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Membership meeting

Monday, Sept. 3, 10 a.m.

Crystal City Hyatt Regency

Washington, D.C.

The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m. by president John Vasa.

The sergeants-at-arms advanced the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.

Treasurer J.R. McIlroy presented a treasurer's report, saying there was good news and bad news.

"The bad news is we're losing money. The good news is we can afford it," he said.

He said the association had a balance of $108,000. He was encouraged by the good turnout at this year's convention and said he thought the association would probably have another three or four conventions.

He said expenses were up, but noted some of those, such as the Checkerboard chorus and travel expenses for the Diggers, would be eliminated next year.

President Vasa read a statement thanking the membership for the privilege to serve as president the past two years.

He said it had been a trying year, with the loss of association leader and Checkerboard editor Bill Meyer and the resignation of legal adviser Bob Hogan. He announced the appointment of Phil Benefiel as legal adviser and Donna Bernhardt as Checkerboard editor.

Vasa said he attended Meyer's funeral in November and other members in attendance were McIlroy, Dr. John Ingram, and Stewart Boone, who had the privilege of sounding "Taps" at the service at the cemetery.

Vasa gave a brief report of the board meeting, which was held Saturday. He said appointments of Benefiel and Bernhardt had been ratified and a proposal by Donald Mehus asking for funds to digitize the Checkerboard had been tabled until the 2008 board meeting.

Executive director Donna Bernhardt presented a membership report, saying there are 2,002 current members including 186 widows and 206 associates. There were 28 new members for the year.

She also gave the report of the Little Rock Convention. Attendance was down, with 382 registered. She reported a loss of $9,811, mostly attributed to audio-visual charges, wheelchair rentals, a loss in the hospitality room, and the free taco night.

A report of the Washington, D.C., convention showed attendance was up, with 647 registrations.

There was no report from the Archives committee, with the absence of chairman Harry McCracken.

McIlroy gave a report of the planning committee. He said the committee was planning one or two years in advance. The 2008 convention will be in Kansas City and future potential sites include Memphis TN, and St. Louis MO. Sites will be contained to the central U.S.

"We'll try to run out of money when we run out of members," McIlroy said. Any remaining funds will be used for monument upkeep at Krinkelt.

Frank Smollon said the committee should consider Washington, D.C., as a permanent location for the convention in view of the good attendance.

McIlroy said that was an option.

A recommendation to combine with other associations for conventions drew no comment and no consideration.

McIlroy said other options included conventions later in the year and fewer tours.

The bottom line, he said, was that the conventions and the association would continue.

Joe Johnson gave a nominating committee report. The slate of officers included Johnson, president; B.O. Wilkins, vice president; and Lawrence Apple and Charles Eubanks, new board members. The nominations were approved by acclamation.

Stewart Boone presented a resolution in recognition of the Checkerboard Chorus, which was approved. The resolution is printed elsewhere in this issue.

The Checkerboard Chorus CDs still are available. The CD includes the history of the 99th, as narrated by Vernon Swanson.

First timers were recognized.

Nick Gianopoulos said he is a member of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge education committee. He encouraged all members to tell their stories.

"Schools are always looking for speakers to relate their experiences," he said. Students are eager to hear the personal stories.

"There aren't many years left to tell our story, so get out there and tell it," he said.

Rick Manners said the American Ex-POWs have a similar program. They go to schools to relate their experiences.

Members were reminded the Ken Burns series on World War II would be on PBS Sept. 23.

An inquiry was made about the Diggers Fund. The fund has a positive balance.

Chuck Fidler said the Diggers and the 99th had done more than any other group to recover missing WWII veterans. He commended the Diggers for their dedication and work.

Max Norris said Bob Humphrey's book would be published next summer. The publisher is the University of Oklahoma Press.

Arnold Taylor thanked all members who showed up for the Washington, D.C., Memorial Day Parade.

The meeting adjourned at 10:55 a.m.