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What's New - President's Messages

PRESIDENTS MESSAGESeptember 2023Reunion Flash Message:

Lt Col Brian Schmidt, Commander of our active-duty 17th SOS Legacy Squadron from Cannon AFB is coming to our DC reunion, along with an AC-130J Ghostrider (call sign Jackal) & crew! Col Schmidt & crew plan to attend most of the reunion, & offered us a Ghostrider tour on Friday, Nov 10th between mid-morning & mid-afternoon! The Wednesday & Thursday Reunion Tours are not impacted & remain the same.

Numerous Ghostrider crewmembers asked to participate – they want to learn more about our heritage as well as swap some stories! Click here to learn more about the AC-130J GHOSTRIDER. It is the most current version of the 40+ year AC-130 Gunship family, with an awesome armament suite that includes 30mm & 105mm cannons, Small Diameter Bombs, Small Glider Munitions, Hellfire Missiles, & Griffin Missiles!! If you want to see what our Legacy Squadron flies, & talk to today’s warriors who carry our heritage into battle in it, sign up for this tour!!!

Security access & parking challenges make carpooling very impractical for this tour. We are providing a bus for the tour, at no cost to attendees. BUT, the tour is limited to the first 98 who sign up. Plan for 0900 board bus, 1300 back at the hotel (subject to change). THERE IS NO FEE FOR THIS TOUR & we will provide specifics as details firm up.

If you HAVE NOT registered for the Reunion yet, & want to participate in this event, just select it when you register for the Reunion online at https://www.events.afr-reg.com/e/AC-119Gunship2023. You must ALSO fill in a SEPARATE form to assure we have info for any military access requirements. It is also a pdf attachment on the top of the reunion registration web page titled REQUIRED SECURITY INFO- NEW TOUR. Open the form, fill it in, print it, & mail it to: Armed Forces Reunions, 322 Madison Mews, Norfolk, VA 23510.

If you HAVE ALREADY registered for the Reunion & want to add this tour, simply click this link for the required security form titled REQUIRED SECURITY INFO- NEW TOUR; fill it in, print it, & mail it to: Armed Forces Reunions, 322 Madison Mews, Norfolk, VA, 23510.

BTW, here’s who’s already coming to this Reunion:

  • Paul & Teri Beagley
  • Charles & Debra Blackmon
  • Stinger 41 KIA Ken Brown’s widow Sandra Reitz & son Tom & spouse Dolores & their sons Aden & Robert
  • Windell & Bernadette Bunton
  • JoAnna Byrd
  • Gene Caruso
  • Shadow 78 Survivor Allen & Barbara Chandler
  • John & Denise Cootz & daughter Angelique & Joe Bolli
  •  Tom Brander
  • Stinger 41 Survivor Craig Corbett
  • Peggy Craig
  • Roy Davis & Paula Pascoe
  • Mike & Andrea Drzyzga
  • Bob & Janet Dydo & Niece Abbie Moore
  • Lloyd & M.E. Froelich
  • Sam & Debby Gallo
  • Janis Goryl
  • Roger Griswold
  • Jerry & Ellen Hester
  • Clement & Suzanne Hill
  • Ron & Carol Hinton
  • Shadow 78 KIA Andy Anderson’s daughter Lee & Tim Jordan & daughter Scarlet & son Jacob
  • Mike Krauss
  • Al Krueger & Phyliss Demske
  • Wayne & Lynette Laessig
  • Sandra Layne
  • AC-119 Author Barry Levine & daughter
  • Bob; Cheryl, & Brooks Lyall
  • John Paul Mac Isaac
  • Dan & Arlene Mages
  • Dale & Jeanette Martin
  • Larry Mersek
  • John & Carolyn Morrow
  • Rodney Olsen & Cyndi & Freya Hathaway
  • Jim Quigley
  • Jim Rash
  • Matt & Annette Robeck & AC-119 KIA Commemorative Trike
  • Bob Safreno & Sandy Paxton
  • Terry & Theresa Sarul
  • Stinger 41 Survivor Ski Sledzinski & Yami Lust
  • Alwyn & Margaret Smith
  • Jerry & Kathy Stout
  • Jim Toy
  • Tom & Marisa Weisenfluh
  • Doug Wohlgamuth

NOTE: Our hotel has wheelchair accessible rooms at our contracted group rate, BUT not many. If you need an accessible room, please consider reserving one soon. You’ll get our room rate by reserving one now & it helps us with our forecasting on Reunion numbers. There’s no risk since you can cancel as late as the day before your arrival. PLEASE, reserve your room now at https://book.passkey.com/event/50394539/owner/1694/home.  Questions? Contact Wayne Laessig. Thanks and see you there!!

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – March 4, 2023 – Reunion Flash Message

Reunion XXIII
Hilton Crystal City, Washington, DC
Wednesday, November 8 – Sunday, November 12, 2023 (New Dates!)
“54 Years Remembrance of AC-119 Gunships”
Reunion Coordinator — Armed Forces Reunions

Greetings to all AC-119ers, Family and Friends,

I am thrilled to share this news with you, we are ready to celebrate another great reunion.  I am always amazed to see us celebrate life as brothers.  We became brothers in Vietnam.  I watched fellow AC-119ers share their brotherhood at the Linden, TX, 50th Vietnam Commemoration in February.  We will be sharing that brotherhood at the Air Force Academy in June at the dedication of our AC-119 Gunship bronze plaque at the Vietnam Pavilion.  And the Washington D.C. reunion will allow us to share our lives with each other again.  We have a special camaraderie with a very unique experience that bonds us together.  Let’s keep the dream alive.  See you all there.

John Cootz, Association President
[email protected]

WOW! Lots to cover:

  1. Short version: Y-E-S our 23rd Reunion IS moving forward, just with one change: our Reunion Hotel’s corporate headquarters decided to renovate the hotel when we planned to hold our original Reunion, and we had to move our Reunion dates to November 8-12, 2023!
    • Bummer……, BUT the good part of this is that we’ll be there when the weather is better, with no changes to our planned events, tours, rooms, or pricing!
  2. Longer version (if you like details):
    • Hilton convention room renovations were delayed for two years due to COVID. They are now catching up and our Crystal City Hilton is now on the schedule for August-early October.
    • Yes, you might see the hotel name listed as Hilton Crystal City – or – Hilton Arlington National Landing. They’re the same hotel; the renovation includes renaming it to Hilton Arlington National Landing.
    • The Hilton Hotel and our contractor Armed Forces Reunions (AFR) worked closely with the Association to find the best possible solution.
    • They agreed to keep all pricing the same as originally planned at the Hilton. All room availability will remain the same and we will have newly renovated reunion rooms.
    • Our banquet is now on Veterans Day.
    • The weather is mild the first half of November which makes the tours easier.
    • November and December are peak tourist times for the hotel so our original price is now even a greater bargain for hotel rooms and meals.
    • For those driving to the reunion, fall colors will be in their full glory into early November.
    • Lodging does include breakfast buffet for two!
  3. So.., How do you sign up?
  4. FIRST; use this link to see the Schedule, Tour, and Hotel information: Schedule, Tour, and Hotel Information.

NOTE: read these BEFORE you register or reserve a room – and please, PRINT them.

  1. THEN, use the AFR links below to register for the Reunion and Tours, and reserve your room:

NOTE: if you need to cancel (full or partial) after you register, contact the AFR Office directly at 757-625-6401.

  1. We’ll include more details about the Reunion, event Menus, local area sights, and more in monthly Flash Messages and on our Facebook page.
  2. Got questions? Contact John Cootz


Greetings from Texas to all AC-119 Gunship Associates, family, and friends. I hope this letter finds you happy and well. Here are my thoughts on our identity as Association members.

We each took an oath that brought us together as brothers. That is where we started. Now our mission is to preserve our brotherhood. We do that through reunions, the website, our historical archives, and preserving our heritage through ceremonies and memorials.

While interacting with you, I find you still carry the USAF core values.

I am proud to be your President and will do my best to stay faithful to our values. Always feel free to share your thoughts with me. Now, on to some other important topics.

At no cost, this program provides the invaluable opportunity for a personal thank you for every WWII, Korean, and Vietnam war veteran to receive his or her long-overdue day of honor. The deep and meaningful connections established among traveling veterans, and the passion of Honor Flight’s volunteers always shine through true and clear. The Honor Flight experience provides a life-altering sense of pride for the remarkable senior men and women war heroes. An application can be accessed at https://www.honorflight.org.

I encourage every AC-119er who served in SEA to get an Agent Orange Registry exam. It’s totally free and is an opportunity to get a good evaluation of current health conditions. Other benefits to joining are the opportunity to learn about a possible presumptive condition so you can make a claim and potential family benefits. You are eligible for a comprehensive evaluation even if you are not enrolled in the VA system. To sign up for an Agent Orange Registry exam, contact a coordinator near you using this link Environmental Health Coordinator. A coordinator will help you schedule an exam with a provider.

Within the next week, you will be receiving a survey from the Association. The responses will help the Association continue to organize GREAT reunions and find ways to keep our brotherhood connected at future reunions with as many brothers as possible. Please take 15 minutes to provide your input when you receive the survey. Thank you in advance for your thoughts and ideas.

In addition to our reunions, we want to implement some new ideas that will help us stay connected throughout the year. This year, we will start sending out American Greeting electronic cards. We will be able to send cards for birthdays (please let us know your birthday month only), illness (let us know about yourself or family members) and eventually holidays (like Christmas and Veterans Day).

We would like to use the website to highlight family and holiday traditions, family military traditions (like family members who serve), and hobbies. We would like to request then and now photos from you that could be used on the website or at reunions. I think I can find a childhood picture that you will never associate with me as an adult. I will share some of my info and stories and I hope that you will do that also.


We continue to make progress on the US Air Force Academy’s Southeast Asia Memorial Pavilion that includes Vietnam Aircraft Unit Memorial Plaques. Many of you have participated in this project. The dedication ceremony should occur in the second quarter of 2023. All of our brothers in the 71st SOS, 17th SOS, and 18th SOS are showcased on our plaque.

The Association is also working with the Air Force Association on a 50th Vietnam Anniversary Celebration. Part of this celebration will be to honor John O’Neal Rucker, an 18th SOS member, in Lindon, Texas along with family and friends. He was the last American who died at Da Nang during the Vietnam War and was the last enlisted casualty. Association representatives will participate in the ceremony.

The Association has a great website that is both attractive and informational. I would be remiss if I did not thank Wayne Laessig and Liz Buss for all their creativity and effort. Thank You!

I hope you stay safe, healthy, connected to each other, and happy in the coming year.

John Cootz


Prior Years President's Messages