What a way to celebrate our 10th anniversary!
The official total was 298 in attendance but last minute arrivals after registration had closed brought the total to well over 300. By far the biggest and most would say best reunion since we Vietnam era Manchus held our first national get together in Las Vegas back in 1998.
Was there a highlight? There were many. Chief among them was the huge turnout in first time attendees.We are still counting noses but it looks like we had 30+ newbies on hand in Memphis. The new guys and oldtimers alike were treated to a better organized affair this time out thanks to the help we got from Armed Forces Reunions - AFR. AFR organized a series of well attended outings for Manchus and Manchu Family members to Beale Street, a City Tour � which included what has to be the world's most pampered ducklings at the Peabody Hotel. For many the highlight of offsite activities was the tour of Graceland. The Manchus were there in force. The Manchu Open Golf Tournament drew a record number of entrants but ended with a familiar result. Perennial champ Tom Maddux edged out Dan McKinney for top honors despite Al Baker's best efforts at gerrymandering the handicap system in his favor. Maddux and McKinney have are now tied with two victories each in the annual event.
The Executive Committee was sufficiently impressed with how things went this year that we have decided to ask AFR to handle the heavy lifting for our 2008 get together. Speaking of 2008, the membership voted overwhelmingly to hold next year's reunion in San Antonio. Watch the website for details which will be posted when details are finalized.
We had an impressive turnout for the annual business meeting which, in keeping with tradition, was kept mercifully short. The important business before us included the decision to continue our support for the 4/9 Manchus now serving in Iraq. The membership voted to continue our support with gift packages as well as a donation of $1500 to support a coming home party at Ft. Lewis when the Manchus end their tour in Iraq. Additionally, we decided to put together a reception committee to attend the coming home celebration with the new Manchus. The membership voted to return Cheri Criteser as Secretary/Treasurer, Alen Fyfe as Vice President and me, Larry James as President. We gratefully accepted the honor.
At the Saturday Banquet was its normal mix of missteps and memorable moments. Despite the president's inability to follow a clearly worded script we managed to get things back on track with the help of Johnny Guidry's nine-year-old granddaughter Alyssa who sang our National Anthem with gusto not to mention skill.
I had the honor of officially dedicating this 10th reunion to the most deserving of the Manchus -- our medics. Certificates of Appreciation were awarded to those medics in attendance and will be mailed to those who could not be there with us. I was also privileged to read remarks prepared by two Manchus who could not be there -- former Manchu 6 John Henchman who was kept away by family obligations, and currently battalion commander LTC Bill Prior who is now leading the Manchus in Iraq.
The biggest surprise of all came from our remarkable younger brothers. An unforgettable video mixing images of the 4th of the 9th in Vietnam with the 4th of the 9th in Iraq. It truly blew us away.
The evening was capped off with our fund raising auction which replenished the kitty for next year's reunion. Thanks for your generosity.
It was a remarkable get together and I look forward to seeing you all in San Antonio the third weekend in September, 2008.
Keep Up The Fire
4/9 Infantry Manchu (Vietnam) Association
Photos by Wade Z. Pittman
This is the Memphis photo show. It is very short with 26 photos,about 3 minutes long,6 second in between each photo.
John Henchman's Message Manchu 6 1967/68
Betty and I are sorry we cannot be sharing this event with you this year. Betty had knee replacement surgery four weeks ago so travelling just yet is out of the question.
Those of you who were in Portland for last year’s convention will remember that I made some remarks about our motto “keep up the fire”. I said that all of us do not hear or see so well anymore, and our joints are getting kind of creaky. In spite of all those things that seem to come to plague us as we grow older, my most fervent wish is that somehow we will rise to the challenge to come together each year.
There will come a time when our Iraq service brothers and sisters will join us to swell our numbers. Until they do, we need to remember their suffering and sacrifice in a war that is becoming increasingly unpopular--just as our war was as we struggled in the steamy jungles of Vietnam to do the duty our country asked of us.
Right now, look around the room.
You see lots of old soldiers--and wives, sweethearts, or friends who you brought along. Despite all our troubles, the thing I would urge on each Manchu is to be patient and proud, always remembering to look out after the soldier next to you--just as we all did so many years ago.
It is with great humility that I join you as a member of this “band of brothers” rest assured that every day I think about you, the wounded living, and quietly grieve those who bled out their last on some forgotten jungle path or on the Hoc Mon bridge.
I look forward to being with you next year--in the meantime, never forget to “keep up the fire”
“Manchu 6” (1967 1968)
Col. Prior's Message Manchu 6 1967/68
Thank you for the opportunity to address the assembled Manchus at this year's reunion. My name is LTC Bill Prior and it is my distinct honor and privilege to serve as the commander of 4-9 IN. I am Manchu 6. I may be far away from you physically, but I am close in spirit.
I hope that all are in good health and enjoying their time with one another. There is a special bond between Soldiers, particularly those who have fought and sacrificed together, that never dies -- they are brothers in the purest sense. It is always good to be with family and I trust that you will make the most of your time together.
About a year ago I attended your reunion dinner in Portland, OR and made a few comments about our training for impending combat. Since that time, we completed our preparation and moved to Kuwait then Iraq. Since mid May 07, we have been involved in continuous combat operations while protecting the population in our sector near Taji, Iraq.
Although many years have passed, I am sure that many of you would instantly recognize the Manchu daily grind. Despite advanced equipment and weapons, the job of the infantryman has really not changed much. The trooper's day is usually spent patrolling, establishing ambush positions, guarding, maintaining his equipment or (our favorite) sleeping. Our battalion HQ is in Taji, Iraq, but we maintain combat outposts throughout the sector. Our operations are mostly small scale and concentrate on separating the relatively small number of insurgents from the general population. The heat here is often oppressive, sometimes reaching 120 degrees. We make contact with the enemy every day, usually through improvised explosive devices, small arms fire and/or indirect fire. I assure you that most of that contact is on our terms and we will continue to aggressively pursue him much to his displeasure.
As they have throughout the history of our regiment, our Manchus are simply marvelous. They carry the heaviest loads and endure the harshest conditions without complaint. I am continuously amazed at their ingenuity, initiative and courage in the face of the enemy. As a figure of merit, since combat operations began for us some 4 months ago we have awarded or recommended 56 medals for valor to 4-9 IN Manchus including one Distinguished Service Cross, 3 Silver Stars and a Soldier's Medal. The youngest privates and lieutenants are now seasoned veterans that can recognize an enemy ambush from far off and quickly maneuver to destroy the foe. These men are our national treasures and they are making a difference. The level of violence in our area has fallen sharply and we are beginning to see real signs that the general population is actively rejecting the lies and terror of the insurgents.
This progress is not without a high price, however. Staff Sergeant Kristopher Higdon and Private First Class Adrian Worthington of B Co and Staff Sergeant David Kuehl, Specialist Matthew LaForest and Private First Class Willard Powell of C Co paid the ultimate price here in Iraq to defend our country and way of life. I ask you to pray for them along with the many Manchus who fell in Viet Nam and other conflicts. They are our brothers and they will not be forgotten. I also ask that you pray for the healing of their families and for the health and healing of the 51 other Manchus who have been wounded in the course of our operations so far and for the safety of all Manchus still in contact.
Finally, I want to thank you for your unwavering support. As you know personally, it means the world to us. I realize that not everyone agrees with the policies that brought us to Iraq, but no one can question the sincerity, courage and bravery of the soldiers who are here fighting the enemy day in and day out. I always tell new soldiers that there are many, many people who support them and look to them to carry on the finest traditions of the storied 9th Infantry Regiment and I always mention your association by name. Your packages, letters and general support truly make a difference and we deeply appreciate them.
Thank you COL Henchman, CHP (BG) Crowley, COL Baker, Griff Killgrove, Bear Criteser, Larry James, Sam Coleman, Bob Garner and all "seasoned" Manchus for your inspiration and example. The Manchus of today will continue to count you as brothers and make you proud and we will always Keep Up The Fire.
LTC Bill Prior
The Al Baker Report - Reunion Casualty 2007
I have attached a picture from the Saturday night dinner during the Memphis reunion that I think helps tell the reunion story. While these reunions are known for considerable partying, these get-togethers are not without their share of drama as this picture clearly shows. We all remember the tense moments when former B Co. commander, Al Baker, mysteriously went down during the auction. The official report indicates he tripped, but many eye witnesses are convinced that a terrorist sniper was involved. I personally believe that there was more than one.
The point is that after Baker was able to low crawl back to his position, former B Co. medics Doc McAdams and Doc Lupo were right there to tend to their former boss. This photo was taken (at great risk to the photographer) seconds after McAdams was told that he was about to amputate the wrong arm. Like a pro he quickly adjusted. The expressions of concern and terror on the faces of the onlookers (unaccustomed to combat medicine as they were), pretty well tells it all.
Actually during subsequent medical discussions, it was decided to give the wound a couple days to heal before resorting to radical surgery, and immediate medication with available beverages commenced (or continued). For me, as a former B Co. rifleman, I can only say that the pride was overwhelming. I could only think that these guys just keep getting better (and that's the truth!).