The membership meeting of the 99th Infantry Division Association was called to order at 9 a.m. July 23 by President Phil Benefiel.
The sergeants-at-arms advanced the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag was recited.
Treasurer J.R. McIlroy reported a balance of $41,000 in the association treasury.
Executive director Donna Bernhardt presented a membership report, saying there are 913 current members.
Bernhardt also gave a convention report, saying the previous convention for the previous year. She said attendance at this year’s reunion had increased.
McIlroy gave a planning committee report. He told the membership the board had discussed having another convention but had decided to continue publishing the Checkerboard instead.
“It was the consensus of the board to discontinue conventions but continue the association with the Checkerboard,” Benefiel said.
Advertising this as the last convention had a lot to do with the increase in attendance. As one member pointed out, there were several family members attending for the first time with fathers and grandfathers who never discussed the war. By attending, they were beginning to understand the value of the history of the division. “We’re missing the boat by not sharing that history,” he said.
All agreed the conventions have been beneficial and valuable to the history of the 99th.
John Vasa said there was no need to continue with national reunions. “If you still want to get together, have mini-reunions,” he said. “Our days are numbered.”
Wilfrid Robinson suggested another reunion be scheduled for 2013, instead of 2012.
“I hate it, but I don’t think we have enough members to continue,” McIlroy said.
Sam Endicott agreed, “It’s time to turn the page. Let’s continue with the Checkerboard.”
Arnold Taylor affirmed the decision of the board concerning further conventions in the form of a motion. Sully Sullivan seconded the motion and it was approved.
Arnold Taylor invited all veterans to attend the 2012 Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
Nick Gianopoulos reminded everyone to tell people about the 99th at local American Legion and VFW posts. “We should blow our own horn in our own communities – and blow it long and loud about the 99th,” he said.
Additional board members were not nominated, however Herb Knapp was nominated as vice president. The nomination was approved by acclamation.
MG Razz Waff, commanding general of the 99th Reserve Support Command, expressed what an honor it was to attend the convention. He introduced his staff and commended Major Stephen Harlan, 99th RSC Historian, for coordinating and running the War Room.
“We’re more than happy to advertise your mini-reunions,” MG Waff said. “We want to continue to capture the oral histories and preserve the legacy of the 99th.”
He recognized the 78th Army Band, which provided entertainment for Friday and Saturday nights functions during the convention. “They are citizen soldiers with regular jobs and they are here from Fort Dix NJ,” he said.
Waff presented the general’s coin to Bernhardt for her services and dedication to the 99th.
Harlan gave an update about the expansion of the museum at Fort Dix.
Contact information for Harlan will continue to be available in the Checkerboard for those who have memorabilia to send to the Archives.
Bert Burda said Checkerboard Chorus CDs would be available for every veteran at the Saturday evening banquet.
Joe Thimm asked whether there was enough content to continue publishing the Checkerboard. “Or should we keep sending our stories in?” he asked.
“Send your stories and I will publish them,” Bernhardt assured him.
McIlroy said there are enough funds to continue the Checkerboard two or three years if people keep paying dues.
“I want to go on record with a motion,” Bob Terry said. “I would like to send an expression of appreciation to officers and board members for keeping the organization alive and viable for 62 years.”
His motion was approved with a round of applause.
John Vasa thanked everyone for their support during his tenure as president and banquet chairman.
The new board meeting, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, was canceled.
McIlroy told members they would drink a toast with the “last man” bottle of cognac prior to the evening’s banquet.
Vince Meribela reminded those having mini-reunions to tell Bernhardt so they could be publicized in the Checkerboard.
Glenn Bronson said he was willing to host a mini in Corning NY in October 2012. More information will be published as it becomes available.
Benefiel thanked everyone for the honor to serve as president. He urged everyone to keep paying dues to keep the Checkerboard coming. “It’s an honor to be associated with the 99th,” he concluded.
The colors were retired and the meeting was adjourned.