To honor, to respect, to remember. Those three desires brought the combat veterans of the 4th Battalion 9th Infantry Regiment to Norfolk, Virginia the third weekend in September, 2015.
The subject was Ruppert Leon Sargent, one of three Manchus to be awarded the Medal of Honor for their acts of heroism during the Vietnam War.
Ruppert Sargent's act of selflessness came on March 15, 1967 when he unhesitatingly sacrificed himself so that those around him might live. His action was recognized for what it was and his comrades-in-arms have not forgotten. And September 19, 2015 we came to his grave in the national cemetery in Hampton, Virginia to honor him. Leading the way was Watty Smith, Sargent's company commander on that day in 1967. With Smith were dozens of his fellow Manchus, their wives and friends.
Samuel Sanders led the prayer at the graveside ceremony.
"He didn't think about it," Sanders said. "He knew his company commander and others were in danger. Nobody took his life, he gave his life. And a lot of people are here because of that act. We can only say thank you."
Hampton Daily Press Newspaper: Video of Watty Smith
The Hampton reunion was the 18th to be held since the association was formed in 1998. At first just a grouping of the men who had served together in the 4/9 during the Vietnam War it has expanded over the years to included anyone who has served or is serving with the battalion.
The weather greeting those in attendance in the Tidewater Virginia region couldn't have been better. Blue skies, low humidity and cool temperatures served as the backdrop to events in and around the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel. Manchus from across the country and as far away as Bangkok, Thailand gathered for a great event. One of the recurring themes at our reunions played out as Ronnie Carrol, Sal Cannizarro, Jack Hook and Larry Ward once again had their names engraved on Manchu Open Golf Tournament trophy. The coveted Hole-in-The-Pole Award went to Bobby Stewart for his patented 90-degree deflection shot.
Norfolk and surrounding area is Navy country of course, even so we ground pounders were welcomed warmly during our tour of the Norfolk Naval Base and a visit to the USS Wisconsin. The mammoth dreadnaught with its 16-inch guns now guards the waterfront in Norfolk, a place of honor for the ship and the crews who served on her. Tours also took the group to the General Douglas MacArthur Memorial and a lunch cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk.
A chief regret for this year was the absence of representatives of the 4/9 Manchus now serving at Ft. Carson, Colorado with the 4th Infantry Division. Recent budget constraints for the active Army have curtailed travel so we were unable to benefit from their presence. We were grateful, however, to the U.S. Air Force for providing an honor guard for the annual Saturday Night Banquet. It was good having Airmen First Class Benson and Mejia, and Senior Airmen Posey and Carriere with us.
The top agenda item at the business meeting was the announcement of the reunion site two years from now We already knew that Kansas City, Missouri , with its central location, good airline connections, reasonable hotel room rates and plentiful activities had already been selected for 2016. The question was where would we be gathering in 2017 for the 20th reunion of Manchus. Enough of the suspense - we're going to San Antonio, Texas. Already the host of one of the most heavily attended, and fun, reunions in 2008, the El Tropicano Hotel on the city's fabled River Walk will once again serve as the center of activity.
Larry James, Alen Fyfe, Bob Lannon and Dan McKinney were honored to be re-elected to their posts of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. All four are grateful to the membership for the opportunity to serve the association. The four of us were once again charged with the responsibility of finding ways to pare down costs in order to make reunion attendance as affordable as possible.
The evening was capped off with our annual auction in which auctioneer Alen Fyfe once again 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. Without the auction we would not be able to fund any association activities.
All-in-all a great reunion.
See you in Kansas City next year.
4/9 Infantry Manchu Association