It was a nice fall day on November 6th when we arrived at the Springfield - Branson airport. We got our rental car at the airport and went to Branson. We ate at the KFC buffet and then on to the Cobblestone motel. We had tickets to Micky Gilley for the 8 PM show so we just had time to drop our bags and head to the theater. Since we had told Taunya early on that we wanted to go to this show she had us tickets on the front row. This really pleased Ina, our friend because Micky is her favorite and one of the reasons she has come with us every year since 1995. We have never missed a year without seeing Micky Gilley. It was a great show as usual and the comedian Joey Riley is always with the fresh jokes to keep you laughing. After the show we returned to the motel for a much needed nights rest.

The morning of the 7th found all the troops gathering at the "hang-out" room at the coffee and continental breakfast. We had the honor that morning of seeing Col. Joe "Joe Willie" Williams and Col. Arlie Blood for the first time since the Grove. Both of these troops are very well preserved and as active as many people I know who are 20 to 30 years younger. We met at our room later in the afternoon for introductions and then went together to the Golden Correl for dinner and the Alan Edward's show. It is a good way to get to know the new troops and we have to eat somewhere and the show is donations only. The Downes from UK who live near the present day remains of the Grove were there and ate with us. This was a very enjoyable time and "Joe Willie" was chosen the be Elvis in Alan's act. He did great and really looked and acted like Elvis. This was really good. At the end of the show Arlie Blood was recognized for his heroism and this also was something that most of you know about but if you don't just do a Google Search for Arlie Blood and you will see.

On the 8th of November it was more meeting and talking and coffee and buffet at the conference room. Later that day at the Daniel O'Donnell show we would also meet Lt. Gen. Sanford Moats who was last to arrive at the show. He too is amazingly well preserved and very active. He lives now In Hawaii. The Daniel O'Donnell was outstanding and once again our heros Blood, Moats, and Hansen were recognized as well and The Elite Grovers. Then it was back to the reception room where it was a great afternoon of comradery. That night we went to the Rat Pack show. We had a group picture made there that was good. This show was a tribute to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. Anytime someone says he or she is "cute" then you know they are not in their high esteem as far as their beauty. If they say "It's nice but" you may as well pack up and get to something else because you can never sell them. If they say it was "OK" then they didn't like it but didn't hate it. Of all the shows we saw this week this is the only show that the general sentiment echoed "OK".

I will not bore you with a "blow by blow" of the rest of the reunion but to tell you that all the entertainment was superb. The Gala was a real high point but the "Wine and Cheese" get together was in my opinion the real clincher. Taunya did a fantastic job setting this up for us. She did this on her own. She is the best group coordinator in Branson but she took it upon herself to cater this event for us and we should have expressed our gratitude to her in some way. I thanked her and I am sure others did also. The cake that was made for us was unbelievable and had Arlie's F86 on it.

If you want to experience the finest and richest comradery of The Elite Grovers - There is no time or place to do it other than Veteran's week at Branson, MO. This reunion does not waver, nor does it change locations. We welcome all Troops who served at the Grove or had or have any connection to the Grove as well as their families and friends. All other reunions are "OK" and should be attended but our Branson Reunion is the "real deal". The escape! The Grovers' reunion is a retreat to a place so true to itself, its' standard is never undone. It is a haven , so intense, so gratifying, it becomes a sanctuary for your emotions ...a destination to return to every year. It's a reflection of your yearly reprieve and much like RAF station Shepherds Grove itself , it is a place to enjoy. Yours to Enjoy. I hope we can keep finding new troops to experience the reunion and as attrition eliminates our numbers I trust that, just as Jim Hollingsworth was the last man to leave the Grove, there will be someone, in a very distant year, at the Branson Grovers Reunion to turn off the lights on November 12th.