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September/october 2009

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IN SERVICE
In the last year the members of Charleston, South Carolina, Chapter 780 volunteered some 3,800 hours at  the Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center  in Charleston. Chapter members Melvin Marks, Richard Schramm, Charles Tupper, and Bill Boyd received special awards for donating their time and efforts. The Chapter’s many other activities during the year included participating in the Wounded Warriors Dinner, volunteering for a Special Olympics dinner, and participating in the VA’s homeless veterans standdown.
As it has in previous years, Racine/ Kenosha, Wisconsin, Chapter 767 participated in the annual Racine July 4th Parade with a large contingent of members and multiple entries. That included replicas of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Frederick Hart statue at The Wall, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial (which included “living statues”), a trailer honoring disabled veterans, and a women’s float saluting Donut Dollies. The Chapter also displayed The Wall float at Raymond, Wisconsin’s Independence Day Parade.
Newark, Ohio, Chapter 55 also had a busy Fourth of July. Chapter members started early by taking part in the June 27 parade in Hanover, Ohio. With Chapter members attending the Heath, Ohio, community celebration and fireworks display later, Chapter President Dave Neudecker married Sue Ashcraft during the festivities in front of the Chapter’s Vietnam War UH-1B helicopter. The Chapter also participated in the July 4th Parade in Granville, Ohio, where its float won second place in the open class. The Chapter then presented the colors and service flags at a musical July 4th tribute at the United Methodist Church in Granville.
The Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Chapter 101 Honor Guard took part in three Memorial Day parades: in Nekoosa, Port Edwards, and in Wisconsin Rapids. The Color Guard is made up of Chapter members Don Schillinger, Jerry Sedall, Tom Sachs, Gary Schoenborn, Bob Holtz, Bill Falkner, Danny Henke, Robert Kelnhofer, and Ron Clark. The group also marched in the June 28 Cranberry Blossom Festival Parade in Wisconsin Rapids.
For the seventh consecutive year, members of Greater Hartford, Connecticut, Chapter 120 participated in the Flag Day ceremony on June 14 at the Windsor Elks Lodge. Chapter President Paul Barry and members Roger Feder, Bill Chiodo, Bob Venti, Pattie Dumin, and Russ Crawford retired the Lodge’s flag and helped present the history of the flag during the official ceremonies.
Northern Virginia Chapter 227, which holds a Memorial Day service every year at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, this year presented $200 to defray the tent rental for the annual Memorial Day Writers Project, which took place that weekend. The tent provides a forum for veterans, their families, and others to express their feelings about the Vietnam War through poetry, music, and writing. Chapter members Roy White and Beau Lockhart helped provide overnight security for VVA’s information tent near The Wall for the night of May 24.
The Central Minnesota Chapter 290 Color Guard took part in the May 30 tribute to American service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Minnesota Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls. The event was sponsored by Salute to the Fallen and the Patriot Guard. Chapter Vice President Ed Schultz headed the Chapter Color Guard and was accompanied by Bob Hoversten and Doc Smith.
The Tuolumne County, California, Chapter 391 Color Guard placed second in the Color Guard category in the 52nd annual Mother Lode Round-Up Parade, which was held May 9 in downtown Sonoma. Led by Barry Schloffel, the Color Guard consisted of Bob Law, Mario Salas, John Marrs, Alan O’Neill, and Carol Southern. The Color Guard also took part in four Memorial Day events at local cemeteries.
The Westport, Massachusetts, Chapter 207 Color Guard, which includes a firing squad of three riflemen, participated in Memorial Day ceremonies at four local squares in the morning, took part in the Westport Memorial Day parade, and then honored local Vietnam War KIAs in ceremonies on the battleship Massachusetts in Fall River. The Color Guard consists of Richard Benivides, Arthur Proulx, Harry Tripp, Arthur Ceasar, Douglas Kehoe, Robert Ouellette, and Dave Coderre.
William R.I. “Easy” Smith of Sacramento Valley Chapter 500 was chosen by California Assemblymember Dave Jones to participate in the Assembly’s second annual Veterans Recognition Luncheon June 17. The event was co-sponsored by VVA’s California State Council. Proceeds from the event are donated to the California State Military Museum and the Purple Heart Memorial in the Old Sacramento State Historical Park.
Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 was presented with a Gold Star Mothers coin at its Annual Dinner in May, recognizing the Chapter’s long-time support. Among the other awards presented at the dinner was one to Monroe County Court Judge Patricia Marks, who runs the county’s Veterans Court.
A contingent from Quad Cities Chapter 299 in Rock Island, Illinois, paid a visit to the Iowa City VA Medical Center in May. Chapter members Hammer Swim, Terry Kramer, Brent Cobb, Ron Schone, Gary Andrews, Jeff Miller, and Paul “Frenchy” Eaves visited with patients and distributed fruit, granola bars, pudding, American flags, hats, pins, bookmarks, and playing cards.
Texarkana Area Chapter 278 hosted its 13th annual Veterans Information Fair on May 16 at the Southwest Center. Chapter members helped between 100 and 120 veterans from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. that day. Those who took part received information about VA and state veteran benefit programs.
A good-sized group from Plymouth-Canton, Michigan, Chapter 528 took part in the Chapter’s recent first Adopt-a-Road Pick-up of the year on May 2: Rich Whipple, Judy and Jerry Thomason, Aggie and Ron Little, Jan and Bob Humphrey, Chapter Secretary Ron King, Dale Luebke, Bill Hays, Dennis Bielskis, Forrest Manley, Bob Hallmark, and Gary Boucher, and AVVA members Susie Wagner, Norma Demerly, Mark Grzesiek, and Karen Whipple.
In addition to making an annual donation to the Indiana Veterans Home, supporting local food pantries, and awarding scholarships, Porter County, Indiana, Chapter 905 this year began honoring the top Junior ROTC students at Portage High School and Michigan City High School with engraved medals.
Incarcerated Chapter 689 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola runs the concession stand at the Angola Prison Rodeo, which is held one weekend in April and every Sunday in October. The Chapter donates ten percent of its net profits to the residents of the Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jackson, Louisiana. The concession income also helps support the Chapter’s Vets Care Program, which helps geriatric and terminally ill patients at Angola’s Treatment Center, part of the prison’s award-winning hospice program.

VETS CONNECT

Chapter 310 in Washtenaw County, Michigan, held another “Support Our Troops” fundraising event on June 9 at Frenchie’s restaurant in Ypsilanti to support the Chapter’s Care Package program. Owner Linda French is a strong supporter of the program; her employees donated their tips from the evening’s activities to the Chapter. The event also included music and a raffle.

MEMORIALS

On Flag Day, June 14, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Chapter 499 conducted ceremonies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Fort Taber Park in New Bedford in observance of the 50th anniversary of the first two recorded military deaths of the Vietnam War, Army MSG Chester Ovnand and Maj. Dale R. Buis.
Angel Almedina Chapter 126 in Manhattan, New York, was one of the sponsors of the Friends of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial luncheon held in May at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. Chapter President Vince McGowan, who represents the Chapter on the Friends Board of Directors, played a big role in organizing the event. Chapter Membership Chair Gabe Stefania recently was appointed to the Friends Board.

SCHOLARSHIPS

Racine/Kenosha, Wisconsin, Chapter 767 presented its annual Stanley Kasprick Scholarship Award in June to Jocelyn Wolf, the daughter of Robert and Debbie Wolf. The Chapter awards up to two scholarships yearly to area high school seniors who meet the qualifications and who submit an essay after interviewing a Vietnam veteran. The 2009 award was presented by Chapter President Dave Niesen and Scholarship Committee Chairman Paul Pankoff.
Westchester County, New York, Chapter 49 awarded six $600 memorial scholarships this spring to recent area high school graduates. The recipients were: Eric Friedman of Somers High School; Casey J. McGowan of Lakeland H.S.; Daniel W. Cannon of Rye Neck H.S.; Anne O. Piper of Bronxville H.S.; Michael R. Saccomanno of Walter Panas H.S.; and Jacqueline P. Grand Pré of Bronxville H.S. The memorial scholarships are given in the names of Pete Lambert, Peter T. McCauley, Hamilton Fish, William Sudderth, Anthony Shine, and Jonathan Shine.
Fort Dodge, Iowa, Chapter 861 presented scholarships this spring to deserving graduating high school seniors. Engraved plaques and checks were presented by Chapter members to Gary and Patricia Montag at West Bend Mallard High School; Norman Edwards at S.E. Webster Grand H.S.; Tom Dorsey at Gowrie H.S. in Prairie Valley; Ron Vincent at St. Edmond H.S. in Fort Dodge; and Steve Ahrens and Jack Riley at Ft. Dodge H.S.
Christine Cordero, a senior at Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, California, received the 2009 South Bay Chapter 53 Scholarship. She won the contest with an essay about the military service of her grandfather, USAF pilot William Cordero, who was shot down in Laos. The essay also dealt with the involvement of her father, Tony Cordero, in creating Sons and Daughters in Touch.
Baltimore, Maryland, Chapter 451 awarded three $500 scholarships to deserving college students: Regina Gerity, who attends the Community College of Baltimore County; Kristina Jackereas of Harford Community College; and Katie Molling of Salisbury University.

 

Education In The Capital

On June 10, at the request of social studies teacher and Killeen, Texas, Chapter 1000 AVVA member Nancy Bush, members of the VVA national staff and Silver Spring, Maryland, Chapter 641 members Mike Najarian and Dave Gudes met students from Taylor Middle School at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The two men talked about their disappointing reception when they returned from Vietnam, the history and meaning of The Wall, and Chapter 641’s Wall-washing program. Deborah Williams, the staff liaison for VVA’s Vets Against Drugs program, gave a brief presentation on that effort.
After leaving carnations at many panels of the Memorial, the children and their chaperons took a bus to their next stop: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. They were standing outside when a gunman shot and killed a security guard. None of the Texas visitors was injured.

 

SHEBOYGAN COUNTY, WISCONSIN, CHAPTER 618:

BY JIM R. RIESENBERG AND JERRY KONZ

For the past six years, members of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Chapter 618 have been invited to Horace Mann Middle School in Sheboygan to share the Vietnam War experience with eighth grade students. Using PowerPoint, overhead transparences, books, maps, video clips, and personal artifacts, chapter members share their personal experiences on life in the war zone and beyond.
“This all began with a contact to former Sheboygan School District teacher, resident grunt, and chapter member Dave Gehr,” Chapter 618 President Jerry Konz said. “We had never done anything like this in the past, so it was difficult to find members who could volunteer three to five hours on a weekday to pull this off.”
The first presentation was built around questions submitted by the students. Gehr, John Webb, and Jim Riesenberg used personal objects, and other audio and visual aids (and memory) to make the presentation. Students voted our presentation the best. Building on that experience, we have expanded our presentation.
Although we do not have representatives from every branch of service, we do try to get information on every branch. For example, this year Riesenberg put together a presentation on the U.S. Coast Guard’s involvement in Vietnam. We also try to allow for questions and answers as part of each presentation.
We also share other information on such subjects as The Wall and other veterans memorials, the POW/MIA flag, and the origin and significance of the Purple Heart Medal.
Jim Riesenberg is Chapter 618’s secretary; Jerry Konz is the chapter president.

 

A Powerhouse Of Support For Veterans In The Heartland

BY CLAUDIA GARY

“We never charge a fee for any service—we never have and we never will,” announces a poster on the wall of the Ozarks Area Veterans Assistance Center. A block from City Hall in Springfield, Missouri, the center looks like an ordinary storefront office, but its staff and the rest of VVA Chapter 952 seem to work miracles every day. Since 2001, they have processed 1,532 VA claims and appeals, turning around the lives of scores of veterans.
A few of those veterans were among the dozen chapter members who gathered over pizza on a hot, humid mid-July Tuesday to talk about their work. Chapter President Wil Dailey fended off praise for nearly an hour.
“The veterans assistance center and the VVA group started out with me sitting at a card table in front of Wal-Mart [in 2001], volunteering to help veterans do whatever I could for them at the time,” Dailey said. He and fellow members including Art Griffin and Herman Brinkman opened the current office on Veterans Day 2003.
“We stand between the veteran and the VA,” said Dailey’s assistant, fellow Vietnam veteran Jerry Ross. “We represent them if they can’t represent themselves.” Ross added that the office has even served “World War II veterans who never filed a claim before.”
“It [only] matters that you were in the service and cared enough to put your life on the line,” says Vietnam veteran Susan Phillips, a college professor. “This is a family; we all experienced the Vietnam era together.”
Springfield, in southwest Missouri, is the seat of Greene County and the home of Missouri State University and nine other colleges. In 2001, Rep. Roy Blunt told a forum at MSU that there were more disabled veterans in this 7th Congressional district of Missouri than in any other district in the country. The nearest VA outpatient clinic, however, is in Mount Vernon, about 35 miles away. Occasionally, Chapter 952 helps a veteran buy gasoline to get to a clinic appointment.
Dailey encourages spouses to participate. “I’ve always felt that your spouse has served in the aftermath of Vietnam for however long you’ve been married,” he said. “So the spouses have just as much say at the meetings as the veterans do.” Their help is also invaluable in Veterans Day chili dinners and other events that support the center’s work.
One chapter member is proud to have been Dailey’s first 100 percent service-connected VA claim. “We couldn’t afford the health care he needed until his 100 percent came through,” said his wife. “If not for that, God only knows where we would be today.”
As for the VA, said Dailey: “I’ve found out that some people there call me Attila the Hun because I take no prisoners. But that’s the way you have to deal with the VA.”
The Ozarks Area Veterans Assistance Center has a web site—www.oavac.org—and can be reached at 417-862-8387.

 

 

 

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