Saki, Will, and Mike at the bar

2/2 81s Reunion 2009


Last updated April 28, 2009

 

 

 
Background | Schedule | Getting Around | BWI | Alexandria | Things To Do | Weather | Miscellaneous


Background

Legend has it that on November 10, 1775, a bunch of fellows got together at Tun Tavern and the United States Marine Corps was born.

Fast forward 215 years to Desert Shield. On December 18, 1990, a 747 carried an 81mm mortar platoon to Saudi Arabia. This group of Marines initially set up at Camp 15 then got sent to the field, in this case, the Rock Quary, on Decmeber 31. Every week or so, this platoon moved closer to the Saudi/Kuwaiti border in preparation for an attack on Saddam Hussein's forces, which occupied Kuwait. On January 17, 1991, the air war began. Desert Shield was now Desert Storm. Then on February 24, 1991, the ground war began. 2/2 led the 6th Marines into Kuwait serving as the front and center battalion of a 9 battalion First Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) attack through the minefield. On February 28, a mere 100 hours after the ground offense began, a cease fire was declared. Mission accomplished! On April 11, 2/2 returned to the states. For more information, read Memories of the Persian Gulf War.

After the Gulf War veterans of 2/2, Weapons Company, 81mm Mortar Platoon went their separate ways, some managed to keep in touch, largely in part to the efforts of Bill Loats. He maintained a Google Groups page so members of the platoon could keep in touch. Folks talked about having a reunion at various times but for several years, none occurred.

On March 6, 2009, Mike Belford flew out to Pennsylvania for business then drove down to Baltimore to meet Will Chaney and me (Saki). The time for talk was over. Mike proposed that we just have a reunion and hope that people show up. In some ways, it was Tun Tavern all over again but this time, the Marine Corps wasn't born...in a way, it was re-born if you believe "once a Marine, always a Marine." And this time it wasn't Tun Tavern but the tavern (bar) at Fogo de Chao in Baltimore, Maryland which is where the photo at the top left corner of this page was taken.


Schedule

Those of us who spent time in the Marines had more than our share of being told what to do. So nobody is telling you what to do, when to arrive, or when to leave. Instead, this is more of the type of event where someone says, "I'm arriving on [some date A], leaving on [another date B], and doing [activity 1], [activity 2],..., [activity n]." Then someone else says, "Cool, then I'll arrive on [some date near A], leave on [some date near B], and do [some activities between 1 and n]." At least that is how it should work in theory.

So the first question is, when do people plan to visit? After talking to Mike and kicking around some ideas on the Google Groups page site, it seems Saturday, November 7 to Tuesday, November 10 is the general concensus. Of course November 10 is our birthday and the 11th is Veterans Day. If you could stay for Veterans Day, that would be fantastic too but that might also be a good time to fly back.

In my opinion, it would be ideal if you can plan on flying in on the night of Friday, November 6 or the morning of Saturday, November 7 then flying out sometime on Wednesday, November 11.

On March 30, 2009, John Howard made the following suggestion (censored for the wives and girlfriends):
  • Friday night dinner in Saki's stomping grounds.
  • Meet Saturday around 1000 at the Corps Museum. Carpool if necessary.
  • Saturday evening dinner at the Globe and Laurel.
  • Spend Sunday in Washington D.C. with dinner in Saki or Will's area.
  • All further details to be determined by the group as a whole or by sub-groups.

  • Getting Around

    My rule of thumb is to take the Metro if I'm in Washington DC and drive if I'm outside of it. When Mike visited in March 2009, he took the Metro and found it easy to get around. The Metro trains run 24 hours a day, are safe, and clean. But a word of caution: there are no restrooms at the Metro stops.

    There are several stops that will take you into the heart of DC but the one that will put you closest to some of the best museums and monuments is the Smithsonian Metro stop which is part of the blue and orange lines. Transferring between trains isn't too difficult but you can make your life a little easier if you minimize this.

    I've scanned in a few maps that I think you'll find helpful. Some of these might be old. Additionally, sometimes I encountered alignment problems during pasting. Hence, if you want more accurate information, precise details, and other maps that show how to get to the heart of the downtown area maps I've scanned, I highly recommend purchashing the source.


    Downtown Washington DC
    Source: Washington DC ADC map.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.


    Downtown Baltimore
    Source: Baltimore ADC map.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.


    Downtown Annapolis
    Source: Anne Arundel County ADC map.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.


    Old Town Alexandria
    Source: Northern Virginia ADC map.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.


    Staying near BWI

    I see two good options when it comes to lodging. One is in my area, just south of Baltimore and the other is Alexandria, Virginia which is south of Washington D.C. Here are the pros and cons of each:

    Baltimore Washington International (BWI) area
  • Close to Will Chaney and me
  • Relatively easy driving
  • Less expensive than Alexandria
  • Close to Baltimore
  • Amtrak accessible
  • I know this area well

  • Old Town Alexandria
  • Close to Washington D.C.
  • Excellent public transportation
  • Scenic
  • Historic
  • Extremely close to the airport
  • Things to do within walking distance
  • Waterfront views
  • Closer to Marine Corps Museum
  • Your wife/girlfriend/family will like it

  • If the BWI area suits your fancy, I recommend flying into BWI (or take the Amtrak), renting a vehicle, and finding lodging nearby.

    Regarding lodging, Fort Meade is about 15 minutes south of BWI. I asked a retired Marine about lodging there and he said to call 301-677-5884 and speak to Angela. I don't know if any of you still in uniform can reserve rooms for those of us not in uniform but if you can, it looks like as of 2009, rates start at $55 and $5 for each additional person or $44 for a single room. Unless you plan on showing up with you buddy still in uniform, it might be hard to get on base since a military ID or base sticker is required for entry.

    How does this compare to hotels out in town? I checked 8 hotels/motels on "Hotels and Services near BWI" (a broken link as of 2017). At the high end was Residence Inn for $209 per night. At the low end was Red Roof Inn for a mere $58 per night! Interestingly, the latter is a mere 2 miles from my house. It is a safe area and there are a couple restaurants/bars nearby. It also has very easy access to a highway. It is about 13 minutes from the BWI Airport. It is a boring area but you won't have to drive far to find something to do.

    John Howard suggested lodging in Laurel, Maryland. Laurel Hotels can help you find an inexpensive room. He mentioned staying at Laurel Knights Inn. My search indicated rooms go for $58 per night. I used the same parameters I used for all my other hotel price checks so you might be able to get a room for less...I'm just comparing apples with apples.


    Staying in Alexandria

    If you want to be in a nice area near the airport, the sights, and public transportation, then Alexandria, Virginia is hard to beat.

    To make the most efficient use of time, I suggest renting a vehicle at the airport then driving to the hotel. Ideally, you should pick a hotel convenient to both the airport and the Metro but outside of the busy part of Washington DC. This will give you the flexibility and the freedom to get into the heart of DC as well as the surrounding areas.

    After careful consideration, I would like to recommend flying into Ronald Reagan National Airport, renting a vehicle, then driving 4 miles south to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. See the Old Town Alexandria map. From Old Town, you can catch the King Street Metro which gives you access to the blue and yellow lines. Patrick Street (route 1) passes through the heart of Old Town Alexandria and gives one quick access to highway 495/95 which is also known as the Washington DC beltway. This is about 30 miles from the National Museum of the Marine Corps and a very easy drive.

    I have spent very little time in Old Town Alexandria but what I remember is that it is a nice area with a scenic waterfront section, numerous restaurants, and lots of things to see. The 18 mile long Mount Vernon Trail also passes through the city.

    While it isn't as convenient to me and Will Chaney, I think it is a good location to get one to and from the airport, to the heart of Washington DC, and to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. I believe it will mimimize most commuting frustrations.

    I briefly checked the cost of lodging. The places nearest the King Street Metro are quite expensive, each over $200 per night. Further from the Metro but still in Old Town Alexandria, you might be able to find decent hotel rates for under $150 per night. Depending on the search engine I used, some claimed under $90. I suggest you all compare flight, hotel, car rental packages then report your best finds to each other on the Google Groups page.

    I have some ideas for saving money. Obviously, if anyone is traveling alone, you can share a room. Secondly, since Old Town Alexandria is only 4 miles from Ronald Reagan Airport, you can easily take a taxi to the hotel and share a rental car with someone else.


    Things To Do

    If you read the above sections, then you know this part just lists some ideas to consider. Kick them around on the Google Groups page page and discuss them with each other.


    National Museum of the Marine Corps
    On March 7, 2009, Mike and I visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps. It opened in 2006 and has been a big hit with Marines, former Marines, and families of Marines. You can get guided tours, see some short films, and learn all about the various campaigns in which Marines have fought. I highly recommend this museum for yourselves, spouses, and children. If you only make time for one activity (other than seeing your former platoon-mates), then this is it.

    Entrance and parking is free. It is open to the public 0900 to 1700 daily except Christmas.

    The museum is located in Triangle, Virginia, about 31 miles south of Washington DC and next to Quantico Marine Corps Base. It is quite accessible by car. See Location and Directions for more information.

    I recommend allotting at least 2 hours to see the museum.

    If we can agree on a date and time that most of us want to visit the museum, I can schedule an adult group reunion tour at Visitor and Group Information. Otherwise, we could just pick up a tour open to the general public which occurs frequently.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Globe and Laurel
    If you visit the National Museum of the Marine Corps, then you'll have to make time to eat and drink at The Globe and Laurel Restaurant which is just down the street from the museum. This place is owned by Major Rick Spooner (see second photo at left). According to Mike,
    Spooner is a retired Marine who took Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa and subsequently participated in the occupation of Japan itself as a rifleman with 2/8. He went on to do lots of other things in the Corps including Korea as a SNCO and Vietnam as a Major. Since 1968, he and his family have operated the Globe and Laurel Restaurant, regarded by many as the modern day Tun Tavern, not far from the gates of Quantico. Major Spooner is usually present at the Globe and Laurel as he was when Saki and I visited. He wrote the novel The Spirit of Semper Fidelis. I bought a copy of it at the bar and he was happy to sign it for me...One of the docents from the National Marine Corps Museum tipped me off to the idea that, while Major Spooner takes pains to point out the book is fictional, it doesn't take long to figure out which character portrays the good Major himself.

    "The Major" is a charming gentleman and I could easily see our group spending some time hearing a few of his war stories.

    According to our own John Howard, "The Beef Wellington was better than sex...The menu is varied and moderately priced. It is a great place. Definitely the right place for a reunion dinner." They are closed on Sundays.

    I highly recommend dining at The Globe and Laurel after visiting the museum. The Washington Post also recommends it. See Globe and Laurel Is a Gung-Ho Marine Corps Experience.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Marine Corps Ball
    Since our reunion will include the weekend prior to the Marine Corps birthday, it is likely there will be some Marine Birthday Balls taking place in the area. It is also possible that we might be able to crash...I mean attend one. At the top of the list is the 8th and I Ball. My Marine Corps League commandant might be able to get us in but unfortunately, it is likely it will be on the following weekend.

    Other balls will certainly occur but it is still too early to find out when and where they are taking place or if we can attend. If your significant other has never been to a Marine Birthday Ball, this would be a nice little introduction to our Semper Fi culture. It would also give you (and me) a chance to show off our miniature medals which I have still never worn.

    As the date draws closer, I will post what I find.


    Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington DC
    In Veterans Monuments section below, I mention visiting some of the monument built to honor our brothers in arms. But I list the Iwo Jima Memorial separately. This monument is one that is probably closer to our hearts and minds than the others. Even though none of us were alive when the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi took place, we have a good idea what the Marines had to endure to achieve this bloody victory.

    Visiting this monument on November 10th might be especially fruitful since my Marine Corps League Commandant says there will be a ceremony at the memorial that is open to the public. It includes a concert, speaker, and pass in review. The silent drill team is not scheduled to perform.

    The monument is free to the public. One website says it is open 0700 to dusk daily while another says it is open 24 hours.

    The memorial is just north of Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. This is just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington DC and north of the Pentagon. Unfortunately, it does not appear on the Washington DC map but if you can find the west end of the Reflecting Pool (which does appear on the map), then fly 1.25 miles west, you'll be there.

    Driving to this monument is probably not as difficult as driving to the ones in downtown Washington DC but the easiest way to get there is to take the blue line Metro to the Arlington Cemetery stop then walk two-thirds of a mile north. If driving, I believe the only way to get there is to take Jefferson Davis Highway (route 110) then head west on Marshall Drive. Turn north after 75 meters then drive 400 meters until you see the monument. It is 50 minutes from my house.


    Veterans Monuments in Washington DC
    If you plan on staying for Veterans Day, then I highly suggest paying your respects at the Veterans Monuments in Washington DC. Even if you're not around for Veterans Day, this is a trip worth making. Fortunately, the veterans monuments are very close to each other.

    The Vietnam Veterans Memorial National Monument lies at the western end of the National Mall, adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial in West Potomac Park. The memorial rests just north of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, across the Reflecting Pool. On the Washington DC map, look for the Reflecting Pool which is the blue rectangle on the left side.

    The Korean War Veterans Memorial resides at the western end of the National Mall, adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial in West Potomac Park and immediately opposite the Vietnam Veterans Memorial across the Reflecting Pool. Unfortunately, since my map is from 1994, this monument is not shown.

    The National WWII Memorial is located on 17th Street, between Constitution and Independence Avenues. Unfortunately, since my map is from 1994, this monument is not shown.

    Driving to these monuments is difficult. I recommend taking the Metro to the Smithsonian stop then walking about 0.9 miles.


    Smithsonian Museums
    If you appreciate art, science, or history, then few things can compare to the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC. These are all first class museums. My personal favorite is the Natural History Museum while many people claim their favorite is the Air and Space Museum. These are guaranteed to be a hit with the whole family.

    The Smithsonian Museums are free. They are typically open from 1000 to 1730. I recommend seeing 2 or 3 museums, making sure to arrive at the first as soon as it opens. You can easily spend 2 hours in each museum. Once they close, get a bite to eat then walk over to the veterans monuments.

    Driving to these museums is difficult. I recommend taking the Metro to the Smithsonian stop then walking a very short distance. See the Washington DC map.


    Bus Tours
    Washington DC is famous for its monuments, memorials, and famous buildings. You could spend much of the day just walking from the Washington Monument to the Jefferson Memorial, to the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, and the White House. You could also spend a small fortune paying a taxi to take you there. While I haven't used it, I suggest taking advantage of a bus tour if you want to see some of these places. Many of these tours are narrated and offer numerous stops. Sorry I can't recommend any but you can explore what is available at the following:
  • Washington DC Tours and Sightseeing
  • Tourmobile Sightseeing
  • DC Tours
  • Hop-on-Hop-Off Open-Top Double-Decker Bus tour

  • Baltimore
    Will Chaney lives in Baltimore and I live just south of it. While one could easily spend several days exploring Washington DC, if you have the time, I think it would be good to spend one day in Charm City, the nickname for Baltimore (pronounced "bal-mer" by natives). That's because folks like Chaney are so charming.

    Baltimore is about 40 miles from the heart of Washington DC and an hour from Alexandria, Virginia. Unfortunately, the public transportation isn't as good as Washington DC but it is also more driveable. I find it easy to get into Baltimore but hard to get out. Hence, if you make plans to drive into the city, make sure you also have plans to get out. If there is sufficient interest, folks can meet me at my house in Hanover then carpool into Baltimore.

    The main tourist section of Baltimore is the Inner Harbor. Once you are here, most everything else you'd want to see is in walking distance. In the Baltimore map, the Inner Harbor is the leftmost blue space near the bottom of the page.

    My favorite place in Baltimore is the National Aquarium. This is a first class aquarium and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. If you have kids, they will love it.

    Another place I enjoy is the Maryland Science Center. I've been there a few times and I especially like the dinosaurs. My Hanover page has some photos I took at the museum. Kids will like this place but to be honest, the Natural History Museum in Washington DC is nicer.

    In my opinion, the most underrated museum is the Baltimore Museum of Industry. The tours are good and this place really shows how Baltimore has a much different past than Washington DC.

    If you're a baseball fan, then you'll want to take an Orioles Park Tour. Even if you're not, you may still enjoy it as my parents and I did.

    Being a kayaker, I think I've seen Baltimore more from the water than the land. The skyline is pretty impressive and if you want to show your family the next best thing to an amphibious assault landing craft, then I suggest you taken them on a Duck Tour. I've never done it myself but I think it is probably worth it.

    While not in the Inner Harbor, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum is worth a visit. This museum really shows how railroads are an important part of our Maryland history.

    Please note that the Baltimore map I scanned in is from 2004. Also, I ran into some alignment problems while scanning the two pages and pasting them together so don't rely too heavily on the map for streets in the center of the page where they were pasted together. For the most accurate information, I recommend purchasing a Baltimore ADC map.


    Annapolis
    Initially, I thought a trip to Annapolis would be nice. It is home to the Naval Academy and guided tours are available. Then I thought, "What am I thinking?" These guys are Marine grunts. So what else is there to see in Annapolis?

    There are some nice cruise tours but you won't see a skyline as impressive as Baltimore's in Annapolis.

    There is a significant amount of history in Maryland's capital (Annapolis) which also served briefly as the nation's capitol in 1783. The best way to see all this is to park somewhere in the downtown area (see downtown Annapolis map) then walk. Walking tour information can be found at Annapolis Walking Tour.

    You might want to check out Middleton Tavern which was established in 1750. Or, if you are into fine dining with a waterfront view, check out Carrol's Creek. Your old lady will love it!

    Annapolis is about 20 miles from Washington DC and is somewhat easier to navigate than Baltimore. It has more of a small historic town feel. For detailed information about Annapolis and the roads, I suggest purchasing an Anne Arundel County ADC map.


    Weather

    I can't tell you for certain what the weather will be but according to Weather Underground the historical data for Washington DC on November 10 is as follows:

    High: 59 degrees
    Low: 42 degrees
    Average: 50 degrees

    Sunrise: 0644
    Sunset: 1658


    Miscellaneous

    Nothing yet.