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may/june 2009

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IN SERVICE

Greater Hartford, Connecticut, Chapter 120 celebrated its 25th anniversary April 25 with a gala celebration at the La Renaissance banquet facility in East Windsor. Linda Schwartz, the Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs and a long-time VVA member, delivered the Keynote speech. “New England’s largest VVA chapter has a history rich in contributions to our fellow veterans, our communities, and our state that endure even today,” Glenn Beaulieu, the co-chair of the Chapter’s 25th Anniversary Committee, said. “Our silver anniversary is an ideal opportunity to recognize the many people who continue to work hard for veterans and the community.”

A contingent of eleven members of Silver Spring, Maryland, Chapter 641, along with wives, children, and one granddaughter, took time out on Christmas day to pay a visit to the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center. The group met in the hospital’s main lobby, donned Santa hats, red noses, and antlers, and then made the rounds of wards on several floors, including the Community Living Center (formerly known as the Nursing Home). The VVA crew delivered presents and good cheer to veteran patients and to active-duty personnel who were in the hospital that day.

Battle Creek/Calhoun County, Michigan, Chapter 313 recently donated two acoustic guitars to the Battle Creek VA Medical Center for inpatients to sign out and take back to the wards. Members Dave and Nancy Tackett added an electric guitar and amplifier to the donation. Paul Rose, the Chapter President, and Phil Savage, the Project Chair, delivered all three guitars to the hospital’s Recreational Therapy Department.

In February, Northern Virginia Chapter 227 members Bruce Waxman and Jim Thur, along with VVA Government Affairs Director Rick Weidman, paid a visit to the Capitol Hill office of U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly, who represents Northern Virginia. They met for an hour with the Congressman’s chief of staff, then had a brief meeting with the Congressman. Rep. Connolly expressed interest in helping with VVA’s 2009 legislative agenda and agreed to co-sponsor the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009.

In the fiscal year that ended February 28, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Chapter 101 donated $1,390 to veterans’ causes, including the Veterans Relief Fund, and $1,650 to community service organizations such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and the Salvation Army.

Four members of Quad Cities Chapter 299?uin Rock Island, Illinois, led by Frenchy Eaves, went to the Iowa City, Iowa, VA Medical Center in February as part of the Chapter’s ongoing Vet 2 Vet program. The Chapter members visited 75 patients and handed out gifts from the chapter.

Sacramento Valley, California, Chapter 500 hosted Vietnam veterans, their families, and friends on March 28 in a “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” commemoration at the California State Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Sacramento. The event included a wreath laying at the memorial and an open house reception at the Torch Club, renamed “The Bunker” for the occasion.

Western Massachusetts Chapter 111 held its annual Christmas party for residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home last December 13. The members, led by Dob Duffney, and residents sang Christmas carols, and then distributed dozens of gifts for the residents, along with pastries, cakes, and coffee. Jack Kelly and Gerry LaValley organized the party. This year the Chapter marks its 25th anniversary.

The James Michael Ray Memorial Chapter 818 in Albion, Rhode Island, donated $350 to the VA Boston Voluntary Service to become a co-sponsor of the annual VA Winter Sports Clinic for Disabled Veterans, which was held at Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire, in January. More than fifty disabled and amputee veterans, most from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, took part in the clinic. Chapter Treasurer Mickey Emery served as air-rifle shooting trainer. The two other Rhode Island VVA Chapters, Greater Providence Chapter 273 and South County Chapter 325, and the Rhode Island State Council also contributed financially to the event, making a total VVA contribution of $1,350.

Four members of Central Minnesota Chapter 290 in St. Paul recently paid a visit to two social studies classes at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minnesota, where they spoke about their war and postwar experiences to two American history classes. The speakers were former Navy corpsman Dennis Vandermay, Army infantryman John Mersinger, Army Airborne trooper Ron Cathey, and Army infantryman Ed Schutz.

South Bay Chapter 53 in Redondo Beach, California, marked the 25th anniversary of its VVA charter May 9, with a reception and dinner celebration at Coco’s Restaurant in Torrance. Attendance was much greater than anticipated. The Chapter provided the cost of the meal for all guests.

Kentuckiana Chapter 454 in Louisville donated a truckload of winter clothing, toiletry items, and $440 on March 2 to the Pike Street Clinic, a walk-in medical clinic for the homeless in Convington. Chapter members Chet Needy, Terry Rupp, Bob Keller, and John Mitchell made the trip in the truck, which Mitchell donated for the occasion.

Athens Area, Ohio, Chapter 100 is sponsoring an exhibit called “Material Memories: Souvenirs of Athens County Veterans” at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum. Chapter members contributed oral histories and war souvenirs, including snapshots, Vietnamese currency, and an enemy flag that was captured by Chapter member Steve Murray.

Smoky Mountain, North Carolina, Chapter 994 was heavily represented March 28 as a crowd of more than five hundred people showed up at the first-ever parade and ceremonies marking Vietnam Veterans Day in Franklin, North Carolina. Chapter members presented a gun salute during the ceremonies. Last year Congress recognized March 29, the day the last American combat troops departed Vietnam, as a day to honor those who served during the war. The chapter was instrumental in lobbying North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler to have the day commemorated. Since March 29 fell on a Sunday, the ceremonies were held in downtown Franklin the day before. The ceremonies included a reading of the names of the forty-nine men from Western North Carolina who died in Vietnam.

Asheville, North Carolina, Chapter 124 organized the inaugural Vietnam Veterans Day ceremonies that were held March 29 at the Western North Carolina Veterans Cemetery in Black Mountain. The ceremonies also recognized those who perished in Vietnam, and in keeping with VVA’s founding principle, honored local Gold Star Mothers of sons who lost their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Director of the Memphis VA Medical Center recently presented awards to two members of Memphis LZ Chapter 875 for their beyond-the-call-of-duty work helping hospitalized veterans. Ed Stutler was recognized for putting in more than 2,000 volunteers hours at the Medical Center during the last six years. He was the driving force behind obtaining three golf carts to transport veterans from the parking lot to the front door. He also spent countless hours doing the work to get a grant for the VVA van used to transport veterans from their houses to the VAMC. Howard Jenkins was recognized with two honors, a 5,000-hour award and the Presidential Lifetime Service Award.

VETS CONNECT

Santa Rosa, California, Chapter 223 will hold its second annual Welcome Home and Thank You Barbeque for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and active-duty military personnel on June 27 at the Veterans Building. Families of the veterans and military men and woman also are invited to the event. The chapter is working with the Veterans of Modern Warfare to form a local chapter in Santa Rosa.

Acadiana, Louisiana, Chapter 141 held its third annual special memorial service to honor Gold Star Families who have lost sons and daughters in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on Memorial Day, May 23, at Veterans Park in Lafayette. Karen Fontenot, the Chapter Secretary, organized the event, which last year drew more than four hundred people. “We have families that travel from as far away as Florida to attend,” she said. “It is a beautiful reunion for these families. We Vietnam veterans have pledged that one generation of veterans will never again abandon the next generation of veterans.”


MEMORIALS

Cincinnati, Ohio, Chapter 10 celebrated the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Cincinnati’s Eden Park on April 4. The memorial pays special tribute to the more than 90,000 Vietnam veterans who live in the greater Cincinnati area. VVA National President John Rowan, along with representatives of Ohio’s two U.S. Senators, took part in the ceremonies, along with several Ohio VVA Chapter color guards, the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base color guard, and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s bagpipers.

The Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Chapter 862 Honor Guard took part in the unveiling ceremonies on May 17 of the Ohio Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Clinton, Ohio. The centerpiece of the park is a black granite Wall inscribed with the names of the 3,095 Ohioans who died in the Vietnam War.

The Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chapter 203 Honor Guard presented the colors at a special ceremony held on April 24 to rededicate the Veterans Memorial in the nearby city of Rossville, Georgia. During a high-speed police chase, a truck had destroyed the memorial’s granite monument, which is dedicated to all veterans who died in service. The rededication included adding flagpoles to represent the different branches of the military.

Western Massachusetts Chapter 111 is spearheading the effort to undertake a much-needed makeover for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Chicopee. The Chapter, which officially adopted the park in 1991, is working with several city departments on the improvement project. The main change: filling a drained fountain with flowers and displaying a piece of military equipment in the center, which likely will be a Vietnam War era artillery piece. The chapter held its annual candlelight ceremony at the park the day before Memorial Day.

BY TIM DRISCOLL

Chapter 310 member John Kinzinger is the Ann Arbor News 2009 Citizen of the Year. I could write pages on what he has accomplished for his nation, county, and veterans’ groups, the Ann Arbor VA Hospital, the Washtenaw County Honor Guard, Chapter 310 (as past president), the Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Ypsilanti Township, and the Washtenaw County Council of Veterans.

On April 21, John Kinzinger was named the 2009 Volunteer of the Year at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center. He sits on the Voluntary Services Board at the VAMC. He has worked with the hospital to move its chapel to a better spot so it could be used by more veterans. He also worked with the hospital to redesign and redecorate the palliative-care rooms, including installing satellite television in all veterans’ rooms.

More than two thousand boxes have been sent to our troops all over the world because of John Kinzinger’s work with veterans groups and his church. He works with Operation Never Forgotten, creating national recognition for our deployed troops, veterans, and their families. Their roadside digital billboards flash messages such as “Welcome Home” and “Thank You For Your Service.”

With his church he has gone to the Philippines to help a village build houses. He also helps the Salvation Army at Christmas and the residents of Dawn Farm Rehabilitation Center with extra-nice food for their holiday meals. And the list goes on.

In 2007, John Kinzinger was named VVA Member of the Year at the National Convention in Springfield, Illinois. To have guiding lights like the Kinzingers, both John and Jane, in our world of veterans helping veterans is a true blessing.

A Vietnam Veteran’s
High School Diploma

BY CLAUDIA GARY

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. That’s not always the case, of course—particularly for those who served in Vietnam during what would have been their high school years. But when one Vietnam-era veteran stumbled across an unexpected benefit, he was eager to let others know about it.

Michael Bodi, of Chester, Vermont, Chapter 723, grew up in Staten Island, N.Y., and left high school at 15 to help his family. In 1973, after earning his general equivalency degree, he joined the Navy’s construction battalion (Seabees) at age 17. He left the Navy in 1975 and later moved to Chester, where he works as a plumber.

Back in 2008, Bodi said, “When I put in for the Vermont Veterans Medal, I found out through the Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs that there was also a form for getting a high school diploma on their website. So I put in the application.”

On Vermont’s form—which is now available on the Internet at http://www.va.state.vt.us/Downloads/Form-HighSchoolApplication.pdf—Bodi was directed to “Select one school and write it on the front.” He wrote “Green Mountain High School,” submitted the completed form, and waited.

Earlier this year, he said, “the high school called me, and they told me to be at the School Board meeting on February 12 at 5:00. When I arrived, a newspaper photographer was there.” That evening, Green Mountain Union School Board Superintendent Joan Paustian and American Legion southern area commander Ed Brown presented Michael Bodi with his long-awaited high school diploma.

Vermont’s practice of awarding high school diplomas to World War II veterans had recently been expanded to include Korea and Vietnam-era veterans.Brown, who also is a former superintendent for Green Mountain Union High School, said that Bodi’s diploma was the first one he had presented to a Vietnam War-era veteran.

Michael Bodi hopes that many others will soon be similarly honored. The program is now available in many states to veterans by simply contacting their local office of veterans affairs. For his part, Bodi said, “I’ve been telling people about it, trying to spread the word.”

GALVESTON COUNTY, TEXAS, CHAPTER 685
On Behalf Of A Grateful Nation

BY JIM ROSE

Galveston County, Texas, Chapter 685 presented its “On Behalf of a Grateful Nation” prints to the Gold Star Families of the 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas, last May. The chapter gave them eight hundred prints.

Sometimes one event can cascade into a series of wonderful events. We presented a set of our prints to Texas A&M University, where we met retired LTC Stacy Overby, who introduced us to COL Kurt Pinkerton, the G-3 of the 1st Cav Division at Ft. Hood. COL Pinkerton invited us to present our prints to the Gold Star Families of the 2nd of the 5th at its luncheon last May. Later he invited us to present prints to all the division’s Gold Star Families who were at Ft. Hood for the new Memorial Dedication. Some six hundred families were expected.

We invited members of VVA’s Killeen, Texas, Chapter 1000 to participate with us. Three members of our chapter and three associate members attended. Two members of the Killeen chapter and an associate attended. Roland Castanie, an associate member and the artist who created the prints, attended the event and signed them for these special families. He also spoke to all of the families. I thanked them for their sacrifices, as did all of the other VVA and AVVA members.

The cascade effect continued. The Cav is going to be redeployed soon, and we were introduced to the Rear Commander because they have a Purple Heart ceremony each month at Ft. Hood. Don Kennedy of the Killeen Chapter was introduced to them as well. Chapter 1000 is considering attending these ceremonies and presenting the prints. COL Pinkerton told me that he has friends who command brigades across the country, and he will speak to them about our prints for their Gold Star Families. While we were there, I spoke to the President of the 1st Cav Association, who told me that he lived near Ft Bragg, N.C., and had many friends there who would be interested in the prints. The former commanding general of the 1st Cav gave a speech at the ceremony, and I presented one of the prints for his 8th Army Headquaters.

We attended the 2nd of the 5th Cav’s luncheon where Roland Castanie again signed prints. He also presented some original drawings. He presented one print with the Cav patch, campaign ribbon, and Purple Heart medal for its memorial center and one with the Cav patch and campaign ribbon for its memorial information center for future Gold Star families coming to Ft. Hood.

Ever since we started presenting prints to these families, I have been struck that we honor our fallen on Memorial Day, our veterans on Veterans Day, and our flag on Flag Day. We should have a day set aside to honor those who have given their most cherished sons and daughters, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles to our country.

 

 

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