JULY 18TH 1996
In a daylong assault by members of the United States Marine Corps, First Marine Division FMF EAST PAC landed in Boston Ma. Many modern types of assault vehicles were used. Little resistance was encountered. None the less a beachhead was established. Immediately after one element of the Division a Reinforced Platoon from Mike Company 3rd. Bn. 7th Marine Regiment was dispatched to secure an outpost. They again assaulted the Town of Natick MA. and again were met with little resistance. They secured the area and set up a command post at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel. The civilian populace seemed uneasy but was reassured there would be no rowdiness. The two Forward Observers for this operation Bob Collins and Jim E. Hastings agreed that they would be hard pressed to find a better group of people to spend their vacation with. Never has a finer group of men been together in one place.
All I can say is that it was an honor and a privilege to be co-host along with Bob of the Mike 3/7 Vietnam Associations 14th Annual reunion. I was on the nervous side but I think most everyone had a good time in Boston and Natick this past July. We had a turnout of about 45 members with another 50 or so family members. Our family members are the greatest supporting troops you could find anywhere. Thanks to all of you. We started setting up Thursday morning with the help of the Chong's, McCrosson's, and O'Briens. Right off the bat the hotel wanted to charge us for a bar setup which we knew nothing about. Thanks though to member Chris Gately who I met for the first time took matters into his own hands. The hotel wanted to charge an extra $4.00 per person for a bar set up. Chris went right to the Management was back in 5 minutes and told me they would waive the charge. I don't know what he said but thanks again Chris you saved us a lot of money. At this point I was becoming more nervous wondering whereur guiding force was. George "Bulldog" Martin finally arrived with Fran after a stop to see some whales. Nothing like those Atlantic whales George. With his arrival everything seemed to start running smooth.
The reunion officially got started at 3:00 PM. We were welcomed to the area by Mr. Joe Sheridan of Natick Ma. Joe is the immediate past President of the First Marine Division Association and a veteran of Guadicanal and Tarawa. He stressed the point to everyone that people our age have to start stepping up and making ourselves heard in national associations. His generation (World War II) is ready to pass the torch. If we don't we will not have a voice in the years to come. Being a true Bostonian, he also tried to convince everyone that the Marine Corps was really founded in Boston. I don't think he had too many believers. Well Joe I believed you. The rest of the day was pretty much spent meeting everyone and checking in for the reunion. Also later that evening we held a raffle for about 20 restaurant gift certificates.
Members who attended the reunion were Brigadier General Thomas Draude Retired U.S.M.C., Chris Gately, John Macedo, Joe Mata, Ramiro Morales, Orlando Capozzoli, George Lancaster, Jack Richards, Ray Smith, Bob Collins, Larry Neal, Maurice Koch, Ron Shubert, Ken Mettler, John McGeever, Albert "Ozzie" Wotchko, Walter Bussey, Kurt Weimer, Tom Ferren, Robert Keeney, Walter Vannatta, Robert Dodelin, Dan Cassetta, George "Bulldog" Martin, Sal Politi, Jerry Chong, Gene "MAC" McCrosson, Pete Schiavone, John Flinn, Steve Kelley, Bob Munroe, Reyd Dyer, Jim Hastings, Don Chagnon, John "Gramps" Voisine, Norm Deep, John Pereria, Paul Hackert, Jeff Calcott, Dennis McNeeley, Jim Meaney, Phil & Gail O'Brien, Larry Kirkland, Rufus Miller and last but not least Charlie Zappa.
Friday morning around 9:00 AM we were picked up at the hotel for our trip to Boston. There were 45 members with family who went on the trip. The tour started with some narrated history on Boston and Massachusetts by our tour guide. We drove by some of the historic sites in the city and also visited one of the Vietnam Memorials in Boston. Later we drove to the North end of Boston to start our walking tour of the city. We visited Old North Church (where we almost lost the Richards, Jack you never should have bought her that camera) and stopped by Paul Revere's house among other things. To end our morning part of the tour we walked to the waterfront where we had lunch. We dined at Cornucopia, a waterfront restaurant. After lunch we boarded the bus again for a ride to Cambridge. There we were given a boat ride down the Charles River and a narrated tour of all the sites along the River. Later that evening after dinner about 9:00 PM we had a few visitors. Believe it or not Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and thone and only Elvis showed up to entertain us. I think they put on a real good show for us, especially all the ladies in the front row who got a little excited over Elvis. I heard though there were a couple of Irishman (I won't mention Mac or Bobby Collins by name) who wanted to take Elvis out PERMANTLY. Good thing there were no loaded weapons in the room. Hey what's the matter with you guys it's just show business.
Saturday morning started with a few groggy heads, everyone survived though. We started our business meeting about 10:00 AM. George Martin presided over the meeting. To start, he presented a bottle with the Iwo Jima flag raising to Dan Cassetta. Dan is the only member who has attended all 14 reunions. Now that's dedication!!! We were trying to get a vote on the site of the 1998 reunion when the grandest entrance to a Mike Co. reunion happened. General Draude arrived at the hotel after being picked up at the airport by my son Cpl. Robert J. Hastings USMC. Three Boston motorcycle police and one police cruiser escorted them from the airport to the hotel 15 miles away. Those Generals sure know how to make an entrance. Pete "Machine gun" Schiavone who was also attending his first reunion made this escort possible. Thanks Peter.
Well after all the commotion settled down the meeting resumed. We really didn't have to worry anymore though where we would go in 98. General Draude volunteered (again) to host the reunion in Tampa Fl. When we voted I think every hand went up for Tampa Fl. George did say to the General he would try to have him busted to private if he moved again. It seems every time he is going to host a reunion he just up and moves. Even if he never does host one I'm sure everyone feels his presence is good enough. Other business brought up was dues. Everyone agreed on a $10.00 a year donation to the Association, which is used for expenses, printing, postage etc. George also explained all the streamers on the Guide On, which is the original Guide On brought to Vietnam by Mike Co.
Immediately after the business meeting we held the raffle. John McGeever was the big winner, he won the color TV, Kurt Weimer won the Chinese Carbine, and Rod Wright out in Colorado who was unable to attend won the inscribed K-Bar. And of course the Chong's had their usual good luck. Finally it was time for the banquet. After getting a little anxious due to the busses being late we finally headed to the USS Constitution. We arrived and were met by one of the Continental Marines and Chaplain Duffy. Shortly after Commander Anthony Beck, Commanding Officer of the USS Constitution arrived and greeted us. Earlier in the year I invited Commander Beck to join us for dinner at our banquet. He had to decline though since his wife had laid down the law about him going to too many free dinners and never being home. Guess he made a wise decision. He took us aboard ship and gave a great talk on the history and future of the CONSTITUTION. He made us all feel at home. I can't thank him enough for taking time from hibusy schedule to meet with us. Two Continental Marines then gave us a tour of the ship. We went from top to bottom forward to aft where most tours never go. They showed us everything. When it was time to leave everyone wanted to stay. The tour was so informative they did an outstanding job for us.
Next we walked over to the Marine Barracks where I was discharged from in 68. We posed in front of the Barracks for our group picture. We then walked over to the Navy Headquarters Building for dinner. Father Duffy gave the blessing but had to leave soon after to make sure no one was stealing wine from the church. After he left the waitresses felt more relaxed. We dined on Lobster and Chicken, clam chowder, steamed clams and salad. Unfortunately we were short three or four Chicken dinners. I apologize again to those who missed their meal. The highlight of the night was when General Draude spoke to us as only he can do. Anyone who was at their first reunion I'm sure felt the same way I did when I first heard him speak. He can bring a tear or two to your eye and make you proud to know that you were and always will be a MARINE. He also let us know that our tour or tours in Vietnam developed a great wealth of knowledge for the Marines who followed us into the Corps. Which makes it even stronger today.
Cake cutting was next with the oldest Marine in attendance Sgt. Major Walter Bussey and the youngest Marine in attendance Corporal Robert J. Hastings doing the honors. After a short bus ride back to our hotel and thanks to the guidance of Fran Martin. We were treated to the annual and official drink of Mike 3/7 Mudslides. Fran they get better every year. We also held a 50/50 raffle thanks to the suggestion of John Macedo. Thanks to Orlando Capozzoli for going out to buy the tickets. We raised $168.00 for the fund and Bob Collins had $168.00 towards his golfing habit. The rest of the evening was spent enjoying each other's company.
Sunday morning is the most important event of our reunions to me. The Memorial Service to remember and honor our fallen comrades. A very moving and sad ceremony. The Marine Corps provided an Honor Guard for us with members of the 25 Marine Regiment doing the Honors. This year for the first time we read the names of our fallen brothers. This reading was made possible by members Ray Smith, "Ozzie" Wotchko, Dan Cassetta, John Flinn, Sal Politi, Tom Ferren, John Macedo, Jerry Chong and General Draude reading the names and Steve Kelley carrying in our Colors. We also rang a ship's bell after each name was read. There was not a dry eye in the room when we were done. We must never forget them. To General Draude thank you again for your speech you always have the right words to say. The list of KIA's is not a complete one I'm sure. If there is a name you do not see after you read the list please contact me or John Voisine. John is the person we have to thank for being instrumental in putting together this list.
With the ending of the Memorial Service that also brought to an end our 14th Reunion. It was great to see old faces, meet new ones and make new friends. I wouldn't trade this opportunity to go to reunions for anything in the world. Like the man once said we were brought together by fate a little help from God and the United States Marine Corps.
See you in Sacramento.
Semper Fi, JIM HASTINGS