MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. - --
It’s the intangible things like pride and honor that keep the old breed of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 reuniting to share stories of living the good life and fighting the good fight.
Recently, Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, the squadron’s commanding officer, and Capt. William Moran, a pilot with the “White Knights,” had a chance to meet their squadron’s plank owners during HMM-165’s biannual reunion in Albany, N.Y.
“We were like little kids listening to Christmas stories,” said Oneto. “Stories about getting shot down and seeing intense combat were rolling off their tongues like you or I would talk about going to get a gallon of milk.”
The two White Knights requested to attend this year’s reunion to give a presentation highlighting the current squadron’s success and direction to more than 50 attendees. The former Marines flew the pair to Albany and showed them true hospitality.
“We had never met any of these men or women, but as soon as we got there it was like we were one big family,” said Moran. “It was a real testament to Marine camaraderie.”
The organization began hosting reunions in the mid 1990s. Each year, new members, many of them Vietnam veterans, use the group as a way to reunite with long lost friends. This year’s event was no exception.
“One of the guys who showed up was shot down during Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for seven years,” said Oneto. “Everyone thought he was dead, this was the first time in almost forty years that his friends have seen him after thinking he had been killed.”
Attendees conclude each reunion with a sermon, led by a White Knight who is now ordained. At the end of these sermons a guest reads a list containing the names of all fallen White Knights, whether they were killed in action or have simply passed away. This year, Oneto and Moran read the list, including two new names; Capts. Kevin Kryst, KIA 2006 Iraq and Joshua Meadows, KIA 2009 Afghanistan
Oneto also volunteered to host the next reunion here in San Diego so that “the young guys here turning wrenches can see where they came from, and that a lot of what they do is the same as when the squadron was stood up."
Oneto hopes to hold the reunion in early 2011, after HMM-165 returns from what may be its last deployment as an HMM squadron. HMM-165 is slated to transition to a tilt rotor squadron soon after the tentative reunion date.
Whether young or old, war tested or not, any Marine can attend these reunions. For more information about the White Knights and their reunions, visit the reunion organization’s Web site at www.hmm165whiteknights.com