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Las Vegas, NV--July 5, 2002
The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association(VHPA)
held its 19th annual reunion in Las Vegas, NV from July 2-7, 2002
at the Riviera Hotel/Casino. Over 1200 pilots and approximately
the same number of guests attended the reunion for a wonderful
time. A special mini-reunion of former Thunderbirds was also held
in Las Vegas on July 5th. There were about 36 former Thunderbirds
who were in Las Vegas. And amazingly, every year of the 9 years
the Thunderbirds were in Vietnam was represented! Finally, if
some of them look a little older, just remember.....that was from
31 to 40 years ago!!!
(Photo courtesy Jack Swickard)
Back Row(L to R): Lonnie Schmidt(67-68), Jim
Ellis(65-66), Raul "Pete" Smith(68-69), Charlie Spillner(70-71),Rudy
Perale(63-64), Norman Carter(63-64) , Glenn Clark(69-70),Les Valouche(63-64),
Middle Row(L to R): Bob Brandt(62-63), Jim
Dailey(62-63), John Mickey(66-67), Jack Swickard(67-68), Charlie
Williams(68-69), Don Olsen(62-63), Tommy Cruz(62-63), Tom Watson(63-64),
Donald Chadwick(63-64), Don Abrams(70-71).
Front Row(L to R): "Fox Peter" Cullen,
Jr.("Hero" 62-63), Ben Luck(62-63), Gil Ferrey(66),
Reed Kimzey(66-67), Tom Payne(66-67), "Ole"Dick Olsen(62-63),
Chad Payne(62-63), Dale Moore(69-70).
(Not shown but at Las Vegas: John Clark (65-66),
Frank Maus(63-64), Duane Speirs(69-70), Richard Glasgow(62-63),
John Ness(62-63), Richard Loynachan (62-63), Wally Larson (62-63),
Angus Desveaux(66), Lee Beavers (68-69)
Note--If I have incorrectly identified anyone
please notify the Webmaster
Some Original Thunderbirds
L to R: Richard Loynachan, John Ness, Richard
and Tommy Cruz, all members of the original
They arrived in Vietnam in Sep 62 and flew
(Photo courtesy Tom Payne)
Party at Tom & Charmin Cruz's Las Vegas Home!
Front Row(L to R): Tommy Cruz, Don Olsen and
Back Row(L to R): Dick Olsen, Wally Larson,
Dick Loynachan, Richard Glasgow and John Ness
(Photo courtesy Dick Olsen)
Several of the former Thunderbirds had a difficult
telling these two fellas apart. On the left
is Gil Ferrey(66)
and on the right is Richard Loynachan(62-63).
(Photo courtesy Jack Swickard)
Each former Thunderbird present at the mini-reunion
was asked to tell one story about their tour with the Thunderbirds
and then tell what they have been doing since Vietnam. As you
might expect, it took a little time to do this, but was well worth
the time. The photos below were taken during that time by Jack
Swickard. Thanks Jack!
Ben Luck(62-63), Wally Larson(62-63), Jim
Dailey(62-63), Tommy Cruz(62-63), 'Ole' Dick Olsen(62-63)
Don Olsen(62-63), 'Fox Peter' Cullen(62-63),
Bob Brandt(62-63), Chad Payne(63-64), Tom Watson(63-64)
Norm Carter(63-64), Rudy Perale(63-64), Frank
Maus(63-64), Don Chadwick(63-64), Les Valouche(63-64)
John Clark(65-66), Jim Ellis(65-66), Reed
Kimzey(66-67), Tom Payne(66-67),John Mickey(66-67)
Lonnie Schmidt(67-68), Raul 'Pete' Smith(68-69),
Charlie Williams(68-69), Dale Moore(69-70)
Don Abrams(70-71),Dennis Gulich(70-71),
Reunions are strange occasions. Some men approach
them with dread....some with expectation. Everyone approaches
them with nervous anticipation. No two people approach reunions
in exactly the same frame of mind. However, once reunions are
over, hardly anyone leaves not wanting to return. Yes, reunions
are strange occasions
Fred "Fox Peter" Cullen, Jr., one of the
original Thunderbirds, who travelled to Vietnam from the U.S.
on the USS Croatan with the H-21's in August and September
of 1962, has written a little piece that seems to say some of
the things we all feel, especially at reunions.
It is not an easy
thing to do,
Purge your spleen,
yet try to hide,
What friends and
comrades might construe,
As a wimpy whine
of wounded pride.
But enough has
been said of airport spit,
The dearth of
bands and Mailer's shit,
No need here to
libel Henry's girl,
What image of
mine could trump a urinal?
Let me sing instead
of joyous things,
Beer, fluff, reunions,
Past friends we
love and wedding rings.
All smile! Embrace!
Whatever life brings.
Now to all by
whom this hymn is heard,
My heart abides
always with the "Thirty-Third"
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