HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — U.S. Navy veteran Thomas Lohmann will never forget the men he served with on the USS Dashiell during the Korean War.
“There was a bond. Everybody was your brother,” Lohmann told 24 Hour News 8.
One of his shipmates, Bill Steffey, was determined to preserve that bond. His wife Laura Steffey remembers a conversation they had years after the war, right after they met.
“It wasn’t a month till he said, ‘Will you help me host a reunion?’ Silly me, I said yes,” Laura Steffey joked Tuesday.
Initially, the reunion was small and just for Korean War veterans, but it was later expanded to include World War II vets who served on the destroyer.
The reunion kept happening year after year. At one point, more than 60 sailors showed up.
“I think it’s love for one another. And friendship,” Lohmann said. “Everybody on the ship, they would’ve done anything for one another.”
Over the years, they’ve met in California, New Hampshire and everywhere in between. This year, they decided to meet in Holland.
But this, the 38th year, will be the reunion’s last. Many of the men have passed or are in poor health.
Bill Steffey made it to 37 reunions. He died in October. His wife and daughter showed up in his honor and to honor what he started all those decades ago.
“It is a family. It’s been great and I’m so sorry to see it end,” Laura Steffey said.
For the men who served and their families, this final time together is cherished. It’s bond that has spanned time and distance. It’s a group forever tied through love of country and love of each other.
“It’s been great,” Lohmann said. “I enjoyed every minute. I enjoyed their company.”