Thomas Bolender, ADJ2
James Pruitt, AQ2

A Reunion and an Interesting Story - After 31 years, old Friends are Found!

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From Thomas Bolender, ADJ2, VF-211 (CAG-21), "The Fighting Checkmates"

Service Years: 1971-1975


I have visited your site many times, enjoying the great site and looking for ex-shipmates (squadron mates). Here is a story that I think you will find most interesting and enjoyable for your readers. (attached photos also)

During the 1975 WestPac on board "Hanna", I was a white shirt on deck with VF-211, "The Fighting Checkmates". VF-211 was off loaded in Hawaii to make room for the Marine helo's in preparation for operation Eagle Pull and subsequent operation Frequent Wind. Our birds (F8-J's) continued to the P.I. and were off-loaded with the squadron following via commercial airlines. Ultimately, the squadron moved back onboard and "Hanna" completed her '75 WestPac. The story now gets interesting.

At the end of the cruise I somehow ended up with a squadron coffee mug, with the name "Mr.Chevy" on it. The owner of the mug was James Pruitt AQ2 who happened to be a Chevy Man. Well the years just slipped by and Jim's mug would surface now and then around my house. I told my wife, “that is a very important mug and never throw it out.” Someday I'll find James Pruitt and return the mug.

About two weeks ago I received an email from James. I responded asking if he was the "Mr.Chevy" and if so I have a surprise for you. Sure enough it was him!

After 31 years, James Pruitt is reunited with his VF-211 coffee Mug. Below is James Pruitt's thumbnail of the 1975 Hanna WestPac:

"I got the cup when the Officers coffee mess made an order and I asked if I could order one. At the time I was an AQ2 (Aviation Fire Control Tech). I hopped off the boat in Hawaii because I spoke some Vietnamese, so I was part of the group that went to Grande Island in P.I. to help process the refugees after the fall and subsequent evacuation of Saigon. After that, I stayed on Beach Detachment, and flew home when the Hanna pulled in to Cubi Point for the last time. Never thought about the cup after we got back to Mirarmar; was too busy getting ready to transfer to my next duty location. Then after I launched the last F-8 from there I just packed up and moved to NAS Weapons."

Thanks for the opportunity to share this little piece of history.

Thomas Bolender
ADJ2 VF211 71-75

F8U from VF-211

Submitted 9/21/06
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