News: Vets, Wounded Warriors join HMM-165 reunion
Story by Lance Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRIMAR, Calif. - Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165, the “White Knights,” opened their hangar doors to host the HMM-165 annual veterans’ reunion at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Feb. 2.
Members of Wounded Warrior Battalion West joined the veterans for lunch, and then took an aerial tour of San Diego aboard HMM-165’s CH-46 “Sea Knight” aircraft.
The HMM-165 veterans, many of whom were the first members of the squadron in 1965, have never held a reunion with the current squadron personnel.
Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, the commanding officer of HMM-165, explained that he attended one of the annual reunions last year and was impressed by the camaraderie still present in the former White Knights.
“I want to expose the current Marines to the veterans,” said Oneto. “Listening to the veterans talk, the only difference between the current Marines and the veterans is age.”
The day’s event also marked the last squadron reunion before the White Knights officially stand down and reform as an MV-22 “Osprey” squadron - VMM-165.
“It’s a sad day,” said Jim Wissman, a member of the White Knights veterans. “Things will change no matter what. I just love being invited to have our reunion here.”
Marines and sailors from Wounded Warrior Battalion West shared in the celebration of White Knight history and enjoyed a helicopter’s view of San Diego for the first time. For many, the occasion marked their first ride in a CH-46.
HMM-165 first hosted the Wounded Warriors in 2009 for motivational flights. Capt. William Moran, a Sea Knight pilot with HMM-165, explained that he wanted to include them in another motivational flight before the squadron stands down next March and the reunion lunch provided the opportunity.
“We want them to know there are other Marines who think of them,” said Moran. “We don’t have money to give them, but we can give them rides. It’s great to get them away from a hospital and back on a Marine base.”
Oneto echoed Moran’s sentiment, “After the sacrifices these guys have made, it’s a great way to give back.”
Current squadron members, veterans and Wounded Warriors came together for a day celebrating camaraderie, the sacrifices of veterans and White Knight history.
“We have a very tight unit here,” said Oneto. “My hope is 10 or 20 years from now we still have the same thing.”