174th Assault
Helicopter Company


The 2007 Annual Reunion


Submitted by: Bob Jones
174th AHC Association
Secretary / Treasurer

It was a wonderful beginning of the April 28 - 31, 2007 Annual Reunion. My wife, Mary, and I arrived several days early as we had just finished conducting a seven-state "40 & 8" convention at the Ocala Hilton Hotel, in Ocala, FL, with 340 people in attendance. We were tired when we finally arrived in Fort Walton Beach, and glad to rest in the nice surroundings of our hotel facing the quiet Gulf waters. As usual, Ellen Bragg, hotel manager of the Best Western Hotel, was on hand to give us a great big welcome. For the first time, we met LeAnn Collins who replaced Peggy Mahone last year as Sales Manager. We immediately knew that we were again in capable hands.

Association founder and local-area resident, Ted Saunders, and I had worked on the 174th reunion by e-mail and had most of the situation in hand at the outset. Knowing of my early arrival date, Ted arrived on the scene early and we discussed purchasing the soft drinks and snacks for our "Ready Room". Well, at least the hotel's Conference Room sometimes felt like the 174th "Ready Room" when small groups of friends began huddling together over photo books and remembering the earlier times together, or taking time to catch up on each others' lives since Vietnam.

Ted and I met Dale Parker at Sam's Club real early in the morning, to buy lots of soft drinks, snacks and ice for the soft drinks. Dale, with Ted's help, provided the muscle work and we used Dale's pickup as the primary supply vehicle. To give you an idea of the cost of supplies needed before the reunion even got started, expenses for those snacks and beverages exceeded $500.00.

As our "local representative," Ted had already made arrangements for the Friday evening barbecue buffet at our hotel and for the Saturday evening dinner/business meeting at the Two Trees Restaurant. Thank you Ted for all your hard work!

Several pre-registered members reported in on Wednesday; a larger group by Thursday; fifty on Friday; and, the remaining group arrived early Saturday morning.

There were fewer in attendance this year than last, with 103 people registering. Several could not attend the Saturday night event and left early, so only 96 happy souls enjoyed the Saturday night dinner.

The Tiki Bar on the pool deck became our "unofficial meeting place" early in the week. It was great to visit with old friends and to meet new members arriving for their first reunion.

Marty Heuer, Henry (he prefers "Hank") Wifholm, and I had set up and stocked the registration table in our "Ready Room" by 9 a.m. Friday morning. With little delay, the reunion was officially off to a fast start. Marty and I handled sign-in and issued name tags while Hank was busy handing out golf shirts. We thank Mel Lutgring for getting the shirts to the reunion.

Mary was a big help by keeping me organized and looking up files on my new laptop computer. But, it was a little frustrating to see old friends arrive and not have time to sit and chat with them. "Oh well," I mumbled to myself, "there's always tonight, tomorrow and Sunday."

Friday saw an anxious group of our ladies head out for some serious shopping. Ruth Sarnecki and my wife always enjoy the opportunity to shop at major discount stores while in the Fort Walton Beach and Destin areas. They usually return to our hotel with beaming faces over their purchases at lower prices. I must admit that, since I also usually benefit from their shopping trips, I voice few complaints.

Our barbecue buffet on Friday evening was good and there was plenty of it. However, a number of our members wanted something else on the menu for a change and requested that we consider changing from the usual beef/pork barbecue to maybe a seafood buffet or dinner. In any event, this year's buffet went off with few hitches. The beer and soft drinks were cold, the bar was humming with members ordering other drinks, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Incidentally, your Association officers, with welcomed support from LeAnn, are already inquiring into available seafood buffet/dinners and other alternative menus. So look for a change in our Friday evening buffet next year.

Following our buffet, the party got into high gear with small groups of people gathering in all areas of the hotel facilities. The Tiki Bar (outside) and the Swizzle Stick Lounge (inside), were kept busy. But, because it was a beautiful night, the largest groups were outside enjoying the gentle ocean breezes, the beautiful scenery and the wonderful fellowship.

Saturday morning saw small groups heading out to visit various points of interest that are located in or near our hotel. A few headed to Ft. Rucker, some to the Air Force museum, some to Pensacola Naval Air Museum. The Fifth Annual "Black Sam Kalagian" Golf Tournament was played, directed again by our own Carl Muthersbaugh. Thank you, Carl, for your continued work as Director. The tournament got underway, and from comments from several of the competitors, it was an outstanding success. A few diehard shoppers continued shopping. While a number of our members stayed at the hotel and talked the morning and afternoon away.

Late Saturday afternoon, we headed to Two Trees Golf Course Restaurant for a few drinks, a sumptuous meal and our business meeting. I heard a couple of our members say that they would like to have a bar similar to the one in the restaurant for their homes. They must either own super-large homes, or harbor a major fetish about having the largest bar in the neighborhood.

Our President, Marty Heuer, called the meeting to order and gave the invocation. We then went through the buffet line and enjoyed a great dinner. Following dinner, Marty again called the meeting to order. Bruce Elliott led the Pledge of Allegiance. Marty then introduced the special guests in attendance, including Dr. Steve Maxner, Texas Tech University and the Thomas Wheat Family, who filled a table for eight with family. The matriarch of the family was Sue Wheat, the widow of the late Tom Wheat. Major Wheat served as Company Commander during his tour with the 174th AHC. Following his tour in Vietnam, Major Wheat was killed in an aircraft accident. We were honored and pleased to have the Wheat family visit with us.

As an update to this report, and in keeping with our long-standing tradition, Mrs. Wheat has been named an Honorary Lifetime Member in our Association.

Members attending their first reunion introduced themselves. It's great to welcome former members of the 174th AHC into our Association and to our annual reunion. They represent new friends to meet and new stories to hear from combat veterans of our organization.

Vice President Hank Wifholm conducted the Memorial Ceremony with Mel Lutgring presenting the flag. Jim McDaniel, resplendent in his Scottish kilt, brought a tear or two from members when music from his bagpipes brought back memories of departed friends. Thank you Jim for caring, and for the musical tribute.

Old Business:

1. Secretary/Treasurer Bob Jones moved that the minutes of the 2006 reunion business meeting, consisting of the After Action Report previously mailed to members, be approved. The motion was seconded and the Minutes were unanimously approved as published.

2. The Financial Report for 2006-2007, containing financial data and summaries through 28 April, 2007, were read by Secretary/Treasurer Jones. Bernie Cobb moved that the report be approved as read, and was seconded by Al Sarnecki. The motion was passed unanimously.

3. President Heuer announced that the dates for Reunion 2008, as previously set by Association members, will be 1-4 May, 2008, and be held again at the Best Western Beachfront Hotel in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Mark this date in your calendar for next year.

4. Special Awards honoring Past President Wally Nunn and Past Vice President Mel Lutgring, both having served the 174th Association in those positions for six years, were presented by Marty Heuer. The members present gave Wally and Mel a standing ovation honoring their past and continuing service.

5. Bernie Cobb, past Secretary/Treasurer, made a special presentation to Peggy Mahone, whose long-time support and service to our association was recognized. Marty Heuer then presented Peggy with a plaque from the Association for her outstanding support. Those tributes must have pleased Peggy-- several members saw a few tears grace her eyes. Peggy, we love you for your outstanding support of our organization. That cheerful "can-do" attitude, backed up by that beautiful smile, made all who saw you smile with you. Thanks for all that you have done for us.

6. Dick Overhamm gave an updated report on the progress that Jeff Biles has made on the 174th UH-1 C-Model gunship he owns and is restoring. Jeff plans to bring it to a future reunion.

7. President Marty Heuer presented the "State of the Association Report" for the year 2006-2007.

New Business:

8. President Heuer announced that the Board had studied and rewritten the Association Bylaws to conform to current operating procedures. Each member was provided a current and proposed set of Bylaws for their review during registration. The Board offered the new Bylaws to the membership in the form of a motion and strongly recommended approval. Al Sarnecki seconded the Board's motion. After a brief discussion, the proposed Bylaws were approved with only one dissenting vote.

9. President Heuer introduced Dr. Steve Maxner, Deputy Director, Vietnam Center, Texas Tech University Museum. Dr. Maxner made a PowerPoint presentation of the history and current operating procedures of the museum and informed the group on how the 174th memorabilia would be handled and stored.

10. President Heuer requested a motion from the floor that Texas Tech University's Vietnam Center and Museum be designated the "Official" and "Recommended" repository for all 174th AHC Association memorabilia. A motion was made by Wally Nunn and seconded by Bernie Cobb that Texas Tech University's Vietnam Center and Museum be the official and recommended repository for all 174th AHC Association memorabilia. After a brief discussion, Bob Jones called for a vote and the motion passed unanimously.

11. Bernie Cobb made a motion to rescind the previous (2001) Museum Resolution and Proclamation. The motion was seconded by Wally Nunn and was passed unanimously.

12. There being no further new business, the official part of the meeting was closed and the auction madness began.

The Annual Auction of various donated items was conducted in an outstanding manner by velvet-voiced Tom Rodery, assisted outstandingly by two beautiful ladies, Peggy Mahone and LeAnn Collins. Sale of items donated to the association resulted in a total of $555.00 being added to our treasury. Items sold included two detailed models of our helicopters (built and donated by a non-174th member Charlie Johnson from Georgia), a really nice hand-knit Afghan featuring a large replica of the original 174th AHC patch, small jars of liquid refreshments (don't ask), mobiles with hand-painted cut-outs of our helicopters, purchased by Ellen Bragg, general manager of our Best Western Hotel, (you will probably will see these at our next reunion hanging up near the check-in desk to welcome you to the reunion), plus many other outstanding items. Bidding at times was fast and furious… often too rich for my blood and pocket book. Everyone had lots of fun and, while I'm not sure how some got their fragile models home, very satisfying to the winners.

President Heuer offered the Benediction and adjourned the meeting, reminding everyone that the hotel hospitality room was still open for continued fellowship. As I understand it, that fellowship went on to the wee hours of the next morning, greased by some of that white liquid as well as other "lubricants." So, a really outstanding time was had by all.

Sunday morning found us enjoying the hotel's continental breakfast along with some packing, leaving, and saying heartfelt "goodbyes" till next year.

So, another annual reunion is over. The Association reunion bills included:

$532.00 Sodas, beer, and snacks, paper goods and ice
$643.95 Pork, Beef and Chicken Barbecue
$ 30.00 174th AHC Cake
$3,528.45 Two Trees Restaurant for Saturday's meal $3,528.45
$772.72 Presentation Plaques
$2,015.16 174th AHC Golf Shirts $2,015.16
$7,522.28 Total Expenses

We are in good shape financially and a full report will be given at our next reunion.

Before closing out this report, and after having personally reflected at some length on the fellowship we enjoy at our reunions, I feel compelled to add these comments about the feelings I have when we are together. Having just completed conducting a major convention with many of my other dear friends from several years back, I noticed a major difference between that Ocala get-together and our 174th group. Everyone in our group has melded together in a bond that is difficult to explain. To play off a term obtained from a war movie, we are truly a BAND OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS. Such a term may be trite, but accurate. At least the term seems very appropriate to me. No matter if you served with the 174th in the early group or at the end of that era in Vietnam, we all meet as equals, without rank, and in true bonded friendship. Our easy, relaxed and sincere association with each other is very visible. My writing skills are inadequate to describe the feelings I have when I'm with our group, but it's strong, lasting, and will never go away. Thank you all for attending and making this event possible.

Please plan on attending Reunion 2008, 1-4 May, 2008, at the Best Western Beachfront Hotel in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, for fun in the sun, a chance for a tan (or sun burn for our Northern friends), outstanding fellowship, great chow, good shopping, but more than anything else, a chance to visit with old and new friends -- our special Band of Brothers and Sisters.

Till we meet again,

Bob Jones