Misty Reunion Report Reno 2023 by Don Shepperd.
“May the legend of the Mistys live on, not for fame or accolades, but as a worthy example of courage under difficult circumstances for those who follow.”
The Misty reunion in Reno was a resounding success due to Misty 86, Gen. USAF (Ret.) Ron Fogleman, the Reno Air Race Association (RARA), Million Air Corporation, Tac Air, Fred Telling, Joey Scalari, Perry Di Loreto, MGen USAF (Ret.) Ron Bath, and LtGen USAF (Ret.) Speedy Martin all of whom co-sponsored the flightline chalet or some of our events. Others adding significantly to the event were: LtGen USAF (Ret) Dave Deptula (banquet speaker), Lanny Lancaster (and his wines that continue to magically appear every reunion), Joe Caruso (who handled reservations, guest lists, notifications et.al.), Dean Echenberg (our web meister and communications czar), the aged Mistys who were able to attend and the spouses, children grandchildren and other relatives of departed Mistys – in short, lots of people (list attached) and ALL enjoyed it.
Gen. Fogleman was previously head of the races contest committee, and thus entwined with the RARA leadership, staff, local businessmen and clientele. He engineered royal treatment everywhere for our group ably assisted by his son, Rob, and daughter-in-law, Deanna who corralled and pointed wayward Mistys to and from the action.
After most arrived on Thursday, we began gathering in the Florentine hospitality room amply supplied with fine wine by Lanny Lancaster. Stories began to flow, some with smatterings of truth. Charlie Neel declared we actually won the Vietnam War and after three more glasses of wine, Wells Jackson agreed with him. Dean Echenberg introduced his grandson, Ian Adelson, who successfully produced the Misty movie and has it placed on PBS stations nationwide (applause!).
Roger Van Dyken introduced our Vietnamese guests, Ho Van Sy and Le Nga, known as Sy (sigh) and Nga (nah). Roger explained that Sy was responsible for finding Guy Gruters’ Vietnamese captor and wife who saved him from machete-wielding villagers and the Vietnamese would-be sampan captors of Charlie Neel and Guy on Guy’s first shootdown off Dong Hoi, and if that wasn’t enough, a Vietnamese, who at the time was 8 years old and observed Andy Hanna’s dad being shot down and pointed to where he landed on top of the Disappearing River Rock. All the Vietnamese were located by Sy and met with the recent group that toured Vietnam, Laos and Thailand on the Misty adventure trip. The attendees all greeted Sy and Nga who stayed with Van Dykens in Bellingham WA and Andy Hanna in Bend OR on way to Reno and have several more stops in the U.S. with Chuck and Cindy Shaheen in Fresno, Dave and Aby Skilling in Atlanta and Florida where they will also dine with the Gruters, then on to D.C. and NYC before returning to Hanoi – quite an introduction to the U.S.
Friday was practice day at the races and most chose to take a tour of the Reno Air National Guard C-130 unit (firefighting plus a classified mission). The female Wing/CC (sharp woman) gave a unit brief explaining how the Guard has become an “operational” reserve serving rotations alongside the actives making them almost indistinguishable. We finished with libations at what used to be the squadron “stag“ bar (now maybe the “doe and stag” bar?).
Saturday morning, the opening race day, we were wearing white Misty shirts while being called to attention by Gen. Fogleman, told to “dress-right-dress, left face and move up if you’re taller than the man in front of you!” Then, we were introduced and honored in front of the bleacher crowd as special Vietnam vets. After saluting during the National Anthem (had to correct Hog Piner’s crooked finger), we received courteous and generous applause. We watched the races from our comfortable shaded chalet supplied with food and drink. Roger Woolsey, CEO of Million Air along with his wife and family sat with us, a truly gracious host and nice family. Saturday evening was our Misty banquet organized by Joe Caruso, a delicious meal at the reunion Peppermill hotel (classy place, highly recommend) Edge restaurant above the pool alongside blazing firepits. We introduced, Susie Viele, daughter of Misty MIA, Pat Carroll, Misty #127, and our two living POWs, Guy Gruters, Misty #29, and, PK Robinson, Misty #45. The dinner speaker was LtGen, USAF (Ret.) Dave Deptula, Dean of the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute who fascinated the audience by detailing the development of the Air Force contributions to national security along with its funding profile that no longer matches the modern threats we face. Gen. Deptula also acknowledged the enduring contributions of the Misty mission to warfare, past and future. He asked the six Mistys who completed 100 missions over the North in 1968 (Jonesy Jones, Dick Rutan, PK Robinson, Lanny Lancaster and Wells Jackson – Charlie Summers could not attend) to stand and be recognized. Gen. Deptula’s message was both educational and alarming. Several requested copies (see text attached).
Sunday’s races were a repeat of Saturday. We watched from the chalet as various classes sped by. Sadly the end of Sunday flying brought tragedy. Two pilots were killed in a mid air collision turning to base leg for landing at end of the Gold T-6 race – the last three races were cancelled – no more air races at Reno.
Sunday evening was a delicious reception/dinner (prime rib, salads, desserts) sponsored by MGen, USAF (Ret.) Ron Bath, a retired Reno Guardsman, and Perry Di Loreto, both longtime Reno businessmen, RARA and military family supporters.