USS Grant Jacksonville Reunion Oct 17-25, 2007 Jacksonville, Florida
The fourth USS Grant Reunion was a two part reunion consisting of a land-based reunion from Oct 17-20 at the Jacksonville Airport Holiday Inn. The second part of the reunion was a five day cruise from Oct 20-25th aboard the Carnival ship Celebration. There were 108 people attending the land-based reunion portion with 117 Grant shipmates and their guests going on the cruise.
Part I - The Land Based Reunion
Shipmates began arriving Wednesday, Oct 17th, at the Holiday Inn Airport in Jacksonville. Festivities began in the evening with a "Welcome Aboard" celebration with refreshments, snacks and lots of memorabila and photos to share.
Thursday morning began by boarding tour buses to St. Augustine's Old Town. We spent the better part of the day walking through the shops, seeing the historical sights and visiting the old Fort (Castillo de San Marcos National Monument). We visited the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and many other restored historical sights. A great time was had by all. After returning to the hotel Hospitality Room, everyone spruced up for a fantastic buffet banquet catered by Executive Chef Dennis Corcoran. The meal was exceptional and the food and wine were plentiful. Door prizes were provided. Chief Larry Jordan, Chief Ray Lomberk and Jim Sweany organized and conducted all the activities for the reunion.
On Friday, two bus loads headed to Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia. We were treated to a great lunch on the base and a comprehensive tour of the Trident Training Facility. We all got to try our hand on the firing range with the virtual weapons trainer. We visited the USS George Bancroft SSBN-643 Sail Exhibit at the entry to the base. Later in the afternoon we visited the St. Marys Submarine Museum in Saint Marys, Georgia. The day ended in the Hospitality Room with a General Meeting to discuss the future of the USS Grant organization.
On Saturday, after a nice breakfast, we boarded buses to head to the JAX cruise ship terminal where we boarded the Carnival Cruise Ship.
PART II - The Grant Cruise
The five day cruise was exceptional to say the least. After boarding and finding our cabin, we mustered for the life vest drills. Then it was off to the Grant gathering on the after pool Lido Deck to get our "Welcome Package" and join in the "Happy Hour" with our shipmates and their guests. Later that evening after dinner, we went to the USS Grant Dance in the Island Sky Lounge where we listened and danced to great life music from the 50's/60's/70's. Captain C.A.K. McDonald and Admiral Ben Kauderer gave the entire group a "Welcome Aboard" talk that was very inspiring. The room was elegant and the tall tales from salty shipmates were exceptional. Later that evening, there was a Welcome Aboard Show in the Astoria Lounge. The day ended with MidRats in the Wheelhouse.
On Sunday we sailed south toward Key West. A Grant Submarine Trivia Contest and a Bubblehead Balloon Toss Contest was fun for all in the morning. There was a Wardroom Social conducted in the piano bar. We had one Admiral and three past USS Grant Commanding Officers attending the reunion. A Plank Owner Pow-Wow followed the Officer gathering with a Goat Locker Gathering winding up the afternoon.
On Sunday evening, we conducted an Eternal Patrol Remembrance Ceremony on the Aft Deck of the Cruise Ship. Names of all our lost shipmates were read by Chief Stephen Howell and Chief Ray Lomberk. The bell was tolled for each and all hands responded after the reading of each name with "Sailor, Rest Your Oars". Chief Larry Jordan then recited the navy Hymn. COB Pierre Messier called all hands to attention. COB's Roy Massey and William Reynolds presented a memorial wreath to the front of the audience. A bugler on the upper deck then played "Taps". At the conclusion of Taps, the wreath was given to Captain Raymond Engle and Captain Watkins who then laid the wreath over the side. COB Messier then asked the attendees for a moment of silence. After a minute or two, Captain C.A.K. McDonald ordered COB Messier to "Dismiss the Crews". COB Messier responded, "Aye Aye Captain" and then turned to the audience and said, "Crews Dismissed". The ceremony was very moving. Many civilian passengers on the cruise ship gathered on the upper deck to observe our ceremony. Each reunion attendee was given a copy of the Remembrance Program which listed all the known shipmates we have lost over the years.
Again on Sunday evening, there was a show in the Astoria Lounge and a Dance in the Islands in the Sky Lounge. The evening ended with MidRats in the Wheelhouse.
On Monday, we arrived in Key West. All hand went ashore to tour Margaritaville. Some shipmates toured the famous home of Ernest Hemmingway and saw all the six toed cats on the ground. There were many stores to shop at and lots of historical sights to see. The hungry and thristy members of the reunion party sought out exciting night spots like the Hogshead Inn and Jimmy Buffet's Margarittaville. The weather was perfect and all hands had a great time. We boarded the Cruise Ship Celeberation about 1500 hours and watched the ship maneuver away from Key West heading north to Nassau in the Bahamas. That evening, more Grant fun games were held on the Aft Pool Deck including "The 10 Most Dangerous Things on a Submarine are ---?" a "Bravo-Juliet Drinking Contest" for the women followed by a Dance Party in the Island in the Sky Lounge. The day ended again by Midrats in the Vista Dining Room.
We arrived in Nassau about 1100 hours on Tuesday. Some shipmates had signed up for different excurisons including Deep Sea Fishing, Scuba Diving and Golf at the Cable Beach Country Club. Some guests fended for theirselves on shore by visiting the many attractions in Nassau. We reboarded the ship about 2200 hours and watched the beautiful night time lights of Nassau disappear as we departed the island. There was Halloween Costume Contest and Midrats in the Wheelhouse to end the day.
Up early Wednesday for coffee and tall tales in the Wheelhouse, more door prize drawings and Grant Contests were held. Group Photographs were taken on the Aft Pool Deck. Captain C.A.K. McDonald made a presentation in the Endless Summer Lounge concerning the loss of the "USS Scorpion". The presentation was very enlightening and very informative. Later that evening, a meeting to discuss the future of the "USS Grant Forum" was conducted. Several Shipmates volunteered to aid in setting up a formal association and to plan the next reunion for 2009. At 2030 hours, "Cigars Under the Stars" with official Grant Reunion Cigars was held on the Promenande Aft Deck. Many shipmates attended the final show in the Astoria Lounge.
On Thursday morning, we docked in Jacksonville, debarked, and all headed back to their homes. The reunion was a great success. Chief Larry Jordan, Chief Ray Lomberk and Jim Sweany are to be congratulated and thanked for their great efforts to plan and implement this great undertaking. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude. We also thank their wives for their support and efforts to make this reunion the best yet.
We would also be remiss if we didn't mention that the food aboard the Cruise Ship was phenomenal to say the least.
This was without a doubt, the most successful reunion of the USS Grant with the largest turnout and the most detailed of plans.
Click on the individual photo to enlarge or browse photos with slide slow at top window.
Land Based Reunion Photos
Reunion Cruise Photos
AND MORE CRUISE PHOTOS
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