JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
Staff noncommissioned officers and their guests gathered together for a night of fun and entertainment during the Big Dog Reception at Sywanyks Scarlet and Gold Traditions, in Jacksonville, N.C., Oct. 1.
The reception was open to all SNCOs – past and present – from any branch of military service.
“This is an opportunity for SNCOs to get together and have a relaxing evening,” said John Reed, the director of Main Street and coordinator of the Big Dog Reception. “They get deployed a lot and are under a lot of stress, so tonight, they can have something to eat and just have fun.”
Main Street is an informal organization comprised of 86 businesses that support Marines; it is much like the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee.
The recent influx of thunderstorms and flooding incidents around Onslow County prevented the night’s special guest, Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, from attending. This, however, didn’t stop Reed or retired Sgt. Maj. Ihor Sywanyk, the owner of the establishment, from providing the crowd with hors d’oeuvres and live entertainment by local singers and dancers.
The entertainers sang a number of hits ranging from oldies like “In the Still of the Night” to modern-day pop radio songs such as “No Air.” They also performed a variety of dance numbers, both on stage and within the crowd.
Valerie Morales, an entertainer with St. Charles Productions, serenaded her husband, an active-duty Marine SNCO.
“I’m very excited to sing here tonight,” said Morales.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Joe Houle, director of operations for the Museum of the Marine, sat at a table of living history. Beside him was retired Sgt. Maj. Mike Rooney, a Vietnam War veteran, and across from him sat retired Master Sgt. Joe Blick, who was awarded the Navy Cross for serving in combat during the Korean War. Houle said events like the Big Dog Reception are good ways to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.
“I like the camaraderie, relaxation and good entertainment,” said Houle. “This is a great place to come. Those who didn’t come tonight really missed out.”
Reed has taken a proactive role in supporting military members for the past 27 years, coordinating a number of recognition ceremonies, fundraisers and reunions, both on and off base. The retired Army sergeant first class served in the Vietnam War for two and a half years, but upon his return to the United States, was met with hatred and resistance. Reed said he wanted to ensure that never happened again and does whatever he can to allow the younger generation of service members to network and learn from their predecessors.
Reed said the Big Dog Reception allowed senior SNCOs to meet and mentor junior SNCOs, something he felt was critical for the leaders of tomorrow.
“I’m a bridge builder,” said Reed. “I feel the officers and SNCOs need to build bridges for those behind them. This will ultimately make it easier for the guys who come after.”
Reed is currently organizing a recognition dinner that honors service members and families who have lost loved ones. It is scheduled to take place Oct. 20 and 21 at Alexander’s Night Club in Jacksonville, N.C. Profits will be given to support the Museum of the Marine.