This is starting to sound like a broken record but the 2004 reunion of Vietnam era Manchus, the 6th such large scale gathering, saw another record turnout. No doubt the numbers would have been even larger had it not been for the arrival of the third of four hurricanes to hit Florida in less than a month. Even so, well over 200 Manchus and family members were on hand in Las Vegas.
As usual we tried to keep activities low-key with the Saturday business meeting and banquet being the only formal events on the schedule. Still there was plenty to do. Some came early to take advantage of the opportunity to see Vegas and all its many attractions. As happens every year there were dozens of get togethers in the meeting room where a massive amount of memorabilia was on display. There were pictures, maps and souvenirs from the war. We also screened several great videos - the documentary A Time For Honor, and several home movies shot by Manchus during their tours. Seeing Tay Ninh, Mole City, the top of Nui Bah Dinh and many other landmarks in our old AO was fantastic. I hope those who brought that great footage will bring it to the next reunion. I'm sure there are still lots of us who'd love to see the films.
Our 4/9 Association Chaplain, Don Crowley, led an emotional Memorial Service Saturday morning that drew a large and appreciative crowd. Many of you will remember Don from his year ('67-'68)as our chaplain in Vietnam. Not many chaplains can list more than 200 combat sweeps in his resume but that was Don, always there for us when we needed him.
This year the Manchu Open Golf Classic was held for the second straight year. Twelve intrepid souls braved the pre-dawn darkness to head out to the links and a good time was had by all. After all was said and done the first Manchu Open Champion was crowned. Expect Dan McKinney to defens his crown at the contest next year. His name has been engraved on the plaque that will list all winners (except the Orlando event - somehow scoring was just too painful so, discretion being the better part of valor, the permanent record of the tally was destroyed) Those in attendance at the Saturday banquet know that Watty Smith kept alive the "Hole in the Pole" tradition he began in Orlando. This year Alen Fyfe earned that dubious distinction and possession of the traveling trophy, for sending his Titlest up the backside of a duck that wandered within range of his driver. Look out Alen, the "White Winged Avenger" is on your trail!
The major order of business at the annual meeting was choosing the site for the next reunion. Those in attendance selected Lowell, Massachusettes as the site of the 2005 get together. We heard a very good presentation by a representative of the hotel that will host us. Check elsewhere here in the reunion section of the web site for details and start making your reservations and plans to attend now.
Like last year, the Executive Committee is to put together a list of potential sites for 2006. In keeping with the wishes of the members, several cities west of the Missippi will be researched to find locations that meet the criteria of being easy to get to, have interesting nearby attractions for Manchu family members, have the capability of hosting 200+ people, and be as easy as possible on the pocket book. The Executive Committee, by the way, remains the same. Cheri Criteser, Alen Fyfe and I were honored to be asked to serve another year as Secretary/Treasurer, Vice President and President respectively.
It was also decided to continue supporting Operation Uplink, a program to get calling cards to service men and women currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, several volunteers stepped forward to contact the two battalions of the 9th Infantry Regiment currently deployed in Iraq as part of the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division. Our plan is to show them their older brothers are behind them by sending them packages of hard-to-come-by items. We'll keep you informed of progress on this front.
This year we were all honored with the presence of several Manchu family members. Sons, daughters and grandchildren turned out out in significant numbers and we look forward to seeing them in the years to come. We also were pleased to welcome Dave Garrod, president of the 25th Infantry Division Association. Dave addressed the group during the business meeting and made a pitch to have our 4/9 Infantry Manchu (Vietnam) Association become an affiliate of the larger 25th Infantry Association. It will be up to the membership to decide whether to accept the invitation or remain as we are.
While the turnout this year was even larger than last, it still wasn't large enough. There are more Manchus out there we haven't contacted yet or persuaded to get off the fence and come to a reunion. In order to make sure we keep bringing more of us back together I am happy to announce that the Association will produce and distribute as widely and effectively as possible, a printed newsletter that will be mailed to every Manchu we have a mailing address for. In the past we have relied upon our Manchu mailing list and the web site to get the word out. While that has been effective and we will certainly continue using electronic means of getting the word out, we think a printed newsletter will help even more. It is to be published and distributed in January. I have volunteered to serve as editor of the newsletter and have already recruited the services of several Manchus who will contribute articles for the first edition. Todd Dexter has promised to author the feature piece that will make the argument for coming to a Manchu reunion. If you have any suggestions for stories you would like to contribute please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Baker (Bravo CO 67-68) was again our keynote speaker at the Saturday banquet. Al's remarks have become the signature feature of each of our reunions.Al's blend of good humor, warmth and sincerity are always a highlight. This year he pointed out how our lives can be shaped by what can be the smallest things...that only a "few inches" can make all the difference in determing the path our lives take.
The dinner itself was a buffet that featured a "blast from the past", somehow Alen Fyfe, our vice president and reunion organizer extraordinaire, managed to twist a few arms and got a big kettle of Ham and Lima Beans into the serving line. I was amazed at the number of Manchus who loaded up on the "delicacy." It seems tastes have changed. I doubt there were more than a handful of Manchus who could stomach the dish when it came served in a C-ration can. Then again, it could have been the much improved "ambience" of Las Vegas.
The dinner was then followed by the auction, an event that has become part and parcel of the reunions. If you weren't there you missed something. Again, the generosity of those who donated to the auction, and the bidders in the audience led to a significant addition to our treasury -- and that is important for an organization like ours that charges no dues for membership.
I look forward to seeing you in Lowell in 2005.
D Co '68-'69