty to your Corps and your Country.
(Joseph Koler, Jr., Major General, USMC, retired)
....to be continued tomorrow. it's getting late
7/7/04 Reno, Nevada: The first bunch from the Squadron that I ran into were Mike Layman, Gary Bisplinghoff, Nick Werve, and John Cronin. They were at the Squadron check-in station. Except for more inches around the belly, graying and lesser hair, they still looked amazingly the same as they did 40 years ago. - except for John Cronin sporting a goatee. (Do they allow Marine Major Generals to sport goatees?) Then they started coming from every direction. Ray Minifie, Rich Bender, Glenn Turley, Marty Winkel...I guess they heard that there was Beer 33 being passed around. Everywhere I turned around there were HMM-365ers. Hal Meyer, Gene Rainville, Pete Worden, George Boemerman, JJ Easter, Speedy Gonzalez, Chuck McKinney, ID Maze, Doc Graham, Benjy Johnson, Marty Estep, Bill Martin.
Late Breaking News 6/8/04: Mike Comola, our hard-working Reunion Co-coordinator, has received word for "immediate deployment" to Iraq. As we received information that we can pass on to the Squadron, it will be posted on the Squadron Forum or the Squadron Bulletin Board. He has already transferred all coordinator functions, including squadron reunion funds, to Mike Layman.