Tim's December 2008 Checkpoints Class News Article

HELLO '68!! Many thanks to Gene Rose and our 40th Reunion Committee for producing a veritable five-star event! It was a profoundly wonderful gathering of USAFA's greatest class!!

"Proud Parents at White Coat Ceremony." L-R: Maurice, Antonia, and Melanie Ecung with Marlee and Al Price.

Maurice Ecung sent a photo taken during a proud-parent moment following his daughter Melanie's "White Coat" ceremony. Melanie is a member of USAFA's Class of 2001 and is now in her second year at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Maurice said he is comfortable in the knowledge that surrogate parents Al and Marlee Price will only be a few minutes away in case his lovely doctor-in-training needs a little TLC. Congrats to Mel and the Ecung family on this fantastic accomplishment!

Greg Varhall checked in with a few more frequent flyer miles than he would care to mention. With wife Linda (USAFA '84) still in the Air Force and subject to changes of domicile, Greg is now doing the non-Air Force spouse shuttle every couple of weeks between a humble Northern Virginia apartment, while he works for ANSER, to a home in San Antonio when Linda is not on the road as the Director of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations at the Air Force ISR Agency. Linda's responsibility includes working with 14,000 people from Germany through the CONUS to Western Australia. As luck would have it, both of them were able to clear their work calendars long enough to attend our 40th Reunion in Colorado Springs.

"English Channel Swim for Charity" L-R: Steven Reiss, Jeff Bodenmann, Rich Abramson - USAFA '68, Steve Bookbinder, and David Moore.

'68ER DOES ENGLISH CHANNEL: Former USAFA All American swimming sensation, Richard "Abe" Abramson, distinguished himself, along with four other business executives from New York, by swimming the English Channel from Dover to Calais in 2008 to heighten awareness and raise thousands of dollars to find a cure for Alpha-1, "a rare disorder marked by a deficiency in a liver enzyme that protects the lungs." As the oldest member of the group, Abe skillfully navigated the cold, choppy waters prone to 7-foot swells and filled with tankers and jellyfish. When it was all over he said, "To swim the English Channel at my age is a dream come true." Way to go, Abe! You do us all proud!!

While attending the Air Force Association's annual Air & Space Conference in Washington, D.C. in September, I ran into Charlie Holland, Jim Neu, Charlie Coolidge, Tony Robertson, Bill Begert, Bobby Floyd, and Wayne Shattuck. Charlie H. was there to support a project with BAE Systems and was preparing to head off to Europe to participate in an international war game exercise. Jim was there to support Wyle Laboratories. Charlie C. was working with EADS and supporting their strategic tanker program. Tony was there with Boeing and supporting that company's competing strategic tanker program. Bill supported operations for Pratt & Whitney. Bobby was working with L3 Communications and is still living in a town called "Greenville," but changed states from Texas to South Carolina to be in closer proximity to his brood. Bobby mentioned that he is trying to cut back to part-time work, but his schedule is not quite there, yet. I had not seen Wayne for quite a while, so I cornered him long enough to get an update on what he has been doing for the past few decades. Wayne and wife, Mary Louise, live in Huntington Beach, CA. While in the Air Force, Wayne flew A-37s in SE Asia, served in acquisition for the B-1 and the National Aerospace Plane, and was Program Director for the Peacekeeper Missile. Wayne hung up his Air Force blues in 1994 and has worked as a Program Area Director for Raytheon for the past 14 years. Among his many projects, he has worked on the B-2, F-18, and B.A.T. His son, Todd, is Director of Marine Mammal Studies for the Los Angeles Unified School District. His son, David, is Associate Research Professor at UCLA where he is currently working on "brain mapping." It was great to be able to spend a few minutes catching up with all of these classmates!

"East Coast Reunion" L-R: Front Row: Ken Stewart, Bob Pauli, Nick Nicholson, Charlie Seifert, Glenn Zauber, and Dennis McLain; Back Rows: Scribe, Ed Eberhart, John Gonda, Al Dunkerley, Karl Whittenberg, Al Dyer, and Dave Prevost.

EAST COAST REUNION: With an uncooperative work and social schedule for the spring and summer, our D.C.- based gang slipped the annual East Coast Reunion at Ed and Karen Eberhart's home to September. Despite the change in calendar, we thoroughly enjoyed that special brand of camaraderie that comes from these annual get-togethers. It provided a great opportunity for us nearly senior citizens to hone our social, name-and face-recognition, and listening skills before our 40th Reunion in Colorado in October. Many thanks to Ed and Karen for their signature grace and hospitality!

With the passage of 40 years, our class seems to be aging like a fine wine-mellow in body with a definite kick still effusing from the bouquet. In terms of history, where do we stand? Mike Cryer helped me find an answer after a little research. In Mike's own words, "1,016 entered in 1964 and 613 (60%) graduated in 1968. There were 13 General officers with 4 **** (most ever). 11 did not return from Vietnam. 4 others were POWs. 353 (57%) retired from active/reserve/ANG duty. Fortunately for me, only 10% (58+) went to the airlines. There were approximately an equal number (15-20) of doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs (presidents/CEOs). I counted Eberhart twice! There were 377 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 2,319 Air Medals awarded. I know Rhip Worrell has an Air Force Cross, but haven't been able to find others or Silver Stars. We had 2 Thunderbirds, 1 Marine, 1 ace, and 1 astronaut. It was my bad luck to have to sit next to Dick Covey a few times and never beat him on an exam!" So, in brief summary, that gives you a statistical overview of Class accomplishments. It doesn't, however, begin to address the character of the Class much beyond our military achievements. To drill down on that topic, you need to go to reunions and discover what your classmates have been doing while you have been piecing together your own life's quilt.

"Friends Gather at First Night's Soiré." L-R: Pat McBride, Rhip Worrell, Lynn & J Ferron, and Karin & Danny Hamilton.

SHORT TAKES ON THE REUNION: With initial registration on Wednesday (1 Oct) and some light hor's d'oeuvres scheduled for that evening, I took full advantage of the Class-sponsored hospitality suite for beverages and initial meetings with classmates arriving from near and far. Although the evening beverage and snack session was only supposed to last until 9:00PM, many of us were still going strong until close to midnight.

Thursday was marked by a hike in the mountains; a funeral service for Wally Curtiss at the USAFA Cemetery; lunch at Mitchell Hall with the cadets; a golf tournament where Mother Nature elected to play through with a full complement of rain, thunder, and lightening that caused the tournament to be suspended while everyone ducked for cover; and a more substantive buffet dinner back at the Embassy Suites that featured a heart-rendering DVD, video memory produced by Pat McBride with photos from past and present of classmates during their Academy years, in their military careers, and in more recent family times. Once, again, the conversation was non-stop as our ranks grew with more classmates and guests arriving throughout the day.

"Dedication of FAC Memorial." L-R: Steve McPhail, Bob Beanblossom, Bob Durham, and Mike Cryer.

On Friday, many of us went to the morning dedication of the FAC Memorial at an absolutely beautiful location within the City of Colorado Springs. The featured speaker was Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel George E. "Bud" Day, USAF (Ret), who survived years of torture as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam after his F-100 was shot down over North Vietnam. His inspirational words of gratitude to those who performed this heroic mission were most meaningful. Generals Ed Eberhart and Bill Begert served as wreath bearers from the Class. That afternoon, we went Fairchild Hall to hear the Superintendent, Lt Gen John Regni; the Dean, Brig Gen Dana Born; and the Commandant, Brig Gen Sue Desjardins speak to the reunion classes of 1963 and 1968 about what is going on at the Academy today. This was followed by a trip to the USAFA Cemetery to attend a memorial service for our Class organized by Steve McPhail and Carl Janssen. Ed Eberhart made remarks that addressed the next of kin and our Class and a roll call was taken for 59 members who are no longer with us. Living classmates responded "Absent Sir" when each of the 59 deceased members' names was called. On Friday evening, we went back to the Embassy Suites for a scrumptious banquet dinner and entertainment provided by our very own Greg Shuey on the piano and by the Cadet Chorale. Former Chorale members from the Class joined the cadets in singing "God Bless America." It was a truly wonderful evening!

On Saturday, we went from breakfast at the hotel to the barbeque at the Falcon Stadium tailgate. The game was memorable in that the Falcons gave up two blocked punts for touchdowns and fumbled at their own 10-yard line twice, once at the north side of the field and the other at the south. Despite spotting the Squids about 20 points, the team managed an honorable effort to finish the game only 6-points behind. Better luck next year and BEAT ARMY!

"Exuberance! Frank Palermo's Smile Tells it All!"

The best I could make of it, about a million photos were taken during the reunion. It is my fond hope that some of you will send them to Pat Russell and me with a brief description of who is in the photo and any Class news you might have garnered from all of your conversations. The photo shown above of Frank Palermo does a great job putting our 40th into context. And as we fade into memory, echoes from the Rocky Mountains resound "'68 We're Still Great!"

THAT'S A WRAP: Mind the flak; keep 'em flying, and keep those cards, letters, e-mails, and photos coming in to Pat Russell and me. Please go to the Class Website to see photos included in this column in color and in full size. Ciao for now. Tim

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