““““2011 REUNION HIGHLIGHTS, by
Sandy Oppenheimer, SK2c””””
As the 2011 USS Salt Lake City Reunion was winding down at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Herndon, VA., the reactions started coming: Awesome --- Great ---- Fantastic---Love it---and Best Ever.
Before you see Jeff Jowdy’s photos, son of SLC Veteran
Alfred A. Jowdy, S1c in the Reunion book, let’s look at some of the highlights:
Did you hear the gasps in the lobby when Mike Asea, son of SLC Veteran
George J. Asea, MS2c unfurled his tremendous banner? It was big. It was scenic. It had the eight-inch guns firing. It had pictures going down both sides. It had Japanese flags for planes shot down, islands bombarded, etc. It had the name of everyone who ever served on the ship. The woman in charge of booking all the military reunions said it was the best banner ever. The banner stayed in the lobby to delight hotel guests, but Mike had another for the front of the Hospitality Room.
There was the visit to the Navy Memorial where captains readying for an admiral's retirement party came over to the veterans and thanked them for their service.
There was Lt. Colonel Randall M. Epperson. Randy is the son of
Robert M. Epperson, ARM1c who was one of the observers in our planes calling out numbers after decampments to make sure we all returned. There wasn’t going to be any AWOLS’s on these trips.
When the World War II monument was visited, everyone went looking for their state. There was a large youth group there and the veterans also got many thanks.
It was a somber occasion at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. [See Picture]. Four of our seasoned veterans laid a wreath. They were
Louis Rehm, EM3c,
Walter Brophy, GM3c,
Albert Jowdy, S1c and
James McCorriston, MM3c. It’s a shame everyone couldn’t hear the instructions they got from the ramrod corporal. The center of the [wreath] was personalized with a picture of the ship and calling attention to the fact it was a “one ship fleet”. The poignant sound of Taps echoed over the cemetery as our stalwart Salt Lake representatives stood at attention in the boiling heat.
Pulling up to the world’s largest statue was a memorable moment. It was the Iwo Jima monument. An Island the Salt Lake veterans knew well. They had bombarded that island before anyone knew its name. Once, it was Christmas Eve, when they threw shells at the small island. Then it was 33 days of bombardment to help rout the Japanese. The pictures of the veterans standing in front of the monument will be a keeper.
The second day of touring was also eventful. Who can top going in the White House and seeing the basement and the entire ground floor? There was the East room where the President often makes a presentation and turns on his heels and walks down the hallway. There were also the Green, Red and Blue rooms that take you to the big dining room. What portraits! What furniture! What history!
You have to be in awe when you go to the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and Korean Memorial. All are near each other.
Who could turn a phrase better than the Great Emancipator? He was the man who held the Union together. It’s a climb up the stairs to see his bearded, ruddy face, but worth it.
The business meeting the last day went smoothly. Yes, the dues are being raised because there’s less of a crowd, but we’re still meeting while other ships give up. We are going to New Orleans next year and Janet Veit is the President. Janet is the dau. of SLC Veteran
Robert John McElwain, GM1c.
The banquet that closed the meeting lived up to what had gone before. The Star Spangled Banner was sounded by a single trumpet player as a star spangled color guard made up of all branches presented the flags.
Those who died last year weren’t forgotten. Janet Veit read the names and Al Jowdy rang the ship’s bell as each name was sounded. When all had been read the trumpet player played Taps.
Our Randy Epperson, who had so much to do with the success of the reunion, was our speaker. He related how battles of the Salt Lake City provide lessons for life. At the end, he gave each of the veterans a flag and memorable bound certificates that had pictures of the wreath laying and proof the flag was flown over the Pentagon. Then he was surprised when I presented him with a big plaque, that had a miniature USS. SLC CA25 Life Preserver attached and his father’s picture in the center of it that Richard Noar, son of SLC Veteran
Abraham A. Noar, S1c,
had designed and made for the occasion. The plaque had copper plates in three corners that had the battles of the U.S.S. Salt Lake City, Randy’s name and the fact he was our speaker and a picture of the ship. It is a magnificent plaque.
When the band came back from its break after our ceremony, it played Anchors Aweigh and everyone rose to their feet and clapped along. What a sight.
Then the 16-piece band played the Big Band sounds of the 40’s & 50’s and the veterans were young again