Military reunions sustain Norfolk meeting planning firm
Husband and wife Ted and Molly Dey have built their Norfolk-based company, Armed Forces Reunions Inc., into the largest military reunion company in the U.S.
This April they hosted two prestigious military reunions — the A-6 Intruder Association in Norfolk and the Early & Pioneer Naval Aviators Association in Leesburg.
“The Early & Pioneer Naval Aviators Association is made up of the top 200 of our nation’s greatest naval and Marine Corps aviators,” says Molly Dey. “They are the crème de la crème.”
Ted Dey founded the business in 1988 after working at the Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau with its first national marketing campaign aimed at military reunions. He realized all of the groups had two things in common. “They weren’t professional meeting planners or contract negotiators,” he says, explaining why they needed professional planning services.
Since 1988 the company has handled more than 3,000 reunions in over 150 cities nationwide. Groups include the Stalag Luft III Former POW Association (of “The Great Escape” movie fame), USS Wisconsin Association and the Marine Corps Aviation Association.
“We work with small and large groups,” Ted says. “We can have a group as small as 50 or as large as 1,500. The average range is 200 to 300.”
The company has never planned a convention that didn’t contain some type of military component. “We average 50 to 60 reunions a year plus 10 to 12 U.S. Department of Defense conferences,” Molly says.
Washington, D.C., is the most popular reunion destination, but the company plans reunions from coast to coast. “Certain cities are popular with different military branches,” Ted says. “We like to have groups come to this area in Norfolk. We have some top-notch groups that wouldn’t consider Norfolk if we didn’t suggest they meet here.”
The company has six full-time employees, three of whom are full-time meeting planners. “That includes me,” Molly says. “We travel when the reunion or conference reaches 180 to 200 people. We also have four contract people that can do oversight.”
In 2014 AFR launched its BookMyReunion.com division, a web-based national network connecting reunion-friendly hotels with small-group military reunions.
“We have a unique understanding of military protocol and have built a large network of military-friendly hotels and hospitality partners,” Molly says.