It was another record breaking reunion with more than 350 Manchus, family and friends in attendance in at the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City, Virginia just across the Potomac river from Washington, DC.
Everything came together for a great experience for all of us 4/9 Manchus -past and present. Our memorial service at the Wall was even better than the similar service we held there in 2000 and that's because this time it was a Manchu effort in every respect. While the 3rd Infantry - the Old Guard - had ably supported the first service in 2000 it was even more appropriate to have active duty 4/9 Manchus from Ft. Lewis, Washington filling that role this time. The invocation offered by our own chaplain, Don Crowley, touched each of us as he reminded us of that bond we all share and of how we pulled together to get through the tough times. After the reading of the names of the 426 Manchus we lost in Vietnam the color guard accompanied our vice president, Alen Fyfe, down to the apex of the memorial where a wreath was placed in remembrance of our fallen brothers.
A variety of outside activities from the Manchu Open golf tournament to city tours, a trip to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as well as a lunch cruise on the Potomac river provided the opportunity to renew old friendships. And, just like years past, there were dozens of get togethers in the meeting room at the hotel where Robert "Willy" Dixson had assembled a massive amount of Manchu Vietnam War memorabilia for display. There were pictures, maps and souvenirs from the war.
As mentioned we were again honored by the presence of a large contingent of currently serving 4/9 Manchus. Making the trip from Ft. Lewis, Washington were battalion commander Lt. Col. James Dooghan and his wife Kat, CSM Jezz Sweezer and SGM Lee Baleme and wife Wendi. Former commander LTC Mark Bieger and wife Amy also came to the nation's capitol for the reunion as did former CSM Richard Lierdahl and wife Laurie. Former B Co. commander Captain Derek Noel rounded out the contingent. The color guard that presented the colors at the memorial service and the Saturday banquet was comprised of SSG Steven Damron, SSG Jesse Czesnowski, SSG Andrew Ward, and SPC Adam Ellis.
During the annual business meeting the membership again decided to continue its support of the Manchu families at Ft. Lewis through a generous $5,000 donation to the Family Readiness Group and another $5,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project which provides programs and services to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and transition to civilian life.
Larry James, Alen Fyfe and Cheri Criteser were honored to be re-elected to their posts of president, vice president and secretary/treasurer.
Now that we are planning our reunions two years in advance we already knew the 2012 gathering would be held in Portland, Oregon. We look forward to returning to the Pacific Northwest and the Red Lion Jantzen Beach Hotel on the banks of the Columbia river. The proximity to Ft. Lewis means we can expect an even greater participation from the active duty Manchus based there. Colonel Dooghan even hinted that we might get a first hand look at the famed Stryker vehicles that now carry the Manchus to battle. I've already put in my bid to drive one. We'll see how that works out. At the very least a visit to Ft. Lewis would be in order.
In keeping with our practice of spreading reunion sites around, we chose to hold the 2013 gathering in Providence, Rhode Island.
We look forward to seeing you all there. Keep Up The Fire
4/9 Infantry Manchu (Vietnam) Association