2011 ORLANDO JSA VETERANS REUNION
The boys gathered in sunny Florida for the fourth JSA/Panmunjom Veterans Reunion held May 13 & 14, 2011 at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida.
The reunion registration table was manned by Marsha Mazour who greeted attendees with a reunion information packet and reunion shirts, a khaki colored polo shirt with black colored lettering embroidered over the left breast. Doug Salyer and Bill Boston provided complimentary JSA stickers that went into each information packet. Merchandise for sale included copies of Dante Rossi's DVD of 1969-71 JSA/Panmunjom photos and DVD of the 2007 Las Vegas JSA reunion, and autographed copies of guest speaker Wayne Kirkbride's book, PANMUNJOM.
The reunion opened with a color guard ceremony provided by the Boone High School Junior Navy ROTC. These young kids were outstanding, and a special thank you goes to their instructor - US Marine Corp Sergeant Wilson.
The reunion's entertainment opened with the showing of JSA vet Dante Rossi's wonderful 1969-71 JSA/Panmunjom photo show. It was a hit at the 2007 Las Vegas reunion, and it was again a hit at the 2011 Orlando reunion. Later in the reunion, we viewed Rossi's DVD photo show of the 2007 Las Vegas reunion.
A number of JSA/Panmunjom/Korea DMZ memorabilia was on display, including uniforms, brassards, belts, boots, a MP helmet liner, old unit year books, photograph albums, STARS & STRIPES newspaper articles and Military Armistice Commission meeting transcripts. Thank you to all vets who shared their items for display at this reunion.
Veterans' Service Officers Ross Cox and David McAlister were available to answer questions regarding Veterans Administrations benefits and services available, including the recent inclusion of the 1968 to 1971 JSA unit for possible exposure to the chemical defoliant known as Agent Orange.
Richard Buck, the oldest JSA vet in attendance, narrated a wonderful DVD photo display of his 1953-54 service in the JSA unit that included the Panmunjom prisoner of war exchanges.
John Novey shared a DVD containing some never before seen home movies entitled, "JSA & Yong Ju Gol" This video of 1968 life in a Korean DMZ village proved to be most interesting - not only for vets but also for their spouses who now had questions about the entertainment that was present in the ville.
Fred Caton shared a DVD containing old movies of the JSA unit's escort section gun jeeps , a US Army Jeep equipped with a floor mounted M-60 automatic weapon, that were used by the unit during the late 1960's and early 1970's time period to escort vehicles traveling between the JSA Advance Camp/Camp Kitty Hawk and Panmunjom.
Other presentations included vet Stan Suit's DVD of a US Army film of a May 1970 Military Armistice Commission meeting, the History Channel�s program, "Running the DMZ" first international JSA veterans reunion at Camp Bonifas and Panmunjom had everyone attention, and there was much interest among the attendees in a future return tour to Korea and another international reunion.
A panel discussion was held to answer questions from the reunion attendee about the present status of the JSA unit, Panmunjom and the Korea DMZ. Questions were answered by six veterans who were part of Raymond Jones' 2009 return tour to Korea, and were joined by James Henning who recently served as a member of the unit during 2003-04.
Joining us for this reunion was Wilson Osee, better known to JSA soldiers as the Mr. O who ran a snack bar located just outside of the JSA camp from 1968 to 1977. The stories of partying at O's Snack Bar are legendary. The O family immigrated to the USA in the late 1970s where Mr. O changed his Korean name to Wilson Osee. He had such a good time at the reunion meeting all his old GI soldier customers that he promised to encourage his ex-wife, Mrs. O, and brother Jason O to join us at the next reunion. A special thank you goes to vet Dick Buckley for providing some old photographs of Mr. and Mrs. O and the snack bar, which were presented to Wilson.
Korea JSA Oldboys organization Chairman Jin Wang presented a DVD program with the JSA battalion's command briefing, which outlined the long rich history of the unit and its present role on the Korea DMZ. He also presented a Korea television program recognizing the contributions of the American military to the Republic of Korea, and thanking all American soldiers, sailors, airman and marines for their sacrifice. Chairman Wang answered a number of questions from attendees, including his perspective on the future of a unified Korea.
Raffle gifts were in abundance thanks to the generosity of a number of JSA veterans and guests. It turned out that there were gifts for all but one attendee. The one remaining name slip in the container at the end of the reunion went to Pat Morrissey. However, the reunion organizer was not too embarrassed because Morrissey had won the 2007 Las Vegas reunion raffle gift of a coveted axe handle award.
The JSA reunion hospitality room, located on the hotel's 10th floor with floor to ceiling windows and a spectacular view overlooking the Florida Mall, was the place to be for three nights as vets and their spouses/companions gathered for refreshments, renewing old friendships and making new ones. It was just great to see so many people enjoying themselves. The sounds of now old soldiers' laughter and wonderful "Korea war stories" echoed into the late night hours. JSA veterans still know how to party!
The JSA reunion banquet dinner began with a cocktail social hour. Garry Bledsoe offered the benediction, which included the reading of a poem dedicated to the memory of the four JSA soldiers who were killed in the Easter Sunday 1968 ambush of their truck near Panmunjom. Richard Schnabel offered a group toast to the memory of our friend vet Ken Lane (58-59) who had died the past year. The dinner included complimentary soju liquor brought from Korea by Chung Keun Lee. For some guys it was the first time in over 35 years that they again tasted this popular Korean liquor. The ladies also appeared to enjoy a sample of soju.
Our banquet dinner speaker was retired US Army lieutenant colonel and author Wayne Kirkbride. He is a 1972 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point. In 1976, then Captain Kirkbride was an adjutant with the Second Infantry Division, and was a participant in Operation Paul Bunyan. It was this experience that would lead him to write four books on the axe murders incident, Operation Paul Bunyan, Panmunjom and the undeclared war on the Korea DMZ. Kirkbride gave an excellent presentation on the axe murders incident and Operation Paul Bunyan. We thanked him with a large framed digital water color like picture of the poplar tree being cut down during Operation Paul Bunyan. The back of the picture was signed by every JSA vet attending this reunion.
50th Anniversary of the Korean War awards consisting of an actual piece of the old barb wire fence from the demilitarized zone were presented to the following JSA vets for their contribution to the Orlando reunion: Garry Bledsoe, Bill Boston, Richard Buck, Dennis Dee, Doug Salyer and Jin Wang.
Jim and Marsha Mazour were presented with a generous gift certificate card from the attendees as thank you for organizing the two-day reunion. Jim was also presented with a copy of Wayne Kirkbride' latest book, WHEN GOD SAYS YES - THE PRAYER OF KING ASA.
The banquet dinner concluded with veterans and their spouses/companions assembling for group photographs. And, all too soon, the two-day reunion was over. There were many exchanges of contact information, long handshakes, and tearful goodbyes with promises to get together again at the next reunion. Some returned to the hospitality room to squeeze in a few more hours of socializing before returning home. Others prepared to join cruise organizers John and Barb Novey on the optional "Kimchi Kruise" to the Bahamas Islands that began the following day. It was a wonderful reunion.
A special thank you goes to the Florida Hotel and Conference Center, and especially Convention Services Manager Barry Adubato, for providing a hotel property that went the extra step to make sure that we veterans had a great reunion. Barry is an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War era, and he enjoyed meeting our JSA veterans and learning about Panmunjom and the Korea DMZ.
Jim Mazour, JSA 1973-74 West Des Moines, Iowa