We interviewed Denis Bagley, the military reunion planner who recently held an event in Seattle Southside, taking former crewman for one last visit to their carrier, the USS Independence CV-62, before it was dismantled. For more information on the USS Independence's final voyage, click here.
How often does your group reunite?
Once a year, the members vote for the city.
How many reunions have you planned, and have you noticed a change in the way things are done/trends?
I am President for 29 reunions (I run it like a dictator 90% somewhat). That way, things get done, especially when taking money in.
What complimentary Seattle Southside RTA services did you utilize when planning this event?
Meagan McGuire gave us brochures for our members and visited with us at the Sheraton where the reunion was held. She also gave us guidance on some tours like THE MUSEUM OF FLIGHT.
What things would you do differently?
Nothing much. Our main event was to see our ship, the USS INDEPENDENCE CV-62, for the last time in the Bremerton PSNS yard. We saw it now because in went down to Brownsville, Texas to get cut up. That's another story and an adventure getting pieces of the ship.
What kind of feedback did you get from reunion attendees?
Lots of attendees enjoy the gatherings. My officers know their jobs when they arrive at the location. I treat them well and have hardly any turnover of officers. I feel like I am the Wal-Mart of the reunion business. Keep prices affordable and they will come...they always come back. Our 25th anniversary reunion had 378 attendees and 6 buses on tours. It was wielding, and I did a lot of yelling. At lunch at a VFW, all 6 buses arrived and we ate within an hour and half. I yelled to get them on the buses. The commander asked how I did it. I told him I yell a lot. Three buses to Norfolk base and three to botanical gardens, then reverse. What I learned here is when the group is too large it’s difficult to decide who will take us to our destination, so we split up. All will see what they signed up for, only at different times.
Is there any advice or any piece of information you’d like to leave for future planners?
In Seattle, watch for the rainy season. You want all attendees to have nice weather to walk around your tours. There is plenty to see and do there.
Does your group have any special traditions?
We have a memorial board that names are read on Saturday's Banquet night. We don't throw wreaths in the water or ceremonies. These folks enjoy the times together and I try not to dwell on the bad times. But we also have a memorial plaque with 105 names of deceased members.
What were some of your favorite memories from the reunion?
Our Ship in Bremerton with the ferry ride back to Seattle, The Museum of Flight, and Pike Place Market throwing the fish.
Did you encounter any surprises while planning the event?
No, I begged the fella at the PSNS to let us on the pier to see our ship through letters and conversations. He said “no” like three times. We stood by the bow with our group as trucks entering the area passed us. The guards said nothing we was safe. We got our pictures and stayed a good half hour there then to a VFW post for lunch. This INDY is an east coast ship. We had 180 people in Seattle with three buses.
Anything else you think we should know?
It’s been a work of love and on February 10, 2018, I spent 4 days and 50 hours of driving to Brownsville, Texas where the INDY is getting cut up. There were four of us that went and networked a sleep over in Dallas, and a sleep over in So Padre Island. On Monday February 12th, at 9am, we entered the work site. I saw 50 cars in the parking lot. So, 25 guys cutting sections out with a huge crane lifting it over to the ground where 25 guys are cutting it up smaller. I photographed it all for Facebook. I got three sheets of 3ft x 5ft American Military grade steel Year 1957 to be plasma cut in 3x5 inch piece 3/4 inch thick. I had to go on the scales (900 pounds). I got arresting cable and sections of flight deck. I was like a kid in a candy store but could not go crazy with this steel. I put 2000 miles on my car. It was an experience the four of us will never forget...We head to Biloxi, Mississippi for December 3-7, 2018. I hated to do this setup. The casinos want gamblers not social clubs. I got’em a great hotel rate there. But I hate doing this one. All the venues are small, and I am splitting 4 buses, two to one place, then switch. It’s a pain but manageable. Thanks Denis Bagley President of INDY Assoc.