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77th FS hosts reunion
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Lt. Col. Don Godier, 77th Fighter Squadron commander, talks with Leo Kern, a World War II 77th FS pilot, during the squadron's reunion Feb. 2. The event included a brunch and an aerial demonstration. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tarsha Storey)
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77th FS hosts 'Gamblers' reunion

Posted 2/9/2007   Updated 2/9/2007 Email story   Print story


by Tarsha Storey
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/9/2007 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Pilots from different eras met on common ground during the 77th Fighter Squadron "Gamblers" reunion Feb. 2-3.

The reunion is typically the first weekend in January, unless mission needs require a change, said Capt. Brant Reilly, 77th Fighter Squadron pilot. The focus of the get-together is to unite Gamblers of the past with Gamblers of the present.

Captain Reilly said the first reunion was held in 1957.

Sharing squadron memories was a common theme at the event.

Each year, before the Saturday champagne brunch, squadron members lay out tablecloths to be signed by the pilots, said Capt. Michael Blauser, 77th FS pilot. When pilots become part of the squadron and attend their first brunch, they are asked to sign a tablecloth. Before the next reunion, a tailor embroiders the signatures on it. If a pilot is stationed at the squadron again for another tour, he or she is asked to sign it again.

Of the 77 expected guests, there were three World War II pilots who attended the event, Captain Reilly said.

"(The World War II veterans) have laid such a foundation. They talk about when they were flying their planes at 40-thousand feet with no heat and getting frostbite every time they flew, Captain Reilly said. "Their buddies were dying around them every day. It's motivating to hear those stories. It puts you in your place."

For one World War II veteran, the reunion is about carrying on the tradition of the Gamblers.

Leo Kerns said he has been to the reunion about a dozen times.

"This is great. I would go back to this in a heartbeat if I could. I miss this stuff like you wouldn't believe," Mr. Kerns said.

Lt. Col. Don Godier, 77th FS commander said, the reunion is a great learning experience for all who attend.

"We wouldn't be were we are today if it weren't for the World War II generation. The sacrifices they made and everything they did, we appreciate it and the resulting freedom, liberties and economic prosperity," Colonel Godier said.

Part of the weekend's festivities included a dedication at the building.

The 77th Fighter Squadron building now has photos, medals and memorabilia of Col. Robert Montgomery, a World War II 77th FS commander, who died in 1986.

Colonel Montgomery commanded the 77th FS when it was part of the 20th Fighter Group at King's Cliffe Air Field in North Hamptonshire, England.

"It's unbelievable that (the Gamblers) did this for him," said Lisa Montgomery-Peramich, Colonel Montgomery's daughter. "The medals, photos and memorabilia of my father will not disappear when I die. They have given them a home."

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