Welcome to AWON Gala Gathering 2018
Gala co-chairs Billie Miers Meeks and Diane Hardy Pollard welcomed 200 AWONers and guests to the 2018 AWON Gala Gathering, Honoring Their Legacy, Honoring Our Legacy, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. At registration everyone received a reusable goody bag and a 60-page program book featuring baby pictures of orphans in attendance and more than 45 memorial ads.
Gala Gathering Board Meeting
Members gathered Friday morning for an AWON Board meeting. The past Board wrapped up business and the new Board was installed. The new Board handed out a member survey and asked members to volunteer.
Gala Gathering Friday Reception
Friday evening AWON members and guests were entertained by the Mergelland Men’s Choir from The Netherlands at a reception featuring a sumptuous hot and cold hors d’oeuvres bar and cash bar. The Margraten Adoption Committee also screened a film for AWON about their adoption program. Emcee for the evening was AWONer Arthur Chotin.
Gala Gathering Arlington National Cemetery
Saturday morning AWON held a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. AWON gathered at the tree planted in 1991 by No Greater Love that is in remembrance of the 405,000 Americans who gave their lives for freedom in World War II. AWON Founder Ann Bennett Mix and several other orphans attended the 1991 planting, the event which gave birth to the idea of AWON. The AWON ceremony Saturday included remarks by Mix and by AWONer Miriam Quinlan Towey, who is an Arlington Lady volunteer. Mix and AWON First Founders Walt Linne and Lorin McCleary then presented a wreath on behalf of AWON at the marker underneath the tree.
Gala Gathering National WWII Memorial
Saturday afternoon, AWON conducted a memorial program at the National WWII Memorial. Tourists and veterans from Honor Flights visiting the memorial got an unexpected treat in witnessing the AWON service, many of them stopping to listen, pay their respects, and take pictures. The ceremony opened with bagpipes and drums from the Delaware State Pipes and Drums unit, followed by the Presentation of the Colors by the Military District of Washington’s Armed Forces Color Guard. A display of AWON Father Posters was held by youth from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Explorer Program with the Freedom Wall (wall of gold stars) in the background and the Lincoln Memorial in the distance. AWONer Rev. Louis Kunz gave the Invocation, followed by a reading of High Flight by new AWON Board President Walt Linne. AWONer Gerry Morenski was emcee and introduced the Mergelland Men’s Choir of the Netherlands, who once again paid tribute to AWON Fathers with Lord, I’m Coming Home and Do You Remember, plus other choral selections. Featured speaker was Maj. Gen. John P. Herrling, (USA, Ret.), former secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Following the remarks, AWON grandchildren read the names of AWON fathers as a candle was lit by their orphan. AWON then placed a wreath at both the Atlantic and Pacific arches of the memorial before the ceremony closed with a bugler playing Taps.
Gala Gathering Banquet
The 2018 AWON Gala Gathering was capped off with the Saturday banquet. Keynote speaker was award-winning journalist, independent documentary filmmaker and Vietnam War orphan Mitty Griffis Mirrer. Mirrer spoke about her non-profit, Gold Star Children, which raises awareness about children who have lost a parent to war. Mirrer’s presentation included a clip from her award-winning film, Gold Star Children, and images of AWON orphans from the AWON program book. AWONer Roger Connor presented the Missing Man Table and Board President Walt Linne gave out several awards. The evening closed with the traditional singing of I’ll Be Seeing You.
Gala Gathering Hospitality Room
The AWON Hospitality Room is where members can talk, laugh, meet new members, catch up with friends and share memorabilia. The AWON Quilt and the AWON Bookstore usually are in the hospitality room also. These are just a small sampling of the photos, people and events from the AWON Gala Gathering 2018. We look forward to seeing you in 2020 in New Orleans.