Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 reunion of the Americal Division Veterans Association (ADVA), held in Norfolk, VA. There was a great crowd for the event, somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 people. This was primarily comprised of Vietnam veterans of the Americal and their spouses. But we were lucky to have 6 veterans of World War II on hand. One of the men, Ken Vander Molen (second from right in the above photo), is 182nd veteran from Company G – and a good friend. Ken made the trip down from Michigan with his two daughters. I also had the chance to meet another 182nd veteran, whose full name I believe was Devel McGriff (far left in the photo above). He served in Company G, and took part in the action on Cebu. He told me that he had not known about our trip earlier this year to Cebu, or he would have come along. What a shame, it would have been amazing to have him along with us. At dinner, I shared a table with Ken Vander Molen and a veteran of the 164th Infantry, Fritz Klein (far right in the photo), who attended with his wife and daughter. 70 years after the end of World War II, this was his very first reunion.
The ADVA treated the World War II veterans like royalty. Their rooms at the hotel were provided free of charge. And they were singled out and recognized at the Saturday evening banquet. Each was presented with a gift bag including an ADVA pocket knife and DVD. And most impressively, their great sacrifice and service was thanked with a booming, rousing, standing ovation from their veteran brothers from Vietnam. It was a real thrill to see these men treated like the heroes they are – particularly from a room full of fellow veterans.
(Incidentally, if Mr. McGriff or his family should read this story – please contact me if you feel like it, I would love to hear more about his war experiences.)