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january/february 2007

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IN SERVICE

Members of New City, New York, Chapter 333 went on a humanitarian mission to Vietnam last October and November with other Vietnam veterans from Seattle, Washington, and delivered 1,000 pounds of clothing and shoes and 42 wheelchairs, along with hygiene supplies and toys, to some 800 children at four orphanages. The group also visited a school built with funds provided by American Rotarians and held a memorial service near the spot where Sgt. Howard Querry was killed in May of 1968. Chapter members had learned about Querry from letters written by his wife and daughter that were left at the chapter’s traveling museum.

Dade County, Florida, Chapter 121 in Miami had a very visible presence in the Homestead, Florida, Veterans Day Parade with two vehicles and about 30 individuals marching under its banner. The vehicles were driven by new chapter member Samuel Mender and Collette Conroy, the wife of chapter member Marc Conroy. The group included at least one World War II veteran, 90-year-old Juan Lao, and a contingent of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chapter member Dennis Mango coordinated the event.

Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 celebrated its 25th anniversary on September 29 and 30 in grand style with two special events. On the first night, VVA Vice President Jack Devine addressed chapter members at the Rochester Armory, and September 30, the chapter held its Silver Celebration dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Pat McGonigle, the morning anchor on Channel 10 News, served as master of ceremonies, and the keynote speaker was famed former AFVN DJ Adrian Cronauer. Among the awards presented were the Roger Robach Award to Fred Elliott; the Don and Rori Murrell Humanitarian Award to Gail Bologna-Melens and Ray Melens; the Veterans Service Award to Peter Galle; and the Outstanding Service Award to Bruce McDaniel.

Members of Ferndale, California, Chapter 781 played an integral role in a three-day Stand Down held at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale, October 14-16. Chapter Vice President Carl Young served as co-director of the event, and AVVA member Rhonda Nicolas was one of the main organizers of the clothing distribution operation. The chapter posted the colors at the beginning of the event and two members manned a chapter membership and information booth. During the three days, chapter members and others provided services to 176 veterans and their families.

Among the notable events that took place at the Queens, New York, Chapter 32 25th anniversary celebration on September 20 was the induction of Chapter President Pat Toro into the New York State Virtual Veterans Hall of Fame by State Sen. Frank Padavan. The Hall of Fame pays tribute to New Yorkers whose gallantry in the military is complemented by their significant accomplishments as civilians in service to their communities.

Volunteers and members of Central New Hampshire Chapter 41 held a one-day car wash in September to benefit food pantries in Manchester and Concord, the chapter’s home. “The volunteers and members put in a long day of hard work,” said Chapter President Alan Grant, “but we all had fun and raised more than $600.”

Region 5 Director Leverett Hobbs and Buckeye State Council President Tom Burke visited the Mansfield Correctional Institution on October 9 to present Incarcerated Chapter 616 AVVA member Jimmie D. Messmer with the AVVA Fellowship Award, the first Ohio AVVA member and the first incarcerated person to receive the honor. At the same time, Chapter 616 President John Johnson received his high school diploma under a recently enacted Ohio law that awards diplomas to veterans of World War II, the Korean, and the Vietnam Wars who left school prior to graduation in order to serve in the military and were not able to return to school after serving.

Quabban Valley Chapter 405 in Ware, Massachusetts, led the annual Veterans Day parade through the streets of Ware on November 5 with chapter members carrying the unit’s colors. On the same day, Chapter Vice President George Desotell took part in the Mohawk Pow Wow in Canada for the seventh year. The chapter was invited to attend by the Royal Canadian Legion Mohawk Branch 219, and Desotell presented a commemorative wreath honoring the Mohawk veterans. The chapter also recently presented its annual donation to the Open Pantry in Springfield and to veterans incarcerated Hampden County Correctional Center at Stony Brook in Ludlow, Massachusetts.

The Fort Sam Houston Library in San Antonio was rededicated on November 14 and is now known as the Keith A. Campbell Memorial Library in honor of Spec. 4 Keith A. Campbell, the brother of Judy Campbell, an AVVA member of VVA Liberty Bell Chapter 266 in Philadelphia. Keith Campbell, who served as a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne, 11th Special Forces, 3rd Airborne Brigade, trained at Fort Sam Houston. He was killed in action on February 8, 1967, in Bien Hoa during Operation Big Spring.

Members of Mt. Clemens, Michigan, Chapter 154, including Chapter President Pat Daniels, have mounted an effort to get the word out to area veterans about the recent court ruling that adds new locations of presumptive service coverage due to exposure to Agent Orange. “We run into three or four Vietnam veterans a week who have diabetes and are eligible for benefits but don’t know it,” Daniels told The Detroit News. “And the VA doesn’t exactly advertise.” Among other things, the chapter has posted a billboard that reads “Veterans: Get the Benefits You’ve Earned.”

Masschusetts State Council President and Region 1 Director Al Cummings was on hand at the State House in Boston on Veterans Day and was presented with a copy of Gov. Mitt Romney’s Veterans Day Proclamation, which is issued annually and calls for a proper observance of November 11th as Veterans Day “in lasting recognition of the service and sacrifice of those sons and daughters of Massachusetts who served in the armed forces of the United States in time of war or insurrection.”

Memphis LZ Chapter 875 in Tennessee held its annual Christmas party December 7 in support of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center. Chapter members collected more than 250 teddy bears that were donated to abused and neglected children in the Shelby County area. In October, the chapter reached a long-time goal when members delivered two electric carts to the Memphis VA Medical Center to transport patients from their vehicles to the doors of the facility. The chapter raised more than $18,000 to purchase the much-needed carts.

Two past presidents of South Jersey Chapter 825 in Mays Landing, Al Rhodes and Jack Charlesworth, gave a $250 contribution to the eighth Annual Buddy Walk for Downs Syndrome Awareness and Acceptance held on September 16 in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Members of Texarkana Area Chapter 278 in Texarkana, Texas, manned a booth at the annual Cullen Baker Day festival in Bloomburg, Texas. Members distributed information on Agent Orange, PTSD, VA claims, POW/MIAs, and VVA membership, as well as other veteran- related issues.

Phoenix Chapter 726 at Polk Correctional Institution in Polk City, Florida, sponsored a Post-9/11 Day of Remembrance Ceremony on September 21 at the prison’s multipurpose auditorium. The event, which featured the chapter’s Color Guard and the singing of the National Anthem by associate chapter member Larry Williams, marked the “first time in the history of Florida’s prison system” that “nearly two hundred guards, administrators, and prisoners came together on common ground and sat down together for a peaceful and somber meal,” according to the chapter’s Public Affairs Chair, Ted Schultz.

Ross/Fallon Chapter 371 at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility sponsored its second annual Spelling Bee in October. The object of the competition, which drew 24 participants, was to promote the chapter’s educational tutoring program. Correctly spelling the word “claustrophobia” brought first place to Jason Slaczka. The chapter’s AVVA representative, Melvin Anderson-Bey, and James Carter coordinated the event with help from Phil Klintworth.

VETS CONNECT

At ceremonies held November 13 at the Belgrade Events Center, the Bozeman, Montana, Chapter 788 honored the memory of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas Bloem, who was killed in Iraq on August 3, 2005. The chapter presented a plaque honoring Cpl. Bloem to Belgrade High School at the ceremony with the entire student body in attendance. Music was provided by the high school band and chorus.

Western New York Chapter 77 in Tonawanda welcomed Paul Davidson, the executive director of the Veterans of Modern Warfare, to the chapter’s museum and offices last November. VMW is the newly formed VSO that works on behalf of Americans who have served in the armed forces since August 2, 1990. Davidson provided Chapter 77 members and area veterans with information on free membership and benefits of joining the VMW.

Membership Committee Chair Bill Meeks reports that the VVA Information Center set up at the two-day Veterans Day commemoration on the National Mall in Washington last November was a big success. “During those two days, VVA and AVVA members, including board members and national officers, and the VVA national office staff distributed thousands of brochures, membership applications, VVA Veterans, and other information and publications to people interested in joining or supporting VVA and AVVA,” Meeks said. Those who pitched in included Marsha Four, Sandy Miller, Robert Pace, Jerry Yamamoto, Jack Devine, Alan Cook, Barry Hagge, Dee Hagge, Rick Weidman, Michael Lunini, Michael Keating, Mokie Porter, and Joe Sternburg.

Galveston County, Texas, Chapter 685 President Jim Rose and his wife Marilyn, along with chapter members Roland Castanie, Robert Rodriguez, Buddy Farina, and Earnest Mathews, met in December with the family of Sgt. Barry Meza, who was killed in Kuwait in 2004. “We let them know how much their sacrifice and the sacrifice of Sgt. Meza means to us,” Rose said. “I explained to them that we will never let his sacrifices be forgotten and that we will be there for them if they should ever need us.”

Veterans of Graterford, Pennsylvania, Chapter 466 held its 24th annual Veterans Day Service on November 11 in the chapel area of the State Correctional Institution that houses the incarcerated chapter. The theme was “Keeping the Legacy Alive,” and the chapter dedicated the service to the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the famed all-black unit that served on the home front during World War II, fighting forest fires in the western United States.

As of October, Washtenaw County Chapter 310 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had shipped 693 care packages to American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes a recent shipment of Harley-Davidson tee shirts that went over very well. “Anytime we can receive care packages, it is always appreciated,” Special Agent John Monize of the 21st Military Police Detachment in Tallil, Iraq, wrote to the chapter. “However, it is with great privilege and pride to receive them from fellow veterans. I know that as life goes on in the States, it is the veterans whose memories never fade, and the camaraderie embraced by veterans crosses the generations of those who have answered the call before us.”

Quad Cities Chapter 299 in Rock Island, Illinois, sponsored a “Welcome Home Dance for Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans” on Veterans Day at the Col Ballroom in Davenport, Iowa. Partygoers danced to live old-time rock-and-roll by Coupe De Ville and feasted on tacos and tostadas prepared by members of the Mexican American Veterans Association. In the first ten months of the year, the chapter had donated $5,505 to veteran and non-veteran local charities.

Greater Hartford Chapter 120 in Connecticut has given 25 phone cards with 25-30 minutes each to military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cards went to relatives of chapter members serving in those two war zones. The chapter also memorialized Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher B. Cosgrove III in the November issue of The Connection, the chapter newsletter. Lance Cpl. Cosgrove was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq on October 1. He served with Charlie Company, 1/25th Marines Corps Reserve, which was based in Plainville, Connecticut.

POW/MIA

Members of the Honor Guard of Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 joined the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard on November 3 at Arlington National Cemetery at the funeral ceremonies for Marine PFC James E. Widener, who had been listed as missing in action in Vietnam for nearly four decades. “After 39 years, Jim’s remains were positively identified and laid to rest with full military honors,” said the chapter’s Marching Unit Commander Ray Melens. The Honor Guard of Geno Lenyk, Tom Puff, Dick Oleksyn, Ralph Pascale, Tom Gleason, and Bruce Van Apeldoorn was joined by the chapter’s POW/MIA Chair Gail Melens and AVVA Liaison Kathy Gleason, as well as members of the Widener family, who live in the Rochester area.

Mike Lieber, Ed Krieser, and Jim Gourley of Porter County, Indiana, Chapter 905 took part in a flag-folding ceremony during “A Salute to Veterans—POW/MIA,” which was held September 21 at the Portage Bus Barn. The event also included a presentation on the history of the POW/MIA movement.

Retired Army 1st Sgt. Matt Woods was the guest speaker at the November membership meeting of Northern Virginia Chapter 226, The Dean K. Phillips Memorial Chapter. Sgt. Woods discussed his role as a Vietnam War MIA case worker at the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting POW/MIA at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

MEMORIALS

Members of Kentuckiana Chapter 454 in Louisville provided many hours of work during the September appearance of the Moving Wall at Evergreen Cemetery. Members helped set up and take down the memorial, provided overnight security for two nights, and helped visiting Jefferson County school students by participating in seminars about their experiences in the Vietnam War. The chapter also left a wreath at the memorial and hosted a POW/MIA candlelight service. Those who volunteered were Wayne Shaffer, John and Judy Mitchell, Jim Kuiper, Dona Schicker, Ron Eberle, Mike Settles, Gary and Margaret Holmes, Art Decker, and Bob Keller.

The Color Guard from Auburn, Massachusetts, Chapter 554 took part in the October 21 dedication by the town of Auburn of the David P. Kusy Memorial Square. Kusy, who served with the 1st Squadron of the 1st Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam, was the first Auburn resident to perish in that conflict. The 20-year-old Kusy was killed in action on October 21, 1967, in Quang Tin Province. The chapter also displayed its memorial wall at the ceremonies.

SCHOLARSHIPS

Every year, Sacramento Valley, California, Chapter 500 awards scholarships to deserving students who are relatives of Vietnam veterans and who will be attending institutions of higher learning. The scholarships, which are given in memory of chapter members B.T. Collins, Bill Wolf, and Gilbert Murray, are judged on the merits of an essay. The 2006 topic: “How Vietnam veterans paved the way for a psychological definition, as well as treatment, for PTSD for themselves, future generations of servicemen and women, as well as the public at large.” Three $500 scholarships were awarded to Brandon Penrose, Jeff Cichocki, and Michael Mackenzie Callahan Williamson.

Chillicothe, Ohio, Chapter 810 recently awarded two scholarships to deserving offspring of Vietnam veterans: $2,000 to John Daubert and $500 to Kara White. The scholarships were presented by chapter member Rick Grubb.

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