Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association at The Peppermill Reno Resort

There are times as a DJ when events transcend a simple party. This is especially true when deejaying weddings, which I tend to specialize in. The ability to witness and be a small part of a couple's most special day is something that drives me to give 200%, to exceed their expectations, and make indelible memories for the couple and their family and friends. 

For these reasons and more, I love to do weddings and it is the majority of my business. I am proud to have been a part of well over eight hundred of them, and proud of the fact that people see me as a "Wedding DJ", and a damn good one too!

But back in the day, when I was still lugging around crates of vinyl I deejayed nightclubs and reunions, birthdays and conventions, car shows and holiday parties. I still, to a lesser extent, do these other types of events, but they generally don't excite me as much as a couple's first dance or their elaborate Grand Entrance.

But holding a special place in my heart are veterans. I grew up with WW2 vets telling me their stories. My parents' generation fought in Vietnam. My best friend from high school watched MLRS launches and distant tank battles in Iraq at 73 Easting. I am in awe of our vets. The closest thing we Americans have to royalty are our honored service members.

I've had the pleasure of deejaying reunions and parties for ships, air wings, SEALs, and Marine units. I've done Xmas parties for Depots and squadrons and deejayed the Nevada Military Governors Ball. One of my favorite of these events was the USS Oklahoma reunion. The battleship was sunk at Pearl Harbor and my contact and the person uncharge was one of the few that escaped from the hull after days on confinement when the ship rolled over. To talk to those gentlemen and eavesdrop on their stories was a highlight of my career.

Another highlight for me was this past weekend when I had the honor of deejaying at the 2016 Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association convention held at the Peppermill

If you are unfamiliar with the WACs, they were formed in WW2 as a way to get large numbers of women into the Army. Up until the war, there were very few women in the Army, excepting nurses, and even fewer officers. The WACs were 100% volunteers. They served our country with the utmost distinction doing everything short of actual combat, and I am sure they did that when called upon. 

My aunt was a WAVE- the Navy's version of a WAC, and she was proud of her service and her contribution to the war. I didn't know any WACs prior to this weekend, but I was able to meet quite a few and be in awe of their dedication and patriotism.

The organization honors those original WACs and all the women who have served in the Army since. The attendees came from all over the country for this convention and were ready to shake it loose a bit after a great dinner and fantastic remembrances by Major General McWilliams (Ret.). MG McWilliams shared stories emphasizing humorous and poignant anecdotes about her career and the careers of those she worked with. Her theme that she wove throughout her talk was that the contributions of this group, its members, and the thousands of WACs they represent should be remembered, recorded and shared with loved ones as well as future generations. 

Indeed, as I spoke to many of the ladies, they told me stories of perseverance against adversity from both within the Army and from without. These ladies, every one a volunteer, worked twice as hard as their male counterparts to level the playing field, enabling the current generation of men and women to work together without much thought as to gender or MOS. Each one of these trendsetters contributed tangibly to the security of our nation and to the progression of equality in our society and yet they were approachable, fun, and absolutely proud of the service they chose, the United States Army. The camaraderie was palpable. They share a bond that is unbreakable. To be a small part of their celebration was a true honor and their closeness reminded me of those men of the USS Oklahoma. 

Major General McWilliams said something that will stick with me for the rest of my days. She said she gets thanked for "her service" quite a bit, and while that is fine, it really doesn't do these women and many vets justice. "Service" sounds like they were called up, they did their job, and went on with their lives. For millions of vets this is very true, and we are thankful for them. But this room full of women (and some of their veteran husbands) were all volunteers. They chose to make the Army a career, to move constantly, to accept less pay than the private sector, all for our benefit.

She said instead, thank a veteran for everything they have done for our country.  The sacrifices they made were worth it to them. Let them know that you appreciate them. And I do. 

A WW2 vet leads the conga line :)
The Peppermill sets the bar very high when it comes to service, food, AV support, and the countless little things that help make a convention a success. The Naples Ballroom was filled with conventioneers and several other nearby rooms were set up for meetings and roundtable discussions. I spoke to the Head Waiter after the event and had nothing but praise for his friendly and efficient staff.
Starting the march!
Having a crowd that musically spanned nine decades was a blast! Playing Glenn Miller through Motown through Justin Timberlake can present some deejays with a challenge but he ladies were ready to dance and had lots of favorite requests. They had an auction and other ways to raise money for their causes and drawings and even some singing made it a unique and energetic evening. I loved how they began- with a Sergeant Major leading everyone in the room to the theme from "Bridge Over River Kwai" and ended with them locking arms and singing "God Bless the USA" at the top of their lungs. What an extraordinary group of ladies, veterans, and patriots. I was honored to be in your presence and thank you for all you did and all you continue to do for our great nation!