Once again, and for the fourth time, we held our Winter meeting in the High Mountain Country---Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And for the fourth time our AO was the Park Vista Hotel. Sid Morgan, our very able President, along with his better half and cohort, Beth, must have used some very powerful arm twisting. Our Hospitality Room was on the lobby floor in one of the many conference rooms. The last three meetings we used the conference room for our dining and auction enjoyment. The Hospitality room was always a double room on the 15th floor. There was no vertigo this time.
Some of the troops, those early bird ShopAholics, arrived on Thursday, 24 January, just so they could be first in line at the malls on Friday. Those Super Shopper Early Birds had discovered at previous year’s gathering of the eagles, it was much better to do all the major shopping at the malls on Friday and leave social gatherers for Saturday. Friday was the day of few people and great sales.
The thoughts of an early Friday shopping spree were well planned but for one thing—Ole Man Weather didn’t go along with the well-laid plans of mice nor men. The Ole Man sent a horrible weather front shooting across the Eastern Seaboard. All the way from the northern mountains of Georgia to the lofty ice packs of Maine. The troops barely made it to the Park Vista Inn before the ice and sleet descended upon the valley. The brave folks working for TDOT (Tennessee Dept of Transportation) spent many hours in the cold ice and sleet covering the main roads with rock salt and sand.
Those same hardy souls, those ShopAholics, stood at the doors of the Park Vista Inn early on Friday morning, watching the sleet and ice fall from the sky. Ole Man Weather racked his fury upon the poor mortals shuddering in the doorways, hallways and rooms of the inn.
By noon Ole Man Weather, tiring of his plaything, went dancing across the mountains to the coast and points north, laughing loudly as he turned the sweat from his brow into snow, ice and sleet. Those hardy souls, those ShopAholics, gave an audible sigh of relief as Ole Man Weather vented his fury across the mountains and snow-packed fields of the Northeast, fanned out from the doorways, hallways and rooms at the inn, gathered themselves in their trusty ice-covered vehicles and drove off to fight the battles at the malls.
Their joy was short lived, however. The few stores in the mall that had opened their doors at noon, decided it was best to close them at 1500 hours—giving the Super Shopper Early Birds a scant three hours to find the bargains advertised in all the local brochures. It was a down-trodden lot as those ice-covered vehicles slowly traversed the steep roadway to the Park Vista Inn.
By 1800 hours, Friday night, most of the members had arrived, parked their suitcases (and maybe their better halves) in their rooms, carried their BYOB to the Hospitality Room on the lobby floor and settled in for an enjoyable evening of war stories, munching of the goodies and more war stories. Those same war stories that had first started circulating at our first meeting in Georgia in 1980.
...And didn’t it sleet! Ole Man Weather decided to make a return visit for one final frontal attack. He coated the highways and byways with thick sheets of ice and sleet. However, his efforts were thwarted by the dedication of TDOT and other municipalities which had the use of rock salt and sand. Disgusted and shamed by the victories of mere mortals, Ole Man Weather unleashed his fury on the coastal states from North Carolina to Maine. By 1000 hours on Saturday morning, the Super Shopper Early Birds and those ladies who arrived late the evening before, headed for their vehicles and many hours of glorious shopping.
Ole Man Weather and his attack on the highways and byways of North Georgia, Tennessee and Western North Carolina, was having it’s affect on the attendance at our gathering. Our business meeting was scheduled for 1000 hours and at 0959 hours (well maybe it was 0915 or 0930 but we have to have some anxiety tossed in) we had 19 members present—two short of a quorum. Suddenly, the doors to the meeting room flew open (again the affect) and in strolls Dave Hensley and Bob Bever. Dave and Bob, like the mailman, fought ice, snow, sleet and rain to get to the meeting. We had a quorum! In the end, we ended up with twenty-three members at the meeting.
Sid Morgan called the meeting to order and, after all the usual stuff dealing with the Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer’s reports, called upon Jack Tobin, newly-elected president of the SFA and Cliff Newman, SFA Administrative Director, to fill the chapter in on what was happening around the flagpole at National. According to Jack and Cliff, there are many plans for the future of the SFA. One main point Jack brought up was the younger generation of SF troops were now joining the SFA. Contrary to our belief in immortality, none of us are getting any younger and without an influx of younger SF troops into the SFA, this organization will eventually die.
The slate of new officers were announced by the Teller Committee chairman, Jim Hash. The final slot, that for president, was filled as Jim was driving to the meeting. There is only one name for each position so the outcome is now known. The new officers will be:
President: Bill Long
Vice President: Robert Bever
Secretary: Mitch Greene
Treasurer: Harry Matthews
Stan Shank briefed the Chapter on the “Paver” program. Fourteen bricks have been ordered. The Chapter had committed to buying 10 bricks a year, one brick for each member who has died, and an additional $160 was donated by Chapter members for 4 more bricks. Stan emphasized our chapter, at the moment, was the only chapter in the SFA which has committed to purchasing a brick for each deceased member of there chapter. Chapter XXXIII has a dedicated 100-brick space on the walkway leading to the SFA Chapel. Anyone visiting the SFA grounds should make a point in visiting this walkway.
1815 hours, Saturday evening we gathered on the ground floor. Two or three group photos were taken and, at 1830 hours, we moved, en masse, to the dining hall and our catered dinner. The buffet had more than enough food to feed all the troops.
We usually have two auctioneers, but our assistant auctioneer, Charlie Ponds, couldn't make this meeting and the presentation of this auction rested on the shoulders of our very capable auctioneer, Stan the Man. Stan took over the floor as soon as the tables were cleared. He explained the rules of the auction and what would be considered a valid bid. Any motion of hand, eyes, body or feet would be considered a bid. Also any voice comments would be considered a bid. As the bidding progressed, and in the heat of the auction, a couple of members forgot these rules and paid dearly for the error of their ways. All in all, the auction collected an addition $800 plus for our Scholarship Fund. A tip of the Green Beret to our members for a job well done.
And, as always happens at these gatherings for the past hundreds of eons or so, Sunday burst upon the scene cloudless, bright and cool. We gathered one last time for our farewell breakfast, said our good-byes, paid our bills and departed for the far reaches of our AO.
The Spring chapter meeting will be held in Asheville, NC on 19–21 April 2013. Bill Long will host this meeting. I have no further information at this time on the Spring meeting but each of you have enough information to mark your calendars. I understand Asheville is really nice in April. Bill will publish an Alert Order on this meeting when he get everything finalized and you can also get that information on the Chapter website Bulletin Board.
I've added a few photos taken at our meeting.
See you in Asheville, NC the week-end of 19 April 2013.
Copyright © 1994 Chapter XXXIII SFA. All rights Reserved.
Chapter XXXIII, SFA, The Larry Alan Thorne Special Forces Memorial Chapter
Winter Meeting was created 30 January 2013