Joint Base Andrews proud to host 11th Bombardment Group reunion

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Russell
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
History was brought to life through stories from members of the 11th Bombardment group and their families during their reunion held here May 15-19. Their visit was filled with multiple events during their stay in the National Capital Region.

The veterans and their families kicked off the reunion in a major way by participating in Military Appreciation Day during a Washington Nationals baseball game on May 16. This included the opportunity to be brought onto the field for the National Anthem. Their service to the United States was recognized along with wounded warriors from the region during the second inning of the game.

The following day was bustling with special events and activities for the veterans as they toured the NCR. The day kicked off at the 1st Helicopter Squadron here where the 12 veterans of the reunion group received an orientation flight aboard UH-1 Huey helicopters.

Among the veterans in the group was Maj. (Ret.) William Breland, who donned a baseball cap with 'Pearl Harbor Survivor' embroidered in bold white lettering across the front. While waiting to board the helicopter, Breland shared some of his military experiences with the others.

"Throughout my military career, I have held every grade from private to major," said Breland. "I was stationed here [Andrews] in 1950, my job was Airways and Air Communications (ACS), working with early system radar detection. For two or three years I was on the IT team and had the opportunity to travel the world. I've been to Germany, Spain, England, North Africa, Alaska and more."

One of Brelands' most memorable moments occurred on Dec. 7, 1941.

On that fateful day, a Japanese dive-bomber adorned with the symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings flew over the island of Oahu, followed by a multitude of Japanese warplanes. The Japanese fighters engaged in a surprise attack on the United States Pacific Theater with a blitz that would pull the nation into a second world war.

"When I heard the first bomb I thought it was the Navy because they had been TOE (Target Of Evaluation) target practicing," said Breland. "Then I heard the winds and the planes and an explosion; then I heard two more loud explosions in a row. I just remember shouting 'hit the deck boys, we're under attack'."

After returning from the helicopter flight, many of the veterans seemed to be refueled with vim, vigor and vitality. This was good because the day was just beginning. On the bus ride into Washington D.C., some members of the group recanted their life experiences, inside and outside of the military.

Neal and Joyce Seibenbruner have been married more than 50 years. The two married after graduating high-school with Neal joining the United States Army Air Corps shortly after.
Neal Seibenbruner is a long-standing member and two-time president of the 11th Bombardment Group Association. He was donning a flight cap with the group name on it, covered with medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, as he shared the history of the association while en route to Washington, D.C.

"The group was founded by four men," said Seibenbruner. "Bob May organized it with the help of Jack Krey, Irem Jenkins and Spencer Davis. The first meeting with these four men was in 1960; the first reunion in 1962 had more than 100 members."

The clear skies, a balmy temperature and a gentle breeze made for a perfect day for the group to explore the city. After touring the White House, the group was ready for an outdoor lunch break at the World War II memorial.

The city sidewalks were jam-packed with citizens and members of the 11 BG were greeted with a great deal of appreciation from passersby, from their own generation down to Generation Y. Specifically, middle school students flocked around Breland to thank him for his service, noting the sentimental value of the phrase on his cap.

The group took photographs in front of the WWII Memorial then boarded the buses to go to Arlington National Cemetery to view the change of the guard.

The veterans and their families, some hand-in-hand, walked quietly through the west entrance of the cemetery down a path labeled 'Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,' that led them to the change of the guard ritual.

The group then attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Air Force Memorial to bring the tour of the city to a close.

On the short ride to the Air Force Memorial, Edward Lavin, 11 BG Association vice president, led the group in the singing of what is now known as the Air Force song. Of course, these original members of the 11th BG touted that, 'nothing can stop the Army Air Corps.'

Master Sgt. Shani Prewitt, United States Air Force Band Max Impact vocalist, sang the National Anthem at the wreath laying and Col. Chaplain Charles R. Cornelisse, Arlington National Cemetery chaplain, gave an invocation. Col. (Ret.) Pete Lindquist, Air Force Memorial managing director, and Col. Kenneth Rizer, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander, were the officiating officers at the ceremony held in the midst of the sky-scraping memorial.

"We are here to remember the 11th Bombardment Group's fallen and their sacrifice," said Lindquist. "It is important for you to pause and reflect on your own service and service of the comrades that are here with you - and those who aren't. It is also important for me to pause and thank you for your service and your sacrifice."

The next day, May 18, the 11 BG veterans and their families attended the 2012 Joint Service Open House and Air Show here as Rizer's special guests. The group contributed to the day's events by participating in a Veterans Forum in Hangar 1 that afternoon.

The perspective of these true American heroes and the forefathers of the 11th Wing offered the members of Team Andrews a unique glimpse into a profound moment in our nation's history and the lineage of "The Chief's Own."