Question: What happens when 308 close friends get together for three days in a warm and welcoming city?
Answer: They have an outstanding time.
And that is the long and short of the 2008 Manchu Reunion, which was held this year in San Antonio, Texas. Despite concerns that the powerful hurricane Ike that battered Galveston and the Texas gulf coast might interfere or even cancel the 11th annual get together, the weather was great and turned out to be a perfect match with the outcome of the reunion -- it could not have been better!
The El Tropicano hotel did a great job of hosting us. Its location on the banks of the San Antonio River meant it was an easy stroll to all the many restaurants that line the River Walk. From there it was a short hop to the city's most famous attraction, the Alamo. And did the Manchus take advantage of the location. A typical cruise in one of the river taxi would end up meeting several other dismounted Manchu elements on the bridges and riverbanks downtown. It seemed we were intent on taking over the city. By the time we piled out of the tour buses at the San Jose mission, the cathedral and the Alamo our conquest was complete.
In addition to the many area tours and events going on in the city we had a full agenda at the hotel with the mutli-talented Bill Marion hosting "auditions" for his new Manchu Cowboys singing group. The event figures to be a regular feature of future gatherings.
Sam Colman spearheaded a most worthwhile activity this year when he brought more than a dozen Manchus to the Brooke Army Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston to visit the Wounded Warrior Project there. We met the great staff and several of the 56 volunteers who provide a home away from home for family members of the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan. Sam also organized a shopping expedition to local stores to round up donations for the families of the wounded.
The annual Manchu Open Golf Tournament had 24 stalwarts take to the Willow Springs course. Al Baker fought off Larry James in a challenge match that had the loser contributing $100 to the Manchu treasury but the real action saw perennial tourney winners Dan McKinney and Tom Maddux being edged out by first time winner on the Manchu Tour -- Ronny Carroll.
We had another first time winner in the competition for the best Manchu moustache. It was a hard fought battle that pitted the determined efforts of Alen Fyfe and Doc Clark, against the hirsute Johnny Guidry and last-minute entry "the Manchu bear." In the end, the "bear" could not overcome the rajun Cajun and "Frenchy" Guidry took the title and will have his named engraved on the coveted Manchu Moustache Cup.
A full agenda at the annual business meeting saw the membership agree to make a one-time donation in support the family of one of the Manchus wounded during the battalion's deployment in Iraq in 2007-2008. Funds were also set aside to continue support for the Wounded Warrior project at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
Larry James, Alen Fyfe and Cheri Criteser were re-elected to their posts of president, vice president and secretary/treasurer.
At the banquet on Saturday Chaplain Don Crowley arranged for the appearance of a lone piper who played Amazing Grace in remembrance of the fallen. An outstanding video prepared by the current duty 4/9 Manchus, made while they were deployed in Iraq, was aired. Al Baker entertained with his annual address and the Manchu wives were honored with the presentation of commemorative pendants. After all their years of support it was time they got some recognition for all they have done and do on behalf of us Manchus. We also welcomed Ray Medina who led a contingent from A Company, 65th Engineers. It was great to have them with us again since they played such an important role in so many of our operations during the Vietnam War.
The evening was capped off with our annual auction in which auctioneer Alen Fyfe outdid himself, resulting in an engaged audience that bid aggressively for the many great items donated for the event. Since our association charges no dues and the auction is the only means of raising funds for our charitable work, our thanks go to those who contributed items and to those who were so generous in their bidding. Thank you all.
Even though quite a few of the Manchus present were heard to comment that this was the best reunion ever, don't be surprised if the 2009 venue in St. Louis, Missouri tops it.
Photos by Doug & Marie Simone are included below.
Photos by Wade Z. Pittman
The San Antonio slideshow has 127 photos, 6 seconds in between each photo, show is 13 minutes long.