By GINA KINSLOW
Glasgow Daily Times
When Glasgow resident Marjorie Town sent a Christmas greeting to her friend Robert Devore, she shared information about the upcoming Midway Island reunion.
Devore, who once lived outside of Glasgow but now lives in Mount Washington, wrote back, sharing stories about his experiences while stationed on the island.
“I did not know he had been on Midway,” Town said on Tuesday.
Town is a member of the committee organizing the reunion, which will take place June 5-8, honoring and recognizing Midway veterans, dependents, civilians and Battle of Midway survivors.
Devore, a World War II veteran, was part of a military unit that built a submarine base on the island.
In his letter, he wrote about building a still with two buddies, and not being able to see the pier or the gangway during a blackout when returning to his submarine after sneaking ashore for a night of fun.
“I think [his stories] are fantastic,” Town said.
Devore told Town he is interested in the reunion and asked she keep him informed.
Ann Stewart, marketing director for the Glasgow-Barren County Tourist and Convention Commission, shared Devore’s e-mail with members of the media and others earlier this week.
Stewart is helping the committee organize the reunion.
“It’s going real well, but we’ve got to dig our heels in and get going,” she said.
The reunion is the brainchild of Glasgow resident Mike Wilson, who served 15 months on the island in 1972-73.
He came up with the idea for the event after chatting with friends on Facebook.
“It’s the first of its kind, actually, that’s ever been held,” he said.
The last reunion for the Battle of Midway survivors took place in 2000 in San Diego.
The reunion planned for June is for battle survivors, as well as their families, students of the George Cannon School, which was on the island, and those who were born there.
Also included are those who were stationed with the Coast Guard on nearby Curry Island and veterans of the barrier patron squadron. Members of the Curry Island Coast Guard unit served their R&R at Midway.
“I guess the highlight will be those who were in World II and the battle, because we’ve got some history covered there,” Wilson said. “We have found out that three of those Battle of Midway survivors actually live here in Kentucky.”
One of the three, John Wood, lives in Glasgow.
“We couldn’t have a reunion without him being there,” Wilson said.
A large crowd is anticipated to attend.
“It’s going to be a big one. They are learning about it through various sources,” Stewart said.
The itinerary for the reunion, which coincides with the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway, is nearly complete.
The reunion will include a reception, a banquet, a golf scramble, a bowling tournament, World War II era films at the Plaza Theatre, a concert by the Army band from Fort Knox and a memorial service.
“We will be honoring those who were lost in the Battle of Midway and also recognizing the Battle of Midway survivors and World War II vets who were there,” Wilson said. “We’re [also] going to be extending an invitation to all World War II area veterans who want to join us for that memorial service. We want them to come and be a part of it.”
Some of the reunion events will be open to the public, such as the events at the Plaza and the Army band concert.
Wilson admitted this week he never thought the reunion would grow to be such a huge event.
“I figured that maybe we would wind up with 35 to 40 people, to be honest, who would be there just for the latter part,” he said.
The committee is anticipating between 300 to 350 people attending, but he realizes the number could grow even larger.
Wilson also read Devore’s letter and said he was surprised at how he learned about the reunion, but was glad that he did.
“That is who we are really wanting to reach out to … people who were in and out of there during the war and those who helped rebuild it,” he said.
Wilson has discovered a common thread among those he has spoken to about attending the reunion.
“We all had the same feeling when we first got [to Midway],” he said.
At first, they all wondered what did they do to make someone mad enough to get sent to Midway Island.
“When we left, it didn’t take us long to realize we had left paradise,” he said.
They also understood that out of all the military bases at which they had served, Midway was the one they called home.
“You don’t hear that of any ship or anything else, but we have all referred to it, at some point in our conversations, that Midway was home,” Wilson said. “I find that very unique.”
The committee has received some donations to help support the reunion and it has held two fundraisers.
“There are going to be some things we are going to have to pay to use like the state park. We will have to pay to use the theater,” Wilson said.
The committee is considering additional fundraisers.
“We’ve discussed raffling a large TV,” Stewart said.
The committee is also looking for corporate sponsors to help cover reunion expenses.
In addition to funds, the committee is also looking for volunteers.
“We are needing volunteers to help with the committee in setting up programs and other things that are going on,” Wilson said.
Volunteers will also be needed to assist veterans who depend on wheelchairs or walkers.
The committee will continue its planning process at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Ralphie’s Fun Center on Happy Valley Road. Anyone who wishes to volunteer is urged to attend.
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