After Action Report – Santa Fe 2017

Attention all Hotel Marines, Corpsmen, and Guests:

The Santa Fe reunion was a great success thanks to all who attended and the wonderful hospitality afforded us by Hotel Santa Fe and the Vietnam Memorial in Angel Fire, NM. Of course, no reunion is the work of one person. Therefore I must single out some individuals whose hard work and dedication made the reunion such a memorable time for all who attended. My wife Bonnie of course was the reunion co-host and as such was a constant source of encouragement and support and a sounding board for all my ideas on how to make the reunion the success it was. She also contributed many ideas which led to its success. Doc and Sue Noah upon their arrival in Santa Fe were so incredibly supportive of us as were Mary and John Laudoff.

Our son Patrick, who is a special needs human being, also needs to be recognized as, despite the attention he needs from us, always inspired us to host the reunion and his special needs never interfered with our planning and implementation of the reunion.

Rita and Larry Tyler were in many ways our co-pilots for the reunion. Their management, computer, and organization skills were instrumental in the success of the reunion. Larry contributed many ideas which made the reunion flow seamlessly together and his ideas for the formal presentations-see below- on Thursday evening really made Thursday special… and Rita did a superb job making the Hotel Company guidon which was proudly carried by John Lafley during the wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam memorial, with Luther Hamilton and Manuel Ybarra carrying the wreath behind the guidon and Robert Hardrick escorting them. Thanks also to Robert for encouraging so many folks to attend the reunion.

Carlie and Carolin Peterson graciously manned the registration table Thursday and Jay Peterson kept reminding everyone of the reunion and necessary reunion deadlines through the Company newsletters he and Carlie create and send to everyone. Joe Sonderman did his usual fine job with the Saturday auction. And thank you to Judy and Tom Keene for helping me with the cases of water for the Angel Fire buses and setting up the hospitality room.

Brenda Smith was also invaluable in setting up the hospitality room. Thank you to the Drez’s and the Mckay’s whose enthusiasm during the reunion was contagious as was Marilyn Sonderman’s. Ditto for Steve and Phillip Russell and Randy Pate. Same for the Steger’s and the Casey’s. I so much enjoyed seeing “Dutch” and his wife, Connie as well as Dale and Hilda, Frank Armenta, the Cordiscos, the Lightfoots, the Heinonens, the Bez’s, Melvin Green, Hank Kleinot, and Dennis Kuftic, Gary Woodruff and Sandy Benjamin, Keith Wright, the Spinuzzi’s and Walter Brock and Steve Slaughter, and Lawrence McDonnell. It was a joy to see Manuel and Laura Ybarra, John and Jackie Lafley and Luther Hamilton, and Chris Malm. No doubt there are numerous others who, while we were in Santa Fe, made contributions to the success of the reunion. To all of you, thank you.

Some of the early reunion arrivals on Wednesday took the hotel shuttle to a nearby restaurant and had a nice dinner. Afterward, everyone settled into the comfortable chairs in the hotel lounge by the crackling fireplaces for some great conversation. Thursday the excitement was palpable as the Hotel Company reunion ranks began to swell and by 1800 the Mexican buffet served by the hotel commenced. The food was delicious and there was plenty of it. After the buffet, the presentation of company coins by Jay Peterson was made to several first-time reunion attendees.  The Santa Fe reunion and previous reunion banners were then presented as was the H 2/5 guidon. Larry then presented a 10-year reunion anniversary video in which he did a great job capturing the spirit of comradeship and fun of previous reunions. The presentations ended with Larry presenting the H 2/5 academy awards to members of the company whose valuable contributions have made our reunions a great success.  After the formal part of the evening Thursday, comradeship was alive and well in the hospitality room until well past midnight.

Friday morning we saddled up and boarded the busses for the journey through the Rio Grande Gorge in route to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire. Once there, we had a wonderful lunch before the busses took us up the mountain to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. While there was some concern, prior to our arrival at the memorial, we might have to reenact the “Frozen Chosin”; Mother Nature greeted us with a bright sunny day. Therefore, the Marines lined up on both sides of the sidewalk leading to the amphitheater and chapel. The Marines bearing our guidon and a wreath to our fallen brothers then marched up the sidewalk while the Company saluted at full attention. After the wrath and guidon were placed in the amphitheater, the manager of the memorial welcomed us and assigned guides who gave us tours of the grounds.

We then toured the exhibits in the visitor’s center, one of which was the photo of members of Hotel Company holding the NVA flag they captured after the Company captured the provincial headquarters during the battle of Hue City, with the stars and stripes (courtesy of Hotel “Gunny” Frank Thomas) flying on the pole behind them. Before boarding the bus for the return trip to Santa Fe, the men gathered in front of the Huey for a group photo, preceded by a toast to H 2/5 – thanks to Jay Peterson.

Once back in Santa Fe people dined on their own and afterward, the ladies commenced for a “social” at the hotel while the men convened in the hospitality room for more great comradeship.

Saturday morning we were treated to a tour of Santa Fe’s historic sites. After lunch in the plaza area, we enjoyed the shops and galleries in the plaza area before the Saturday banquet.  The banquet was a rousing success: 1. great food 2. great speaker 3. great raffle 4. Great dance. Regarding the speaker, Colonel (Retired) Joe long had us on the edge of our seats laughing about our first hours upon arriving at boot camp. I must add, after the Colonel finished speaking, I was so incredibly honored by the presentation of the ‘’Grateful Nation” blanket to me by Marti and Robert Poolaw. I shall always cherish that moment as well as the actual blanket itself. Also receiving such blankets were Barry Broman and Jay Peterson, a very deserving tribute.

Sunday, At the Company meeting, it was decided the 2018 reunion would be held in Charleston, South Carolina. Joe Sonderman graciously agreed to arrange it.  After the meeting, sadly, we had to make our farewells.  However, there is no doubt when we convene in Charleston a wonderful time will be had by all.

Semper Fi,
David and Bonnie Harbin