Silver Spur Reunion 2010
7-11 April, San Antonio, Texas
After Action Report
The Doubletree Downtown Market Square Hotel, formerly the Radisson, again hosted our reunion. The location was somewhat of a disappointment because all renovation had not been completed in the bar, restaurant, and patio areas. Completion in time for our reunion had been promised to the Reunion Committee for over a year. This will be addressed below in the business meeting paragraphs.
Early arrivals came into town Wednesday, 7 April, so they could make the Thursday bus and foot tour of the several 18th-century Spanish missions, established south of the city along the San Antonio River. At least 92 persons registered for the reunion, but with late arrivals, we think we had in the neighborhood of 100. Six men from D Troop attended, as did two from B Troop and one from the 575th Maintenance Detachment. (You will see that several more identified with this detachment in the group photo, but they likely served in A Troop, also.) Bill Smith, one of the Reunion Committee members, helped with registration and was responsible for the very successful hospitality suite, which was open throughout the reunion and went through a lot of beer and whiskey. Spurs met there to talk and compare war stories. Smith also arranged and conducted golf outings by Spur golfers on Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday, Bill McCalister led and narrated the very interesting tour of the old Spanish missions by 40 of our members, wives, and girlfriends.
Bill McCalister should also be commended for all his very hard work on the Reunion Committee. He helped us plan and execute all the events while also acting as the unit’s Treasurer and paying the bills. Roger Young, our webmaster, was also a committee member who helped plan events and also helped by spending countless hours on his outstanding website to update all the reunion information and registration forms, and he sent countless mass e-mails to the troops. Another committee member, John “Waldo” Pepper, also was invaluable in planning, printing name cards and table cards, and providing the very professional video used in our remembrance ceremony.
Registration in the lobby continued on Thursday while the mission tour folks were gone, as the bulk of Silver Spurs continued to arrive at the hotel. Throughout registration, Silver Spur coins and baseball caps were sold and proved to be very popular. Each Silver Spur also received a small souvenir silver spur (pewter) key chain in the registration packet.
Our first big gathering, a welcome reception, occurred Thursday evening upon return of the mission tour bus. This was held on the outside patio in the beautiful Texas spring weather. After cocktails, we scattered to various downtown restaurants for dinner in small groups. Some visited La Margarita Restaurant in the nearby Mexican Market Square and others went to bars and restaurants along the River Walk.
We gathered in a private room Friday morning, the 9th, for a great breakfast. Nate Pulliam welcomed all, recognized those from other troops, and also recognized the only other former Silver Spur commander attending, Bob Witcher. He also recognized the presence of our very first Executive Officer, Fred Michelson, who later commanded D Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry in Vietnam. We continued to catch each other up on happenings in our lives since the last reunion.
John “Waldo” Pepper, our President, next presided over a Silver Spur business meeting and held to his reputation of efficiency and brevity. Bill Smith was elected to a two-year term as our new President. Waldo Pepper was elected our Spur Chaplain, Bill McCalister was re-elected as Treasurer, and Charles Stutzman was re-elected as Membership Committee Chairman. John Briggs was elected to head the new Reunion Committee. His committee members are Al LaGrange, Wayne Welch, and Clayton Marsh. Clayton also volunteered to take over the task of forwarding mass e-mails to our members, relieving our Webmaster of this time-consuming job. Thanks, Clayton. Roger “Bear” Young remains our Webmaster, of course (how could we possibly replace him?). Chuck Oualline was designated a liaison/advisor to the Reunion Committee, so that some historical knowledge can be shared when the 2012 reunion is planned.
Discussion followed about the location of the 2012 reunion and in what month it might be held. About seven cities were named and noted by the Reunion Committee. Location and date decisions likely will be made in the spring of 2011.
After the elections, a representative from their fund-raising committee made a short presentation about the National Vietnam War Museum to be built near the old Ft. Wolters, Texas. Several of our members had expressed displeasure at the incomplete state of renovation at our hotel. Nate Pulliam explained that by the time it was realized the work would not be completed in time, as promised, it was too late to change locations. At this point, members urged that a refund be requested from Doubletree. The members present at the business meeting decided to use any reimbursement money toward a Founder’s donation to the National Vietnam War Museum. A request for refund subsequently was submitted to the hotel management. Doubletree has agreed to a partial reimbursement, which will be reported when received and will be applied to a Silver Spur Founder’s donation to the Museum.
After administrative announcements about the afternoon activities, the business meeting adjourned about 1100.
At 1300 on Friday the bus departed with about 60 people for the short ride to the River Walk where our two chartered barges awaited. We loaded aboard and the barges cast off and treated us to a two-hour ride on the San Antonio River, traveling north on a newly opened reach that no one aboard had ever seen, except for the guide/pilot of each barge who gave descriptions of what we passed as we traveled. Some interesting points were the Tower Life Building, the oldest restaurant on the River Walk, the Bexar County Courthouse, a tree growing from a wall, the river’s flood gates, and others. One extremely interesting facet of the ride was the trip through locks to enable us to get upstream. Each barge had to enter the locks singly to be lifted upstream and lowered downstream on the return trip. After the ride, we bussed back to the hotel to prepare for that night’s banquet.
We met again at 1800 on Friday for cocktails in our private banquet room at the hotel. A small Missing Man Table greeted Spurs as they entered. About 100 Spurs and their guests attended the banquet. As with all our events, the U.S. flag and our guidon were prominently posted. Thanks to Pam and Roger Young, who always ship the guidon both ways to our reunion sites. A representative from The Vietnam Archive located at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, paid his way and attended our banquet.
Assembly was sounded and Bill McCalister gave the invocation, then led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Our former Spur commander, Bob Witcher, was the scheduled Master of Ceremonies. However, our Texas allergies did a job on Bob’s voice and he did not feel he could speak and be heard, so Chuck Oualline filled in. Chuck welcomed all, to include our brothers from other troops, and gave a moving explanation of the Missing Man Table. We toasted our fallen and missing. Three guest musicians from Bill McCalister’s church, David and Adele Condreay and Mike Lester, of the group New Star Shining, played and sang several moving songs, which were appropriate to our proceedings. Chuck Oualline read the names and dates of passing of the ten men we have lost since the last reunion, or of whose passing we were not aware during the last reunion: Ronald “Ronnie” Bates, 22 Jan 10; Calvin G. George, 28 Jan 07; Peter Koeppen, 5 Jan 10; Jim Longworth, 12 Oct 08; Joseph L. Pike, 14 Sep 05; Jim Preston, 26 Feb 10; David E. Russell, 11 Jan 09; Glenn William Summers, 31 Jan 09; William “Bill” Thompson, 25 Oct 09; and Richard Whelan, 17 Sep 08. David Russell and Glenn Summers were present at our 2008 Reunion in San Antonio.
After a great three-choice dinner was served, we conducted a moving memorial ceremony, during which the names of our departed were read during a DVD presentation produced by John Pepper. Our fallen include two whose remains have not been returned from Cambodia. We included the four KIAs suffered by the present-day Silver Spurs during a previous tour in Iraq. (They have suffered no KIAs during their present tour in Afghanistan, to our knowledge.) The ceremony concluded with the playing of Taps with the troop at present arms.
Another group breakfast was enjoyed on Saturday, 10 April. After breakfast, Jason Stewart, Historian and Archivist of the Vietnam Center and Archive, gave a short explanation of the organization’s mission and encouraged our participation in preserving the history of our war. We adjourned for several hours of open time to give everyone a chance for individual sight-seeing before the night’s activities.
For two hours on Saturday afternoon, Joe Galloway graciously signed books, DVDs, and other papers, in the hotel lobby. This enabled many of our members to meet and chat with the famous war correspondent.
At 1600 on Saturday the busses departed for Enchanted Springs Ranch, an outdoor entertainment venue in the country northwest of the city, about a 40-minute drive. The numbers kept changing, but we think about 90 people enjoyed this outing.
Enchanted Springs is an old western town movie set, complete with role-players dressed in cowboy garb, horses, and a very tame bull. Upon arrival, we immediately took group photographs in front of the town’s watering hole, the Silver Spur Saloon. John Pepper is to distribute these photos. After photos we could take a wagon ride, pet the bull, explore the town, or visit the gift shop.
The troopers were treated to a Texas barbecue and everything that goes with it and our own bar, inside the Silver Spur Saloon, of course. We had the spacious ranch and facilities all to ourselves. We dined inside the saloon, after being served from the chuck wagon.
After dinner, Chuck Oualline introduced Joe Galloway, who has co-authored We Were Soldiers Once, and Young, and We Are Soldiers Still, with LTG (Retired) Hal Moore. Moore commanded the battalion in the famous Ia Drang battle in November 1965 and Joe was there. Barry Pepper played him in the movie We Were Soldiers, with Mel Gibson playing LTC Moore. Joe gave us a moving speech, which included a description of the Arlington funeral he had just attended to inter crew members from a Huey missing since 1965 and found only recently. He also told us of the brotherhood of Bruce Crandall and Ed Freeman, the latter recently deceased, both pilot recipients of the Medal of Honor.
After Joe’s address, we were treated to a show by Pistol Packin’ Paula, who really could handle her REAL Colt Peacemaker revolvers. We did not want the night to end, but had to board our chartered busses about 2000 to return to the hotel.
And the night did not end, for some who did not have early flights. Bill Smith and others had re-stocked the hospitality suite, and it rocked on until the early morning.
Most of us departed on Sunday, 11 April 2010. We had renewed old friendships and forged some new ones. We were privileged to welcome our B Troop and D Troop and 575th brothers to our activities, and hope they will return and bring others. I said this in the last After Action Report: It is sad to think that all of us might not be around for the next reunion in 2012. I pray it is not so. But reality and age tell me that it is likely. Each time we meet could be our last. So, don’t blow off the next reunion. Don’t put off attendance until the one after that. Be there. For each other. And for loads of fun, just like old times.
Meanwhile, I ask all of you to pray that all of our young Silver Spurs come home safely from this tour in Afghanistan, and that they be with us at the next gathering. Scouts out!
2010 Reunion Committee Chairman
Joe Galloway By Steven Pressfield - Published: July 1, 2010