At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the St. Louis reunion was the biggest yet. The official total for attendance was 310. Counting a few who had other commitments and had to leave before the Saturday banquet, the total was most likely closer to 315. Even in tough economic times our annual gatherings just keep getting bigger and better. But don't take my word for it. Each attendee could tell you what they consider the highlights so I encourage anyone who wasn't able to make to St. Louis to be sure and come to Colorado Springs in 2010 to conduct your own poll. I'll have more on coming reunions and the rest of the business meeting in a moment.

For me the highlight this year was the moment during the business meeting when we heard from the wife of Richard Lierdahl the Command Sergeant Major now deployed with the battalion in Iraq. As Lauri Lierdahl was explaining what kind of support the families of the young Manchus are getting and what they need, Larry "Bear" Criteser, stood up and said, "When I last spoke with CSM Lierdahl he said what I had heard many other young Manchus say, "supporting our families is the best way to support us." That was all Ronny Carroll needed to hear. He stood and made a motion to support the families with a $5,000 contribution. It was seconded and with little discussion passed. We are all fortunate to have had Bear and our Secretary/Treasurer Cheri Criteser represent us at numerous functions with the current Manchus at Ft. Lewis. It is because of their efforts that we have such a good rapport with the active duty unit. Running a close second for my highlight reel was the presence of our special guests from Ft. Lewis. In addition to Lauri Lierdahl the contingent included Sergeant Major Lee Baleme and wife Wendi, Manchu wife Kathryn Haynes and two young Manchus - Specialists Johnny Bishop and Patrick Kern. Bishop and Kern will be joining the Manchus in Iraq in a few months. For Kern it will be his second tour of duty there with the Manchus.

The organization for this reunion was outstanding thanks to the services of our Armed Forces Reunion representative Emily. This is the third year that AFR has handled the administrative end of things for us. They put together a good list of outside excursions. The winery tour, visit to Grant's Farm (home of the famous Anheuser Busch Clydesdales) the City Tour and Riverboat Dinner Tour were all well attended and by the looks on the smiling faces much enjoyed. The Executive Committee worked with AFR over the course of the past year to come up with candidate cities for the next two reunions. We decided to push out the planning an additional year in order to make sure our group is well positioned to bargain for arrangements at popular venues. Not to keep you in suspense any longer, the members present voted that the 2010 reunion will be in Colorado Springs and 2011 with be in Washington, DC. We will decide on the location of the 2012 reunion when we meet in Colorado. Watch the website for details which will be posted when details are finalized.

The Manchu Open Golf Tournament drew a good number of entrants. Perennial favorite Dan McKinney was nosed out with a solid performance by Jack Hook who walked off with the honors. Jack was a first time winner but looks like a good candidate to repeat as the champion.

An impromptu Manchu Moustache contest drew a healthy number of participants but none could match the splendid effort of Tom Wilkinson. A lighthearted event for sure but it brought in $150 to the treasury. We had an impressive turnout for the annual business meeting, which, in keeping with tradition, was kept mercifully short. As reported earlier the important business before us included the decision to continue our support for the 4/9 Manchus now serving their second tour in Iraq as previously mentioned. 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.

The Saturday Banquet was a good mix of memorable moments. Our battalion CO from "back in the day" John Henchman spoke movingly about our connections to each other and, most important, the crucial support of our wives and families. Al Baker continued that theme in his remarks, which have been a regular feature of our Saturday banquets since 1998.

The evening was capped off with our traditional auction. Once again the event was in the capable hands of our VP Alen Fyfe. In addition to making it fun, Alen manages to get the most out of the crowd -- and that helps our treasury no end. Your generosity, both in terms of items contributed as well as money spent was mind blowing. The result -- more than $10,000 - means we will have no trouble funding our agreed upon activities for the coming year. Again, we plan to provide free group breakfast on Friday and Saturday next year. We cannot guarantee it but will be on our list of issues when it comes time to negotiate a contract with our host hotel. Providing breakfast this year was a big hit with everyone. Originally intended as a way to make attendance at the reunion easier on the pocket book, the free breakfasts had the effect of creating a whole new mechanism for meeting and mixing. A real winner. It was a remarkable reunion and I look forward to seeing you all in Colorado Springs the third weekend in September, 2010.

Keep Up The Fire
Larry James
4/9 Infantry Manchu (Vietnam) Association

Photos by Wade Z. Pittman
There are 372 photos each photo takes about 5 second and the entire show takes about 38 minutes.
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2009 Reunion Photos

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