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2003 Reunion in Branson, MO

Members of the 31st Construction Battalion met October 2-5, 2003, to renew old acquaintances, make new friends and enjoy several entertaining shows. There were a total of 46 participants with 16 veterans in attendance. They came from both coasts and from the North and the South. They traveled by plane, by car and by Greyhound bus. They brought spouses, sons and daughters, nephews and friends. Some veterans came alone. Some family members attended in honor of those no longer with us.

It didn’t take long for old friends to find each other and new friends to join the fun. To be sure folks got acquainted during the welcome reception, everyone participated in Who’s Who in the 31st – a test of what you know about your Seabee friends.

Most 31st reunions have involved some kind of cruise, and this was no exception. It was smooth sailing on beautiful Table Rock Lake where the 31st had front row seats for lunch and entertainment on the Branson Belle, an 1890s paddlewheel steamboat.

Like the 31st, Andy Williams proved that some things get better with age. Although his body looked a bit frail, his voice was robust. He and Glenn Campbell put on an entertaining show. He may be of Russian descent, but comedian Yakoff Smirnoff has an all-American sense of humor. His show was a hit with the group, especially when Yakoff made a trip to the Seabee bus to say hello.

The hospitality room was a place for conversation and an opportunity to look at the 31st Seabee Mini-Museum. Participants brought Japanese swords, a gun and an ammo box, a beautifully framed military knife, a lamp made from a bombshell, picture frame made of wood from a rice bowl and an army cot, letters, books, scrap books and pictures of the best looking Seabee battalion in the Navy. The next generation had an opportunity to learn more about their father’s experiences and veterans had the chance to share memories and stories.

Due to inclement weather, the Memorial Service was held in the hospitality suite beginning with a message from Commander Tom Kelly, son of John Kelly. He reminded the group that the work of the Seabees continues today in the conflict in Iraq and in other places around the world. Although smaller in numbers, the Seabees of today are as dedicated and professional as those who went before them. The Can Do tradition carries on. Martin DeVries recalled those lost in service as well as those who are no longer with us. The contribution of each member of the 31st will not be forgotten. The service concluded with songs led by Ted Solarz and a prayer by Stuart McAnally.

Bill Groninger, an Air Force pilot who flew the fastest reconnaissance plane ever developed, was the banquet speaker. Bill is retired from the Air Force now and spends his time with the Branson Veterans Task Force. His message was for the 31st to acknowledge their contribution to World War II and to share that message with others so that children today will better understand and appreciate their world.

The 2003 reunion was a successful event enjoyed by all. The attendees encourage others to be part of the 31st reunion in 2004.