416th Bombardment Group (L)
September 13-17, 2017
Veterans and Wives present at the 2017 Reunion
L-R Standing: Bobbie Kinney, Bob Kehres, Josie Sittarich, Joe Meagher, Hilaria Huff
Seated: Dave Andrews, Roland Dullnig, Wayne Downing
(Photo courtesy of David Andrews, III)
WOW! Maggie sure knows how to put together a WONDERFUL and MEMORABLE Reunion - THANKS.
The 2017 416th Bomb Group Reunion, held at the Key Bridge Marriott hotel in Rosslyn, Virginia near Washington, D.C., was hosted by Margaret ("Maggie") McEvoy, with significant help from her husband Simon Young, daughters Zoe and Mia, along with many others. More than fifty 416th Bomb Group "Family" members attended over the four days.
The "Greatest Generation" attendees included 416th Bomb Group Veterans Dave Andrews, Wayne Downing, Roland Dullnig, Bob Kehres and Joe Meagher, along with Wives of passed Veterans Hilaria Huff, Bobbie Kinney and Josie Sittarich.
Some folks were able to get to the Washington, D.C. area early for some sightseeing ahead of the official reunion start, or to give Maggie a helping hand. So by Wednesday, visiting was already going full-blast. Maggie put together welcome packets for everyone with the events schedule along with very helpful local and tour information.
The Washington Room on the 3rd floor of our hotel provided an ideal venue as Hospitality Room and was well attended throughout the reunion. Maggie and the gang kept it continually stocked with refreshments, snacks and candy which was very much appreciated by everyone, evidenced by the refills necessary multiple times each day. The staff at the hotel were also very helpful, keeping the room tidy and supplied with water and glasses. Maggie and her family generously brought in pizzas for those who did not want to "miss any action" by leaving the Hospitality Room for dinner.
Thursday morning started at 8 AM back at the Hospitality Room with Starbucks coffee, donuts and delicious home-baked muffins by Mia's Girl Scout Troop, brought in by Maggie and her family. As part of her Reunion plans, Maggie graciously arranged for a Dillon's Bus Service tour bus to take all those interested to the awe inspiring Washington National Cathedral where she also arranged for a guided group tour. The Cathedral is dedicated to serve as a house of prayer for all people and a spiritual home for the nation.
Mr. G., our bus driver, a truly entertaining host, posted "416th Honor Flight" on the Bus Marque in honor of our Veterans, and was extremely helpful to everyone, but especially for our "Greatest Generation". Before our return to the hotel, we also visited the National World War II Memorial, allowing everyone time for some personal reflection as we walked through the Memorial. The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home.
We all sincerely appreciated Maggie’s thoughtfulness by having sandwiches and all the fixin's ready and waiting at the Hospitality Room upon our return, because everyone was ready to eat. Having everything right there allowed for a much more relaxing lunch than scrambling to a restaurant.
The remainder of the afternoon and evening was enjoyed at the Hospitality Room by many, some rested up, others got back out to see more sights or visit friends/family in the area. A few folks got together for a couple hours Thursday afternoon in the Adams Room across the hall from the Hospitality Room to discuss ideas around forming a new organization to keep our 416th Bomb Group "Family" together for the future. The results of this "Planning Group" were presented by Chris Adams and discussed by all attendees at the Business Meeting Saturday afternoon.
8 AM again Friday saw more coffee, donuts and the now famous Girl Scout home-baked muffins for those getting an early start. The third annual Board of Directors meeting was held over breakfast Friday morning.
In a memorable and touching moment, our thoughtful and respectful hotel staff gave our veterans a clapping, standing ovation as they boarded the tour bus on Friday. This bus trip organized by Maggie headed this day to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (companion facility to the Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.) where we broke into 3 groups for personalized guided tours to see as much of the museum as possible. After our tours, we enjoyed a pleasant lunch with on-going visiting at the museum McDonalds restaurant.
On our return, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to stop at the United States Air Force Memorial near the Pentagon. This Memorial honors the service and sacrifices of the men and women of the United States Air Force and its predecessor organizations, including the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps; the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps; the Division of Military Aeronautics, Secretary of War; the Army Air Service; the U.S. Army Air Corps; and the U.S. Army Air Forces. More than 54,000 Airmen have died in combat while serving in the Air Force and these historical service arms of the military.
The Hospitality Room stayed busy again for the remainder of Friday afternoon and evening.
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, but for some inexplicable reason, folks did not start gathering until a little later than 8 AM. Thankfully, the all-important pastries and coffee brought in again by Maggie provided that needed boost to get folks awake and active, and the Hospitality Room was soon buzzing as usual.
WWII-era music played in the Hospitality Room was a thoughtful donation from the only French school in the DC area; Lycée Rochambeau. The school’s band leader, Mr. Carey came up with the idea when Maggie asked him about possible music for the reunion. High school students Alexandre Fauqueux and Thomas LaTendresse volunteered their time to put together the WWII music play list and set up a sound system in the Hospitality Room which was a real "hit" for our "Greatest Generation" folks. Roland Dullnig took advantage of the chance to have a dance with Stephanie Andrews.
Our Business meeting started at 1 PM across the hall in the Madison Room which had been kindly setup with chairs by the wonderfully helpful hotel staff. Wayne Sayles spoke of the work done by he and Doris at the Archive over the past year, Rick Prucha described 416th.com website additions and Chris Adams discussed the ideas from Thursday's "Planning Group" around forming a new "416th Bomb Group Heritage Association" organization for the future.
After Chris' talk, there was a fair bit of discussion among the audience and when a vote was taken whether to form the new organization, the response was unanimously YES. Kathe Rensner volunteered to look into creating a Non-Profit "416th Bomb Group Heritage Association" organization to begin moving forward.
At the end of the meeting, Dr. Vernon Williams, Department of History and Global Studies Professor at Abilene Christian University volunteered to host next year's 2018 Reunion in Abilene, Texas. Everyone also voted YES to accept his generous offer. Just before we broke up, David Andrews, III, who kept his cameras busy throughout the Reunion, graciously offered to copy his photos and videos onto thumb drives for anyone wishing to have digital copies. A few hours of R&R were allotted before the evening festivities, some folks rested in their rooms and others returned to the Hospitality Room for more visiting (and snacking).
5 PM sharp (17:00 hours for the Veterans) saw everyone dressed in their finest, gathering outside Salon A for the Pre-Banquet photo opportunities.
After everyone was seated for the Banquet, Maggie got the evening started, followed by the local Girl Scouts Troops 6534 and 4370 Color Guard presentation of the American Flag, Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. In honor and memory of those who are no longer with us, Doris Sayles explained the significance of the Missing Man Table and each item, followed by TAPS bugled by David Andrews, III, both emotionally moving. The Invocation was let by Sharon Lavelle, followed by a delectable dinner.
Following dinner, Wayne Sayles introduced our special guest, friend and speaker, Ross Stewart, curator of the RAF Wethersfield Airfield Museum, Wethersfield, England, the site of the first overseas 416th Bomb Group base.
Upon the conclusion of Ross's very informative and entertaining speech, Terri Velasco led everyone in singing God Bless America. Dr. Vernon L. Williams, Director of the East Anglia Air War Project, wrapped things up with the presentation of George Bledsoe Preservation Awards and Medals individually to both Doris and Wayne Sayles to recognize their "significant contributions to the preservation of WWII military aviation history" for their tireless 416th Bomb Group Archive efforts.
Last minute visiting was carried on back in the Hospitality Room till Midnight (or so), while David Andrews was kept busy making the thumb drive copies of his digital photos and videos (Thanks David!).
Sunday came too soon, but fortunately many folks were able to gather over breakfast for the final Good-Bye's and See you next Year!
Business Meeting presentations:
416th Bomb Group Archive Year in review (Wayne Sayles) (PDF)
416th.com Website Overview (Rick Prucha) (PDF)
416th Bomb Group Heritage Association planning (Chris Adams) (PDF)
The 416th Bomb Group Newsletter 2017 published by Wayne and Doris Sayles.
Thanks to Maggie, Simon, Zoe and Mia and everyone who helped and attended for another spectacular Reunion.