Washtenaw's 2008 Reunion

Our 7th reunion was held in Santa Fe, New Mexico July 30th to August 3rd. Our hotel was "The Lodge", perched on a hill with a view of the city and Santa Fe National Veterans Cemetery. Despite not being well attended, due in part to the skyrocketing cost of traveling this year, plus a few cancellations due to illness, Harold and Ernie Durr, our hosts, did an outstanding job in every respect! This year's reunion turned out to be one of our most memorable yet!

As usual, Wednesday was hotel checkin day, and used by many to recuperate from long distance driving and jet lag. Our hospitality room opened around noon, and was well stocked with donated drinks, beer, liquor and munchies, all compliments of local businesses, and Harold and Ernie!

We held no ship's store sales this year because Tom was unable to attend. Greg Pierceall's collection of Washtenaw Deck Log Books and yearly Command History Reports were once again available for study.

Thursday evening we were honored dinner guest's of the local Elks Lodge #460. As we arrived we were greated by the Santa Fe Fire Department hoisting old glory high overhead on hook and ladder! Inside we were greated by members of the Elks Lodge, American Legion, VFW, and new New Mexico chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Ernie acted as master of ceremonies and introduced the various groups and speakers, and Colors were posted by the Marine Honor Guard, followed with Harold giving a blessing. There were welcoming speeches by representatives from all the groups, and Margaret Durr offered a special thankyou to her brother-in-law, Harold, for keeping Ernie safe aboard Washtenaw, and for bringing him home alive and well!

We had two keynote speakers, both of whom intended to "keep it short", but to our benefit it sure didn't work out that way! Representing the city of Santa Fe, and the son of a very proud Vietnam veteran Marine, was Chief of the Santa Fe Fire Department, Chris Rivera, who, after many kind words, read a proclamation from Mayor David Coss proclaiming July 30th through August 3rd to be "USS Washtenaw County Day". The Chief was followed by John Garcia representing the state of New Mexico for Governor Bill Richardson, who could not be there. John is the New Mexico Secretary of the Department of Veterans Services, and a Vietnam veteran himself. He read a proclamation from the governor proclaiming July 30th through August 3rd to be "USS Washtenaw County Days". Our association president, David Vicknair, accepted both proclamations for us! Did I say "honored guests"? That has to be an understatement!

And they fed us Frito Pie to finish the evening! If you've never heard of it, go visit Mr. Google. It's basically a layer of Frito's covered with red or green chili, and topped off with grated cheese and other trimmings. Or mix both red and green chili, called a Christmas tree! There was rice pudding for desert.

On display for the Elks Lodge dinner was a model/diorama of USS Washtenaw County with Mobile Riverine Force boats alongside, and other memorabilia, including uniform, belonging to Ernie Durr. That would be Command Master Chief Engineman Durr, retired, to the rest of us. After 40 years of service, Ernie finally hung up his wrenches last January! Congratulations Ernie!!!

Friday featured a Fajita dinner for our poolside welcoming party at the hotel.

Saturday afternoon we held our association meeting, with all present voting on a plaque design to display at the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation, after listening to a presentation by Mel Vineyard. The vast majority voted to leave our ribbon bar off the plaque, as it would not show well in black and white, and no other ships had ribbon bars on their plaques. We will be displaying battle stars on the plaque after working on updating the count! Mel, with help from Paul Roberge and Jay Brown, will be hosting next year's reunion in Washington D.C. for the plaque dedication ceremony, and has proposed that the reunion be held between late September and early October.

Our banquet dinner followed the association meeting and included a silent auction, which raised $869. Not bad, considering the auction was not advertised, and this year's turnout was well below average! Dinner featured the New Mexican Fiesta, including Cheese Enchiladas, Beef Tacos and Chicken Taquitos, Flan and Bread Pudding for desert. A Navy veteran provided DJ services for entertainment and dancing.

Of course every day was good for shopping and site seeing! There is plenty of history to visit in the Santa Fe area, including the Plaza and the oldest church in America, the San Miguel Chapel, built in 1610, along with the Palace of the Governors. Santa Fe is well known for its museums and art galleries, and even features an opera house on the hill. Others traveled to nearby attractions such as the thousand year old Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, Angel Fire resort area and its Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Eagle Nest, Los Alamos, and of course, all those Indian Casinos!

We owe thanks to a large list this year. Of course Harold and Darlene Durr, and Ernie and Margaret Durr are at the top of the list for making it all possible, with support from their families and friends! And thanks to members of the Elks Lodge, Marine Honor Guard, American Legion, VFW, Vietnam Veterans of America, Santa Fe Fire Department, Chief Chris Rivera, and Secretary John Garcia for giving us a most memorable evening. Plus we can't forget all the unknown (at this time) donors who filled our hospitality room, and the hotel management and employees for great service, and for being so lenient with us regarding our lower than expected turnout. But last, I think the whole state of New Mexico needs thanking. New Mexico, and Santa Fe in particular have got to be the most veteran friendly state and area in the country. They show a special gratitude to Vietnam Veterans. If you're a veteran looking to move to another state, you might want to put New Mexico on your short list!

Crew Members and wives who attended: Gus and Mary Alegado, Jim and Carolyn Barnett, Jim and Diana Beuving, Bob Coombs, Ernie and Margaret Durr, Harold and Darlene Durr, Darrell Eldridge, Dick and Becky Hamill, Hank and Cindy Hanson, Jim and Margie Hopkins, John Montagne, Jerry and Sachiko Mueller, Greg and Judy Pierceall, Mike and Kathy Shaw, John and Rosalie Strittmatter, David and Roz Vicknair, Mel and Mary Vineyard, Al and Diane Weatherill.

Partial group photo at the Pool Party

Photos by Al & Diane Weatherill

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