Reunion held at the Highland Marina
La Grange, Georgia
May 19-21, 2000
Last September, Curtis Eidson (India) thought up an idea for a reunion at a fishing camp close to where he lives (close is a relative term...it's an hour away). He did some checking and found it feasible and made some tentative reservations. A call went out for folks to put down their deposits and make their reservations. We're happy to say that a bunch of us did, 16 to be exact, from Mike, India and H&S, plus friends, spouses and children....all there to share the special moments that veterans have at reunions like these. We would like to share some of our memories with you. Before we continue I'd like to say to Curtis Eidson, India 3/5, 1967-68, Bronze Star recipient, Well Done, Marine! You and Brenda's hard work and organizational skills paid off big time. By the way, the forecast for the weekend was for rain and thunderstorms and possible tornadoes. The first rain I saw was when we hit the road, leaving for home. Just another small proof that God loves Marines.
(All pictures are thumbnailed, please click on them to see them full size.)
Driving off Interstate 85, an hour southwest of Atlanta, GA, you get off at the LaGrange exit, drive through the pleasant little city and after a few convoluted twists and turns, you see this sign. Your heart skips a beat. Nice touch Curtis.
Most of us arrived Friday afternoon. The Marina is actually a fishing camp, with individual cabins, in one, two or three room configurations. Yes, they have indoor plumbing. They were clean, pleasant and comfortable. This is a picture of the lake side of mine, my wife Betty is sitting on the rail. How about them trees!
The afternoon was spent meeting each other, to some for the first time in 30 odd years, for others for the first time ever, having only conversed by email or phone before this. It doesn't take long to feel comfortable with folks like these as many of you know if you've attended reunions before. (Note: for most of us here, this was our first reunion).
Sitting is Jerry Bain, with his cane (his knee will be better soon he tells us). Curtis Eidson is standing next to Hank Oliver in the white tee. All three were with India, Jerry and Curtis were together in '67-68. Hank was with H&S and then India. He also served as a D.I. at P.I. for a few years, whipping us poor suckers into shape. We should not slight the ladies, they've put up with us all these years, with good humor and loyalty, not always understanding but willing to listen. Sharing a nice moment here are from left to right, Brenda Eidson, Karen Bain and Betty McCurry.
Once most of the folks showed, we sat for portraits. I think we've got them all here.
From left to right:
1. Bob and Julie Morris from Florida. Bob was with India in early '70 before being transferred to Recon for his last nine months. I first met Bob at the Iwo Jima memorial more than a year ago and he was looking for folks he'd served with. Had never found any. Since then he's been to at least six Recon reunions (correct me if I'm wrong, Bob). This was his first 3/5 reunion.
2. Brad and Debbe Reynolds from California. They drove across country to get here! Many stops along the way. Brad was with Mike Company in '67-68, wounded three times. Debbe, as many of you know, has been a driving force behind our fledging efforts to present ourselves on the 'net and has built a fantastic site herself.
3. John Costello from New Jersey, here to keep the southerners in line <g>. Pictured here with his arm around his ex-wife (his words). John was with India ('67 I think you said, John?). Helluva guitar player and singer. He entertained us both nights with his playing and singing along with Hank Oliver until the wee hours. We thank you.
4. Curtis and Brenda Eidson from Waco, GA, who organized this reunion. It would not have happened without them. He even brought his boat down to take us fishing if we wanted. The best folks you'd ever want to meet. Curtis was with India in '67-68. I met him on his first trip north of the North Carolina border ever last year, on his way home from visiting Jerry Bain and Bob (Slick) Mowery. Slick couldn't make it to the reunion due to his illness. We wish you a full recovery, Slick. You were missed.
5. Dennis Tennety, from Maryland. Dennis was with India in '69, wounded in the Arizona. He participates in Rolling Thunder every year on his Harley. Dennis, Curtis and I had a mini reunion of sorts last year.
6. Doc and Terry Parlee from California. They flew in. Doc was a Corpsman with India in '68. He put Brad Reynolds on the medivac after Brad's third wound. I think he was loaned out to Mike Company for that action (correct me if I'm wrong, Doc).
7. Ed and Betty McCurry from Northern Virginia. Ed was with H&S in 1970, radio operator for 81s.
8. Eddie Garcia from New Jersey. Eddie was with first platoon of India in '67-68. He was handing out some pretty nifty cards, as a budding private investigator.
9. John (Gunny) Gundersen from Utah. I didn't get a chance to talk with Gunny much so could someone please fill in the blanks for us here. John was with India from Christmas day 1967 to October 15, 1968.
10. Hank and Linda Oliver from Savannah. Hank was a career Marine, with much time on the drill field. He was with H&S, then India, in '68. Damned good singer too!
11. Howard and Dorothy Rainer, from Georgia. Howard was with India Company in 1955, got out, then reenlisted later in Avionics.
12. Jerry and Karen Bain from West Virginia. Jerry was with India in '67-68, serving with Curtis. In many of these pictures you'll note that wrapped around one of the cabins is a banner, titled Wall of Honor. It lists all the names, sorted by company, of 3/5's dead that appear on our web sites. Jerry asked a friend, Lynn Tupes (from work, Jerry?), to produce it. She did a fantastic job but she told Jerry she'd never do it again as she cried over every name. It was an outstanding idea Jerry. It's one of the main reasons for a reunion like this, to remember and honor those that should never be forgotten.
13. Jerry Lomax from Tennesse. Jerry was with Mike Company in '68, wounded on Hill 1192 on May 9. Other folks from that fight were here too, more later. Jerry has written, compiled and printed out more than 1100 pages of material for a 3/5 book. Much of the material has come from our web sites and all the people who have posted pictures and remembrances.
14. Jim and Phyllis Blankenheim from Wisconsin. Jim was with H&S in '68-69, serving as a forward air controller, first with Mike Company, then with India. He was in the NVA base camp fight at Hill 1192, along with Jerry Lomax and Brad Reynolds. By the way, Phyllis' mother and father were both Marines. Excellent training!
15. Mike and Dana Wilson from Atlanta. Mike was a radio operator with Comm, H&S in 1968. He remembers talking to some of the guys at the reunion on the radio. A great cook too!
16. Rod and Rosa Johnson from Fort Smith, Arkansas. They rolled in late on Friday and we met them at breakfast the next morning. Rod was with India in '67-68 and was a machine gun section leader.
You've met most of the folks attending, and we'll fill in the gaps as people send in their remembrances.
Friday night, folks mingled and exchanged stories (most of them not tall <g>). Maps and pictures were broken out and little groups formed and broke up wherever people met, in Curtis' cabin, or outside, or down by the Marina, or on the lake (Yellow Jacket creek according to Curtis). Tired from the road and the excitement some folks hit the rack early (yours truly included). Most everyone else stayed up and listened and sang along with John Costello's concert. They also were treated to Hank Oliver's special song for 3/5 which he replayed for us on Saturday. I'm glad I didn't miss it Hank. I'm hoping he'll send us the lyrics so we can post them on these sites.
Saturday morning most everyone was up early and met at breakfast down at the Marina. We held an impromptu gathering just outside the restaurant, relaxing and joking while Mike and Dana's daughter and friend fed a gaggle of Mallard chicks potato chips. Does someone have pictures of that? Meanwhile Curtis and Jim were prepping the boat plus another one that was rented for the occasion to take us out fishing. Most of the guys and many of the wives went.
1. From left to right, Jerry Bain (w/cane), Jerry Lomax, Beverly Alberson and Clarence (Babe) Peterson, Bob and Julie Morris, on the lake.
2. Howard Rainer and Rod Johnson, hoping to catch a nibble. Didn't happen.
3. Linda Oliver with a fish she caught. Along with Julie Morris, the ladies caught the only ones nabbed that day. Way to go!
Those of us who didn't go on the lake wandered around, relaxed, chatted with our new found friends and generally had a good time. Once the budding fishermen filtered back in, many of us took naps (hey, we're a little older) or had lunch from Curtis and Brenda's ample larder. The early afternoon was spent whiling away the hours reminiscing. Then came time for dinner.
Mike Wilson volunteered to cook the steaks. Would you look at that layout! They were great, thanks Mike. The potatos were baked for us by the good folks at the Marina.
Before dinner was served, Curtis called us all together, it probably being the last time that everyone was going to be in one place at one time. I'll tell you a story.
Robert Peterson, a good friend to many of the guys here, recipient of a Silver Star and a Bronze Star, was killed on January 30, 1968 during Tet. He's on India's Wall. All his family ever got was a postcard from the military. His brother, Clarence (Babe), whose picture you've seen on the fishing boat, was looking for guys who had served with Rob. He found Curtis Eidson through our website and wrote him. They exchanged phone calls and Babe came out to visit. When this reunion became a reality, Curtis invited him.
Curtis took it upon himself to do something about the lack of information and recognition that Rob's family received. He acquired all the medals that Robert earned, placed them, with a picture of Rob, in a glass enclosed case framed in a cedar frame that Curtis made and finished himself. He gave us a short but powerfully emotional speech outlining the facts and presented the case to Babe. I was watching, and Babe's a pretty laconic sort of fellow, but I saw him freeze with the emotion.
If you weren't moved by this ceremony, you aren't capable of being moved. I didn't do this story justice with my poor words but the emotion on the faces should tell you the story. The second picture was taken a little later at The Wall cabin.
We're not done yet.
Doc Parlee then got up. He gave a short speech thanking Curtis and then presented him with a plaque.
A Vietnam Memorial plaque with the rubbing of the name of Billy Bolton on it. Billy was Curtis' best friend, also killed on January 30, 1968. He died in Curtis' arms,
It was the emotional highlight of a very emotion filled weekend for us. But it wasn't over yet. Dinner was outstanding and we all gathered and chatted around the clearing where dinner had been served. Group pictures were taken. First, the guys:
Bottom row, left to right: Dennis Tenety, Ed McCurry, Jim Blankenheim, Mike Wilson, Ron (Doc) Parlee, Eddie Garcia, Hank Oliver. Second row, left to right: John Gunderson, Jerry Lomax, Brad Reynolds, Jerry Bain, Curtis Eidson, John Costello, Rodney Johnson, Howard Rainer. Standing, left to right: Clarence (Babe) Peterson, Bob Morris.
From left to right: Dorothy Rainer, Dana Wilson, Linda Oliver, Betty McCurry, Phyllis Blankenheim, Julie Morris, Debbie Reynolds, Brenda Eidson, Beverly Alberson, Terry Parlee, Rosa Johnson and Karen Bain.
A few more:
Ed McCurry and Curtis Eidson. Curtis made me this frame from cedar and presented it to me before the presentation to Babe. Enclosed is a big USMC buckle. In his speech he gave me credit for the work on the Mike and India websites. No need to tell you that I was thunderstruck and 'tis something I will treasure forever. Thank you Curtis. The credit for the sites should go to all of you that signed on, and shared your pictures and stories with the rest of us. There is another picture of me holding the case, but I look like a deer caught in headlights so I didn't post it.
After dinner chatting, Linda and Hank Oliver sitting on a tailgate, Jerry Lomax facing them, Ed McCurry and Curtis Eidson.
After the presentations and just before dinner, Mike Wilson with weapon, Betty McCurry, John Costello, Karen and Jerry Bain, Linda and Hank Oliver, and half of Jerry Lomax.
Finally, Jim Blankenheim, Brad Reynolds and Jerry Lomax. Jim was a FAC attached to Mike Company and Brad and Jerry are Mike Company vets. They were all on Hill 1192 where Jerry was wounded...at the NVA Base Camp (see the story on the Mike site). Jerry and Jim were on the same medivac chopper, which, overloaded, crashed. Fortunately, all survived. The memories shared, holes filled in, was a major part of what this reunion was all about.
Breakfast the next morning was a bittersweet affair. New friends, old friends, all fast friends....we hated to leave. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Will treasure the memories here for the rest of my life.
To all y'all: Semper Fidelis!