Mail Call

Mail Call is one of our communication tools for significant events in our Association & individual members’ lives, including notifications of illnesses & Last Flights.
You can open the Directories at the bottom of this page to access prior year Mail Call entries.
Here are the 2017-2018 Mail Calls.

    March 10, 2018: Carla Main notified us her father, 18th SOS Stinger Pilot Don R Main, passed away March 7, 2018 after battling cancer. He was surrounded by his family.  Please keep Patty, Don’s wife of 54 years, & family in your prayers. A Graveside Service with Military Honors is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Monday, March 12, 2018 at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison. In lieu of flowers please make donations in his honor to St Joseph’s Indian School, PO Box 326, Chamberlain, SD 57326.  Rest in Peace Papa! Please visit to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Don.

   March 9, 2018: We learned that Arthur (Art) R. Perry, 18th SOS Stinger FE & early Association Treasurer, died peacefully in his sleep on March 3, 2018 in Simpsonville, SC after battling cancer. Our condolences & prayers go to Art’s family.

   March 8, 2018: we were notified by Bill Brow that his father Albert W. Brow, 18th SOS Stinger Pilot & Commander, passed away peacefully in his home on 26 February, 2018, living independently until the end. Bill would appreciate any comments from those who served with him on our Facebook page at His commemoration of life & wake was this weekend.

     March 5, 2018: Laura Lodge notified Bob Dydo that AC-119K 18th SOS Stinger Ops Officer Bill Lodge passed away March 3rd.  Her note:  Dear Bob & Janet,  It’s with a heavy heart that I am writing to tell you that Bill passed away yesterday morning. He went on hospice care 2 weeks ago, and I really thought, selfishly hoping, we had several more weeks, if not months, to have Bill with us, but not to be. His son was here mid-February, and his daughter last week, leaving Thursday morning. Bill fought a brave fight with Parkinson’s, he was so strong and tough, but it got to be too much this winter. Your visit meant so much to us both, Bill wasn’t in good shape when you were here, but he talked about your visit to others well after you were here. Being able to attend some of the reunions with Bill, and seeing him with you guys are some of the best memories I have with Bill. I would appreciate if you would share this with Bill’s friends in the squadron and AC119K reunion group. I hope you and Janet are well, again thanks so much for taking the time to visit when you were in Colorado. Laura   Bill was one of our best; a true gentleman, highly respected officer, and a great pilot & person. Please keep Laura & family in your prayers. We will post more as we receive it.

    February 28, 2018: Sue Kallaus notified Ev Sprous her husband, Eugene (Gene) Kallaus, died 28 July 2016. Gene was an 18th SOS Stinger Gunner from 1971 to 1973. Sue also sent Ev a letter I am posting here Sue Kallaus Letter because I believe it helps us understand the brotherhood of AC-119 Gunshippers & our SEA service. Please keep Sue & family in your prayers.

    February 22, 2018: Ellen & Jerry Hester just informed us a Memorial services for Paul (“Uncle Sam”) Campbell will be held at Desert Memorial, 1111 Las Vegas Blvd North, Las Vegas, Nevada on Tuesday, 27 February 2018 from 2:00-4:00. The memorial will include traditional & Buddhist services, as well as military honors. Jerry & Ellen plan to attend, & encourage any AC-119 Gunship Brothers who live in or near Las Vegas (or anyone visiting the area) to join them.

    February 22, 2018: Lyle Sproul sent us the Obituary notice for Fred W. Sternenberg Jr, who died peacefully Monday, February 5, 2018. Fred was an 18th SOS Stinger Pilot & was awarded the Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with ten Oak Leaf Clusters, & Meritorious Service Medal. Please keep Fred’s wife Jan & family in your prayers.

    February 20, 2018: One of my (Wayne Laessig) roles is as the Family POC, which includes our KIA Families as well as the loved ones of those we lose as the years go by.  It is my honor to be their POC.  Too often, it includes notifying you when we lose one of our Brothers.  It always saddens me, until I realize how fortunate I was to know them & celebrate their lives. They touched many.  Jerry & Ellen Hester just notified me of the sad  passing of Paul Campbell, known by many from our first dozen or so Reunions for his fantastic Reunion outfit, patriotic Singing Bears, & representation as “Uncle Sam”.  We celebrate the joy he gave us in that. Paul was an AC-119K Stinger Gunner as well as an AC-130 Gunner. Please pray for his wife Pinn & the rest of Paul’s family. He will be missed. But, please also celebrate his life. 

    February 8, 2018: 71st POC Jim Alvis tells us that sometimes it is years before we learn of the passing of one of our 71st members. It is with sadness we recently learned of the passing of yet another. Leonard Swallom Jr informed Jim that his father Leonard had passed in December 2006. Leonard Sr was an IO on Col Long’s crew #7 at Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam. Sincere condolences are extended to the Swallom family & friends. Leonard Jr sent an email to Jim informing him of his father’s passing. Jim had been mailing the newsletter to the son thinking it was Leonard Sr.  Leonard Jr furnished his email address & wants to remain in the loop, & we will do that for him. 

    February 3, 2018: From the President’s Desk, In the January, 2018 Firing Circle Newsletter, I reported that the 1st Special Operation Group at Hurlburt Field, FL is “standing-up” a new AC-130J squadron, the 73rd SOS — and they are Shadows. I have been communicating via email with the DO, Captain Chris Zenk. They are still working of finalizing the squadron’s official patch, and also something (else) for aircraft nose art. On Thursday morning (2/1), I received a telephone call from Capt. Zenk with some exciting news. They are having a ceremony to officially stand-up the 73rd SOS, and anyone associated with AC-119s IS INVITED to attend. Location: Hurlburt Field, Mary Ester, FL I have no details yet, like the exact time, duration of the ceremony, or the process to access the air base. When I learn the details, I’ll communicate them to those who sign-up to attend. I’ll be the Point-of-Contact for this special event. If you are able to attend, please let me know as soon as possible. I will make the sign-up list. The best way is via email to As an alternate, you may call me cell phone: 201-310-2943 at a reasonable Eastern Standard Time. GUNS HOT!! Mike Drzyzga  Click here to see the full Flash; FebFlash18

   January 30, 2018: From Rob Swain’s daughter Karen: my father isn’t going to be buried in the VA cemetery since he felt that would be too far for my mom. The celebration on Feb 3rd 10am celebration at the church is the funeral service. Right after the funeral we will go straight to Cherokee Memorial Park, 14165 N Beckman Rd, Lodi, CA 95240 where he will be buried with military honors. Anyone is welcome to join. Please share and thank you so much.   

  January 30, 2018: Butch Poehler, 18th SOS Nav, informed us that 18th SOS Nav Robert Finley passed away January 10, 2018.  We will post additional info we receive.

   January 30, 2018: Karen Hulsey informed us her father, 18th SOS Gunner Rob Swain, passed away January 24, 2018.  The Swain family invites any who care to join them at his celebration Saturday, February 3rd at 10am at the Church of Latter Day Saints, 1616 Pyrenees Ave, Stockton, CA 95210. We will post additional info as we receive it.

    January 22, 2018: Al Heuss called Jim Alvis this afternoon to ask if he knew anything about Ben McPherson’s passing. Jim began a search & found the unexpected sad news of the passing of yet another 71st SOS member. Major Ben R. McPherson passed on March 29, 2017. Ben was a Pilot on crew #5 at Nha Trang AB, South Vietnam. Sincere condolences are extended to the McPherson family and friends.

   January 10, 2018: Randall Chisum notified us his father, Silver C. Chisum, passed away January 5, 2018, at the age of 90. Lt. Col. Chisum served in the US military for over 30 years, including the Navy, Marines, and Air Force. He was 18th SOS Squadron Commander at DaNang 1970-71, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross when he successfully piloted his AC-119K back to the base after heavy damage from anti-aircraft fire and loss of engine power. Upon later recalling the incident, Silver gave testimony that the astounding escape from a fiery crash was solely to be credited to a miracle of God, and not to his own skill. Silver retired from the US Air Force in 1978. Visitation will be held Friday, January 12, 2018, from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm, at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar Blvd. Services are scheduled for Saturday, January 13, 2018, 11:00 am, at High Pointe Baptist Church, 12030 Dessau Rd. Burial with military honors will follow at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery. Additional info at

   January 8, 2018: Bruce Ross notified us that Ken Nauman, 18th SOS Stinger Pilot, passed away a year ago on Jan 16, 2016. A Celebration of Life was held at the Veteran’s Hall in Nevada City, CA.  Additional info at

   December 20, 2017: POC Ev Sprous passes along a message from 18th SOS Stinger Instructor Pilot Don Main’s family. Please keep Don & family in your prayers. “Not a good year for Don. At the end of Sept, he was diagnosed with cancer lesions on the brain. He went to his AC-119 Gunship reunion in Dayton, Oh (probably his last). It went well. On his return Oct 1, he was scheduled for a 2nd cat scan and found the cancer was coming from lung cancer. He started treatment and after the 1st chemo treatment, there were complications and he was back in the hospital for 10 days. He was then sent to rehab in Kalispell to build back his strength. It was then decided to move to Helena to be closer to Robyn and family. Patty and Robyn took care of the whole move to a nice single floor apartment in Helena. The 2 story home and in the woods in Lakeside was too much to handle. Robyn takes care of everything for us including appointments. We moved Don to Helena and he spent another week at a rehab facility in Helena. Last Wednesday, he was released home and will start treatment at the end of this week. Please keep him in your prayers. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and God Bless you all!

   December 20, 2017: Ev Sprous posts that 18th SOS Stinger Pilot Don Johnson, of Festus, Missouri, passed away Friday, August 4, 2017 at his home. His interment with full military honors was in National Cemetery in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

   December 12, 2017: Jim Alvis posts: It is with sadness we recently learned of the passing of yet another 71st SOS member. The date or location of SSgt Ronald D. Penrose passing is unknown. Ron was Flight Engineer on Lt Col Mickelson’s crew #11 at Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam. Sincere condolences are extended to the Penrose family and friends. NOTE: The November Firing Circle was returned with the notation ‘Deceased’ but we have not been able to find Ron’s obituary on line. If anyone has more information please email it to Wayne Laessig at

   December 6, 2017: We received an e-mail from Mark Flebotte via the our website’s Contact Form; Subject: Danang operation. I was attached to the A/C 119K gunship squadron in Danang during the first 3 months of 1972.  I was TDY from NKP Thailand.  I was a fire control technician on the AC119K gunship.  My records were lost when they were mistakenly sent to Tan Son Nhut Vietnam instead.  I cannot prove I was there even though I have both Vietnam service metals.  I am looking for anyone who might remember I was there so I can prove it to the VA.  Any help would be appreciated.  MAIL CALL NOTE: if you can help Mark, please send Wayne Laessig an email at & Wayne will put the two of you in direct contact.

   December 1, 2017: Connie Grimes notified us that her husband, Ernie R. Grimes died Wednesday, November 29, 2017, due to complications from a heart procedure in Cleveland Clinic. Ernie enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in November 1966. He volunteered for Vietnam and served in Southeast Asia in Life Support from February 1969 to February 1970, with the 71st and 17th Special Operation Squadrons & AC-119G Shadow Gunships C-Flight, at Tan Son Nhut and Nha Trang.  Ernie was AC-119 Gunship Association Life Member 259.  Friends will be received 2 to 4 pm and 6 to 8 pm Sunday, Dec 3rd in Behm Funeral Homes Inc., 182 W. High St., Waynesburg where services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Monday, December 4, 2017 with Rev. Nick Bardo officiating followed by interment in Bethlehem Cemetery at Ruff Creek. Graveside military honors will be accorded by American Legion Post 330 and Veterans of Foreign Wars 4793 and the U. S. Air Force. Condolences may be offered at Connie asks that we all pray for her & her family.

    November 9, 2017: Stinger Gunner Tom Honzik needs our help. He was wounded by shrapnel during a Rocket Attack at Bien Hoa on 31 September 1972 & the VA & AF denied his Purple Heart. Tom is working with Col Mac to get this one resolved & they need some help. If anyone can remember that attack or know anything about his injury please send Wayne Laessig an email at & Wayne will put the two of you in direct contact.

    September 26, 2017: John Schumann forwarded a message from Jan Iversen to Dick’s close friends asking them to pass this along:   Dear friends, Dick’s celebration of life will be Sunday, Oct. 22nd from 1-3 pm at the Heritage Flight Museum, Bayview Airport, Burlington, WA. We are blocking rooms at the Swinomish Casino Hotel for those needing reservations and will forward contact information at the museum for those bringing their own planes. The Blackjack Squadron is doing a missing man formation; the Lear will be on static display representing Veterans Airlift Command; & the AF color guard will provide honors, with refreshments, lots of mingling and laughs. This is just what he asked for and we’ll have a wonderful sendoff. My love to each of you, Jan   MAIL CALL NOTE: If you plan to attend, please coordinate with John. If needed, you can contact him via Wayne Laessig at

     September 21, 2017:  Sadly, Stinger Pilot & Life Member Dick Iversen passed away Tuesday, September 20. His crew, still as tightly knit as they were in SEA under Dick’s leadership, know he will be missed but remembered forever. Jan Iversen is working on a celebration of his life but nothing definite yet. We will provide details as we get them. Please include Jan & all the family in your prayers. R.I.P. Brother.

    September 20, 2017: Update for Family and Friends planning to attend LtCol Bernie Smith’s funeral on Friday, October 6th. The preferred hotel designated by the Family is:  Courtyard Fort Worth Historic Stockyards  2537 N. Main Street  Fort Worth, TX 76164  Phone: 817-624-1112.  Report by Larry Fletcher 9/20/17  FB Post: Ev Sprous  Web Post: Wayne Laessig

     September 16, 2017: update from John Schumann on Dick Iversen. I received a message last night from Iver’s cousin Larry. Larry is a retired orthopedic surgeon and very close to Dick and the family. He indicated that Dick is stable, but intubated and on paralytics. He mentioned that they would not be able to assess brain function until today at the earliest. I know Larry, he is a really good guy and I am glad that he is at Iver’s side. He mentioned that he had his “6.” Keep the prayers coming.  MAIL CALL NOTE: if anyone needs more info please contact Wayne Laessig at 

     September 15, 2017:  John Schumann heard this morning from Dick Iversen’s wife Jan that he had a terrible boating accident.  The boat tipped, he almost drowned, was rescued by the ferry crew, and had two heart attacks as they were trying to save him. He is in an induced coma at Harborview Trauma Center in Seattle Washington.  John spoke with his daughter Margi this morning and they hope to have more information later this evening. Please put Iver and his family in your thoughts and prayers.  I know there are many others that knew and loved him, please forward this message and let them know. As John hears any further information he will share it with the group. 

     September 10, 2017: Bernie Smith Final Flight Update. Burial and Service Arrangements for 17th SOS Shadow Brother Bernie Smith will be Friday, October 6, 2017 with 10:00 am with Burial Ceremony at the Dallas-Fort Worth Veterans National Cemetery (2000 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas) followed by 11:30 am Celebration of Life service at Christ Chapel Bible Church (Intersection of I-30 and Montgomery, Fort Worth), with light lunch provided at church after the service. Note: Arrangements are pending for motel group rate and free transportation to and from DFW Airport. Report by Larry Fletcher

     September 1, 2017: From your IT & Web Team.   Having trouble viewing our web pages or using the online Reunion Registration?  We did some troubleshooting & found some problems that affect many web sites internet-wide:

  1. Simply put, if you use Firefox or AOL, you may have problems accessing our web pages, web page folders, or registering online. If you use any older, outdated browser versions, they may not automatically update on your computer, may be incompatible with the updated versions of our website and PayPal, and you may have problems accessing our web pages, web page folders, or registering online.
  2. If you want a longer explanation:
    1. SOME browsers don’t automatically update to keep current with all the ongoing software changes that some other programs implement. As a result, those browsers may not be compatible with other programs or websites you try to access through those browsers. For example, we seem to have problems if you use Firefox or AOL to access our website.
    2. Also, if you use an older/outdated version of ANY browser, they often stop trying to keep those older versions current with the ongoing software changes that other programs implement (they want you to use the most current version of their browser). As a result, older outdated versions of many browsers are not compatible with other programs you try to access through those older browser versions. For example, we seem to have regular problems with older versions of Internet Explorer.
  3. So what can you do?
    1. Update your browser to a current version. It may work.
    2. Download an up-to-date version of Google Chrome or Internet Explorer to use as your browser (those browsers seem to work). Microsoft Edge for Windows 10 users seems OK too. Those browsers are free & we haven’t experienced problems, as long as you keep them current (i.e. allow automatic or prompted software updates they send).
  4. Yes, you can keep on using your old browser for whatever else you want, but if you have problems accessing our web or anything related to that, try 3a & b above.
  5. If you still have trouble accessing anything on our web, contact Wayne Laessig 707-592-4492. If you still have trouble completing your online registration transaction, contact Ron Julian 937-546-3219

     August 31, 2017: Greetings from your Final Flight POC. I had an accident & was out of the loop for a couple months. I’m fine now &  thought it best to do a summary Mail Call to try to catch up.  Thanks! Wayne Laessig

     Larry Fletcher informed us that Fighting C Flight Shadow Nav Bernie Smith passed away peacefully August 23rd, 2017 at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. His family was there. He was 82. Larry spoke with Judy Smith about funeral arrangements. Bernie will be cremated & his ashes interned in the Dallas VA National Cemetery (no date yet for the internment). A Celebration of Life will be scheduled by the family at a future date.

     Jim Alvis informed us he received notification of another 71st member & reservist’s passing: SSgt Phil Bender passed on July 17, 2017. Phil was the IO on John Lewis’ crew at Nha Trang.

     Jim Alvis informed us we lost William Lawrence (Bill) Withuhn, “Old Sky Warrior” Shadow Nav of the 71st & 17th SOS, who passed away June 29, 2017. He was assigned to John Lewis’ crew at Nha Trang before transferring to the 17th. A memorial service for Bill took place July 2, 2017 & his ashes will be placed in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery.

     From David F. Hinken’s daughter Kathi Hinken: Just in case you haven’t been informed, he passed away June 8th 2017. Memorial service was held June 18, 2017. I would love to hear how he touched your life also. Dave had been involved in meeting with me and some others for the 2018 reunion in Tucson. Dave was an 18th SOS NAV, 1970 to 1971. Ev Sprous was able attend the service and represent us.

     Charles Milton James, 91, of Buhl, Idaho died Sunday, April 9, 2017, at a local Boise hospital of natural causes. Chuck is one of the honored few who served in three wars, including the 17th SOS Shadows as Aircraft Commander and A Flight Operations Officer. Chuck was our first AC-119 Gunship Association President, and authored the By-Laws that serve us so well. Please keep Marilyn & family in your prayers. Chuck’s memorial service and interment was at the Idaho VA Cemetery in Boise, ID on May 8th, 2017

     Richard Cosner informed us his Dad Wendell Cosner, 17th SOS Shadow, passed away February 24, 2017; & while going through his affects found some pictures he posted on our Facebook

     Ulas Benton, 18th SOS Stinger IO, passed away March 15, 2016. We learned of his death from this Obituary:

     Jim Alvis learned 71st SOS member Captain John M. McGary passed away on Sunday, February 10, 2013. John served in the U.S. Air Force until 1960, then was called back to active duty in 1968 for a tour in Vietnam as a 71st SOS Navigator on Tom Cougill’s crew #2 at Tan Son Nhut AB, South Vietnam.

     June 21, 2017 – 18th SOS Stinger Pilot & 2004 AC-119 Gunship Association President Rogers Craig Stevens, Jr., 76, of Daytona Beach, FL went to be with his Lord. Rogers  began his Air Force service as an ROTC graduate from the University of Maryland, received his pilot training in Enid, OK, served as an Instructor Pilot for the T37 and with AC 119 Gunships as a Stinger Pilot with the 18th SOS in Viet Nam. Rogers was one of our Association’s Newsletter Editors, & co-coordinated our 2004 Reunion at the National Museum of the Air Force, with the best attendance since our first Reunion 17 years ago.  Rogers graduated from the University of Maryland & received his Masters in Education & Guidance from Phillips University at Enid, OK , & taught  “Air Warfare in Southeast Asia/Vietnam” at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Rogers was a Christian & served as Chairman of Trustees and as Chairman of the Stewardship Team at Lumberport Baptist Church. After being diagnosed with cancer in December, 2016, Rogers continued to live his life to the fullest, and considered the past six months as a gift from God. Friends may call at the Perine Funeral Home, 1348 S. Pike St., Shinnston on Sunday, June 25, 2017 from 2-4 p.m. & 6-8 p.m. Funeral services will be held at the Lumberport Baptist Church on Monday at 11:00 a.m.  with Interment following at the WV National Cemetery in Pruntytown where full military honors will be conducted. Condolences & additional info may be accessed at In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Halifax Health Hospice, 3800 Woodbriar Trail, Port Orange, Florida 32129

     March 1, 2017 – AC-119 Gunship group loses another Stinger. From Steve Meleen: Stinger and AC-119 gunship brother Dick Mahany passed peacefully last night in Charleston, SC with Angela, son Richard, and family by his side. Angela’s daughter Angie called me and the services are this Saturday in Savannah at St. James Roman Catholic Church …more info later. Let us toast a good man, better friend…one who loved his country and Stingers.

     March 1, 2017 – Jim Moore, Stinger FE and long-time Association member stricken with Cancer. We received this note from Jim’s Daughter Lorraine McElrath…. “I am writing to let the association know that my Dad, Jim Moore, has been diagnosed with lung (mesothelioma) cancer. He is now at home recovering from surgery. The recovery process from the biopsy surgery is going a bit rough. Prayers and warm thoughts are appreciated He has two appointments next week so we will have more information after that.”  Messages for Jim can be sent to

     February 28, 2017 – the 18th Special Operations Sq and AC-119 Gunship Association lost a great pilot. It is with profound sadness we note the passing of our Brother-in-Arms, Al Milacek. The Funeral services celebrating and honoring the life of Lt. Col. Ret. Alan D. Milacek, 77, of Waukomis were held February 27th in the First United Methodist Church with Graveside services in the Waukomis Cemetery. A Family visitation was held Sunday February 26, 2017 in the Brown-Cummings Funeral Home. Alan was aircraft Commander on Stinger AC-119K tail number 883 whose crew received the coveted Mackay Trophy in 1971 for the most Meritorious Flight of the Year (1970). Milacek’s aircraft sustained a devastating anti-aircraft artillery hit that shot off more than 17 feet of one wing. Milacek and his crew literally brought their limping aircraft home on “a wing and a prayer”! The citation reads, in part: Working as a team and displaying the highest degree of airmanship and courage in the face of extreme danger, they managed to successfully return to their home base, thereby saving a valuable aircraft. The exceptional distinctive accomplishments of Captain Milacek and his crew reflect great credit upon themselves and the United States Air Force. For additional info, please visit We will post any updates as we receive them. Your Association Crew

     Please use the following Contact Form to send Wayne Laessig a message you want posted in Mail Call.  Put Gunship Mail Call in the Subject line. If you want your e-mail address posted so members can contact you please SAY THAT in your message; like: Please include that I can be contacted at (but use YOUR actual email). Wayne will review & post your message as soon as possible. Note: To help cut down on harvesting of email addresses we use the word at instead of the @ sign in e-mail addresses. Remember to change the at to @ if you use the email.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message