Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Military reunions welcomed in N.Ky.

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — Northern Kentucky is doing a booming business in hosting military unit reunions.

        Barb Dozier, vice president of sales and marketing at the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau, sees a trend. She said 35 to 50 reunions have been held here annually since the bureau began a program called Join Forces with Northern Kentucky in 1993 to concentrate on the military market.

        “Several thousand meetings are held every year nationwide,” Ms. Dozier said. “Fifty percent are held in September, with the rest mainly held in the summer.”

        To Sheree Allgood, who directs the bureau's com munications department, the reunions are a godsend.

        “I think the economy in general has affected everyone,” Ms. Allgood said.

  • 187th Airborne Regimental Combat, Aug. 19-26 at the Drawbridge Inn, Fort Mitchell. The unit, which consisted of glider pilots and parachutists, was deployed to the South Pacific with the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines. It also served in the Vietnam and Desert Storm conflicts.
  • Sixth Naval Beach Batallion, Sept. 9-13 at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel in Covington. During the D-Day invasion in 1944, the little-known unit provided ship-to-shore communication, evacuated the wounded and built wire mesh roads so heavy equipment could traverse the sand.
  • G-3-1 Korean War Association, Sept. 12-16 at the Drawbridge. The Marine division served during the Korean War, where 136 men were killed and several hundred were wounded.
        Ms. Dozier said nobody has called to cancel a reunion in the wake of the April riots or even to inquire about safety in Greater Cincinnati.

        The bureau's emphasis on military reunions began by accident eight years ago. Ms. Dozier said her agency was aiming for more motor coach business when Chuck Curran, then a member of the board of directors, mentioned World War II.

        Two part-time workers spend their time courting military organizations. They research a unit's or vessel's history, educate hotels on how to put on a reunion and take organizers on tours of local facilities.

        What attracts the reunions is location and activities, including such sites as the Newport Aquarium, BB Riverboats and the aviation museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, Ms. Allgood said.

        Ms. Dozier said the bureau provides name badges, helps with registration, donates money and provides a flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol and a welcome letter from the White House.

        “(The money) is a small donation, but (the reunion organization) can use it to pay down the cost of

        finding people,” Ms. Dozier said. “This is from their hearts and out of their own wallets.”

        It was such perseverance that persuaded Ed Mariott to bring the 6th Naval Beach Battalion reunion here last year and again in September to the Radisson Riverfront Hotel in Covington.

        “It seemed like the personnel were more alert and courteous,” said Mr. Mariott, 77, of Loganville, Ga. “They knew the answers to the questions we asked.” Barbara Conrady, director of sales at the Radisson Inn-Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, said tours seem to be the most popular activity.

        “They like to do things together,” she said. “These were the people together in the trenches.”

        Ms. Dozier said Vietnam and Desert Storm events are tougher to organize, partly because soldiers were more frequently transferred to different units.

        She said she enjoys working with the veterans.

        “Every time you deal with them, it's a history lesson,” Ms. Dozier said.


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