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Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 alumni gathered for the 70th anniversary of the squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Nov. 8. Current and former Marines and their families celebrated the squadron's anniversary with a reunion and social preceding the squadron's Marine Corps Birthday Ball which the alumni were invited to attend as well.

Photo by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

Silver Eagle alumni in awe of current operations

15 Nov 2013 | Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

A recent reunion of Marines and sailors tied together current Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 Marines with those who pioneered the squadron’s success aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Nov. 8.

The squadron, also known as the Silver Eagles, hosted the annual VMFA-115 Reunion Association’s reunion at their hangar, where they invited alumni to tour the work spaces and explore the F/A-18 Hornet.

The alumni included former members of the squadron that spanned over seven decades of the squadron’s history. Members of all ranks and military occupational specialties discussed daily operations of the past with current Silver Eagles.

"It’s interesting to learn about the history and the way things change over time," said Cpl. Kevin M. Gladkin, an aviation ordnance technician with VMFA-115. "Tradition is a huge part of the Marine Corps and a huge part of what I teach [Marines] everyday so to learn from them, hopefully I can take from them the traditions that they’ve carried on and pass it on to my junior Marines."

After touring the squadron, VMFA-115 hosted a social gathering at the MCAS Beaufort Officer’s Club. The alumni were also invited to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday at VMFA-115’s birthday ball held Nov. 10 at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Gladkin, a 22-year-old native of Orion, Ill., showed interest in learning more about squadron and Marine Corps past during the birthday ball.

"I’ve never done it with former members of the squadron like this," said Gladkin. "There’s such a big gap between us and them but they still know what we’re doing."

To some, the reunion was more than just returning to their former squadron it also reminded them of what the Marine Corps represents.

"The Marines are perfect," said retired Maj. William H. Hodson, Silver Eagle alumnus. "The camaraderie is great. To me it’s an emotional experience to come back and see the Marines."

Hodson, outfitted with a "Joe’s Jokers" cap, a nickname given to VMFA-115 when they were first formed in honor of their commanding officer and World War II fighter ace Maj. Joe Foss still remembers members of the squadron while he was a Silver Eagle from 1943 to 1946, as he cruised through squadron mementos during the reunion.

During his time in the Marine Corps Hodson piloted F4U Corsairs, Brewster F2A Buffalos, and the F4F Wildcat, all propeller-driven aircraft. The modern-day technology impressed not only Hodson, but many of the alumni that toured the F/A-18 Hornets.

"With all the modern day technology there’s no comparison. At the time we flew propeller-driven aircraft and now the squadron is flying jet aircraft with all the latest technology," said Hodson, a 90-year-old native of Tacna, Ariz. "I’m impressed with the aircraft, because it’s a technology I’ve never been exposed to."

To Hodson, the chance to talk, share stories and history with the current Marines was a gratifying experience as he also listened to what they had to say.

Hodson, like other alumni, was interested in learning about what the squadron is doing today and what they’re using, because the implements of war are much different than they were in his time.

The appreciation was round circle, with current Silver Eagles taking a lesson from the reunion as well. Even contemplating career choices was affected by the reunion.

"After talking to these guys and seeing what their experience was like things might change," said Gladkin, who will decide to re-enlist or exit the Marine Corps in the near future.

VMFA-115 and the Marine Corps have left their marks on former members and is evident through both former and current member’s dedication and pride in the squadron and the Corps.

"The Marines are the best thing I’ve ever done," said Hodson. "They’ve influenced everything I’ve ever done, best fraternity in the world."

The Marines, as far as Hodson is concerned, are perfect.