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Membership Testimonials From Shipmates

Walter Marczak, BT2, 1958–1965

Contemplating my first reunion, I was sure there would be no one I knew from more than forty years ago. I had no contact with any crew members since leaving the Bristol in 1965.

When I arrived in Pensacola, I was greeted by four former crew members that I actually worked with and were friends with on the ship. During that weekend I met others who were aboard before and after me. We shared sea stories, experiences, and good times when we were young men, actually many of us teenagers. The memories flowed like water.

I have not missed a reunion since. I realized that we belong to a very unique group. We are bound together by our service on the Bristol. We all have something in common. No matter when you served aboard the ship, we have common experiences. This is a very satisfying and rewarding experience.

Even though I spent 22 years in the Navy, the Bristol, my first ship, had a profound effect on my life. Although the ship has been scrapped, I realize that the Bristol actually is the former crewmembers. Join our organization, come to a reunion; you will experience an event that can only be felt by a former crew member.

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Roger Meek, RD3, 1961-1964

I joined the association in 2003 but didn't attend the Reunion in Norfolk, but I drove up there on Saturday to get together with Gary Hults, one of my shipmates that I hadn't seen in almost 40 years. I was hooked after that. 

I attended my first reunion in San Antonio, Texas.  There I was reunited with some of the guys I was on the ship with and a lot of guys that were on before my time.  It was like the time stopped and we were back on board.  All the memories were rehashed and stories were relentless.  A great time for all.  I attended the next reunion in Charleston, SC.  There were more of my shipmates there and the memories were relived and enjoyed all over again.

I don't know where $15.00 can buy a chance for anyone to relive a memorable chapter in their life. Attending the reunions, re-uniting with fellow shipmates, meeting the guys that were on board before you and those that came aboard after you, sharing your stories and living thru their stories makes this one of the most rewarding things you can do.  I recommend it to everyone ever to set foot on the USS BRISTOL DD857

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Bill Hollenbach, RM2, 1956-1959

I first learned about the reunions from a clipping that my brother sent me from a Jacksonville, Fla. newspaper.  He was a navy career man.  When I received the clipping it was only 3 weeks before the Pensacola reunion.  I called either Dick (Szulczewski) or John (Watt), don't remember for sure which.  Anyway they got the wheels going and set everything up.  

I had no misgiving about attending.  I know the minute I learned about it I wanted to go.  You do think about not knowing anyone for the first time but that lasted about a full 30 seconds after I got there.  I was surprised how my people I remembered but even if there was nobody that I knew I would have had a terrific time.  The people that run, ours and BRAT do a wonderful job. I would tell first timers not to even think about that and get to the next location anyway they can and really enjoy themselves.

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Syd Goldsmith, LT jg Supply Officer, 1961-1962

I learned about the Bristol Assn. quite by chance, trying to locate a former shipmate on the net, if memory serves. This was about three years ago, and I joined the association right away, even though the prospects of getting to a reunion were not good. This is because I live in Taipei, but spend summers in the US until the end of August, and turning around for another 20,000 mile trek just five or six weeks after getting back home is very expensive and more than a little tough on a crusty salt who departed Bristol at the end of 1962.

This year I did, and it was a wonderful experience. Most of the guys I had meals with I had never met before, and they became fast friends -- so much so that I was just amazed. Somehow just having served on the Bristol made us shipmates for all time. And then there were the tales we shared, shooting the breeze late at night in our special meeting room, at meals, on the buses taking us on good tours.

My only disappointment was that I was one of the very few officers who attended. Hey, get on board! Our men don't make us feel guilty because we had it easy and got commissions. These guys gave me a welcome …

It's a long haul for me to get to a Bristol reunion, but it was worth every one of those twenty thousand plus miles in the air, and more. While I might not be able to make it to Newport in 2007, I've already committed to San Diego in 2008. Be there, and you'll never regret it. 

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Manny Calimquim, SK, 1961-65

To all my former shipmates:

I learned about the Bristol reunion when I read it at the "Shift Color" publication a retired Navy quarterly newsletter. I was so happy that it finally surface that it really has a veterans group of sailors that came together to reminisce the olde days when we were young.

Having served number of ships and shore stations in my 20 year Navy career the Bristol remained in the forefront of my memories having been my residence for almost 5 years serving 4 COs, 4 Xos and 4 SOs (Supply Officers), good part of it served as a Steward Apprentice as I came on board in May 1961. Thousand of miles away from home, non-citizen then at the time, The USS Bristol has been very good to me.

I attended my first reunion with my wife, Dolores in Norfolk, Virginia. There I met several former shipmates in the 60's and I felt crazy about these guys for I used to go on liberty with them all the time. Young and single then, I can easily recall those "geedunk trucks" or "Roach coach" in Pier 1 in Newport, late evening girly shows in "Blue Moon Club' by Thames Street, Got drunk with $1.00, 10=cent glass of draft beer, wearing those Undress blues and whites (w/o neckerchief) to go PX in Newport base

Well, I hope our population will increase as I knew there were so many who have been assigned with the USS Bristol during its lifetime.

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Rich Kinka, IC2, 1956-60

Late one evening about five years ago I received a call from an old shipmate, Bob Clark, who I hadn't had any contact with for over forty years. Bob had taken the time and effort to track me down. He told me about the existence of the Bristol association and how to join.

I attended my first reunion in San Antonio in 2004 and as soon as I entered the reception area and was greeted by several of my shipmates the memories flooded back. What a great time we had in remembering long forgotten events and the people we served with. I was amazed that there were at least thirty shipmates in attendance that were aboard at the same time I was. In 2006 the reunion was held in Washington DC and featured the dedication of a plaque commemorating the Bristol at the US Navy memorial. The Association initiated the action and raised the funds to have this plaque installed where it will always remain as a reminder of the Ship and all who served aboard.

The reunions are always held in a first class manner. Great [and reasonable] accommodations. Tours of the host city are provided and there is a lot of opportunity to socialize with shipmates. The wives also have a great time meeting everyone and watching us relive all the memories. I have come away from the reunions with renewed contact with several of my shipmates.

I am grateful to the founders of the Association and to the present officers who are driven to keep the memories alive. I think, for many of us, the Bristol experience was a springboard for the rest of our lives and it is fitting that the Association can bring the crew together.

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Tony Molnar, RD3, 1957-1959

I found the organization in 2001 while surfing the web. I was just looking to find out if there was anything there on the Bristol. There sure was!

My concerns about attending the reunion were 1) that it was 42 years since I left the Bristol (and the Navy) and in all that time I had absolutely no contact with anyone from the ship, 2) The reunion was not just of shipmates from my timeframe but from the life of the Bristol so I wondered if I would I feel totally out of place. So three weeks after 9/11 my wife and I flew to Buffalo.

Within 15 minutes at the welcoming reception I had met and reconnected with a number of my shipmates and over the next three days I made many new friends with shipmates who served before and after me. I have now attended six reunions and am serving as Treasurer.

It has come clear to me that who you were 40 or 50 years ago is only a small part of the equation; the most important thing is who you are now. I would say to prospective members stick your toe in the water. Invest $15 for the first year dues and come to the next reunion. If you don't like it you can then drop out but, try it first before you reject it.

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