It was breathtaking.
No, I'm not talking only about the $57 it cost every time I filled the tank for the road trip from DC to Lowell.
What left me breathless, but not quite speechless, was the 8th Annual Manchu reunion at the Doubletree Hotel in Lowell, MA. For those who weren't fortunate enough to make it here are some of the highlights.
It's hard to know where to start.
Al Baker's Hootenany during the reception Thursday night drew a great crowd and made for a memorable evening. It wasn't long before the repertoire of Broadway show tunes was expanded to include a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda in honor of John Woodley who came all the way from Sydney to represent the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia. John was great company and may have inspired several of us to start saving our pennies for a trip to join them at their next get together in 2008 in Melbourne.
Familiar old faces mixed with new to make the whole weekend special. It certainly was the case for Doug Smone and Jerry Pahlman of Charlie Company. The last time they had seen one another other was on a Medevac helicopter when both men thought the other was not likely to survive his wounds. I happened to be sitting near the door when they met again for the first time since that day. In just seconds the intervening 38 years were washed away and two old friends were together again. I mention their experience because I happened to witness it but it wasn't the only one.
As always, the weekend was kept informal with plenty of time for reminiscing and catching up on what has been going on in each other's lives. A small, but intrepid crew, took to the nearby Trull Brook golf course for the 3rd Manchu Open. This year Tom Maddox of Bravo Company walked off with top honors and has taken possession of the travelling trophy. That will require Tom to be in attendance at the next gathering the third weekend in September 2006 at the Jantzen Beach hotel on the banks of the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. Portland was selected in a close vote over Kansas City and San Diego. We hope to see a good turnout there, especially for west coast Manchus.
Everyone is encouraged to contact the Executive Committee via the Manchu e-mail mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org) to offer suggestions for the site to hold our 10th Annual Reunion in 2007. The selection process takes quite a bit of time so the earlier we hear your ideas the better. All suggestions will be considered by the Executive Committee which will then select three to present to the membership for a decision at the Business Meeting in Portland. The three locations (in an odd-numbered year it must be east of the Mississippi) will be selected on the basis of 1)Cost, 2) Location and 3) Attractions - members strongly recommended that reunion sites include activities that will be of interest to wives and other family members. The Executive Committee got excellent recommendations on how the selection process could be handled better than we have handled it in the past and we have taken them to heart. As a result, proposals for the three potential reunion sites will be made available to the membership well in advance of our get together in Portland so members can make a more informed decision. In addition to posting the three selections on the Manchu web site (www.manchu.org/reunion), brochures detailing hotel facilities and nearby attractions will be available at the reunion well in advance of the vote.
We were fortunate in having several Manchus from the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina attend this year despite the devastating effects of the storm but we know many others may have been prevented from coming because of the disaster. That reminder prompted a decision by the membership to send $1,000 to the American Red Cross earmarked specifically for Katrina Hurricane Disaster Relief. Another proposal was put forward by Jim Bennett for the creation of a memorial project to honor fallen Manchus. Specifics of the program are still being developed. We hope to post details on the Manchu website (www.manchu.org) soon.
The membership voted to return the current slate of officers for another term. Alen Fyfe, Cheri Criteser and I are honored to continue as your Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer and President, respectively. Thank you for your trust and support. The three of us again pledge our committment to serving your needs to the best of our abilities.
See you in Portland and start thinking about where you would like to meet for our 10th Reunion in 2007.
D Co. '68-'69
4/9 Infantry Manchu (Vietnam) Association