Story by SGT Ryan Tatum on 05/16/2018Veterans from the USS Allen M. Sumner Association honored their fallen with a memorial ceremony at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, at the Hunter Army Airfield Chapel May 8, 2018 as part of their annual reunion. The Veterans honored their fallen with a wreath, riffle salute, and port call.
The Sumner Association is unique within its own right, in order to be a member of the association the only requirement is to have served on board the retired vessel for one day. This association has been conducting reunions for the past 20 years honoring their fallen.
Frank DiBello, Veteran and President for the USS Allen M. Sumner Association, to command in 2000 and from that time to present day, the association has been in turbulent seas of sadness and joy.
"When I took charge, we had 40-World War II- Veterans and now we only have four left," said DiBello. "The four that are remaining are no longer ambulatory."
"When we all come together, we tell our stories about our times on the ship and we laugh and even though we have told the same stories it is even funnier than the last," said DiBello with glint within his eyes.
The USS Sumner has so much historical data preserved on the internet, from the the keel (foundation) that made the ship to the last installed urinal complete with model and data from who installed it. None of this would be possible without someone doing the research.
Fredrick Willshaw, a Veteran and creator of the USS Sumner historical website, felt a sense of duty to create the in-depth history of the ship.
"It all started with me trying to find any information on the internet about the vessel that stole my heart," Willshaw said. "I could not find anything. I decided then that I would do it myself."
Over the years, Willshaw went through archives searching for any documents that pertained to the ship. What started as a simple website with a couple of photos and paragraphs that totaled 300 megabytes has now turned in to a website that contains a gigabyte of history.
"I wanted to create a history of the ship that would last longer than I would and to honor those people who serve that didn't come home," Willshaw said. "I like doing it, it is fun."
Most of the Veteran started their adventure at Mayport, Florida where the USS Sumner called home for most of its career and where 17-year-old, Daniel Barrs, assumed his duty as an apprentice.
"It was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute of it," said Barrs. "It is super seeing all my shipmates again and the stories being brought back to my memory."
Barrs, a Daytona Beach native, served aboard the ship from Apprentice to Petty Officer 1st Class and in 1968 he left for another assignment until 1990 he came back home where he retired as a Commander with 32-years served.
Frank DiBello, Veteran and President for the USS Allen M. Sumner Association, came with a request to come to HAAF.
"Because we have member from the association everywhere in the United States we try to be fair to all our members so we have fair and manageable travel plans," said DiBello. "It was truly an honor for the 3rd Infantry to provide a color guard and firing team to help us honor our own because in the end we are all brothers of the same."