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november/december 2009

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MEMBERSHIP NOTES

IN SERVICE

Steve Lowther, a member of Rock Island, Illinois, Quad Cities Chapter 299, received a Governor’s Individual Award for his work on behalf of veterans June 19 at the 26th annual Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award Program ceremonies in Marion, Iowa. Gov. Chet Culver presented the award to Lowther in recognition of his more than 2,300 hours of volunteer service at the Iowa Workforce Development Office. The Governor’s Volunteer Award program was established in 1982 to honor and recognize volunteers for the commitment, service, and time that they contribute to Iowa’s government agencies and nonprofit organizations. 

Larry Edwards and Don Austin of Genesee, Michigan, Chapter 175 made a visit to a fifth grade class at Atherton Middle School in Burton, Michigan, where they gave a talk about the Vietnam War and donated two copies of The Wall, the book that VVA published in November 2007 as part of the 25th anniversary commemoration of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Several members of Sierra Nevada Chapter 989 in Reno, Nevada, worked with the counselors at the Reno Vet Center to organize its first-ever fishing and barbeque outing for all veterans on May 28. The Vet Center provided fishing licenses to participants who didn’t have them, and the chapter members donated fishing poles, tackle, and bait. Non-fishing members prepared and served the barbeque.

Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Chapter 862 has made a strong push this year to raise funds to help build a new facility for the County Humane Society. The fund drive ended on July 15, and chapter members pledged $2,300 for the effort. With several pledges coming in later in the year, the chapter’s total gift will exceed $5,000.

In the first half of 2009, Incarcerated Chapter 834 at the Lovelock, Nevada, Correctional Center donated funds to several organizations, including $1,500 to the institution for benches and boots; $300 each to Pershing County High School and Pershing County Elementary School; and $100 to the high school’s athletic department in memory of a Navy veteran.

Members of Plymouth-Canton, Michigan, Chapter 528 pitched in on Saturday morning, August 25, at the Chapter’s 33rd Joy Road Pick-up. The effort yielded six trash bags of roadside debris collected over a two-and-a-half-mile stretch of busy road. The group consisted of Wade Rothoff, Rich Whipple, Forrest Manley, Marcel Loosbrock, Bob Humphrey, Ron King, Mike Dicker,  Bill Hayes, Jim Hodgson, Ron Dignan, and Karen Whipple. The Chapter also completed the sixth season of its “CRUZ’N 528” Wednesday Night Car Shows, which averaged 85 cruisers each night. Since 2004, the event has distributed more than $15,500 to needy veterans and organizations such as the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center.

The grand opening of Sacramento Valley, California, Chapter 500’s new Veterans Hall and Resource Center took place September 26. Those on hand had a tour of the new facility located on Auburn Boulevard, northeast of the city of Sacramento. The invitation contained the Chapter’s motto: “Old Nam Vets Helping All Vets.”

Newark, Ohio, Chapter 55’s well-used supply trailer has been upgraded significantly—with an eighteen-months-in-the-making custom paint job worth some $30,000, done by Chris Farrell, an associate member of Mansfield Correctional Institution Chapter 616. The Chapter provided the paint and prep work; Farrell donated the art work, which consists of detailed murals on all sides of the trailer, including a collage of images of the Chapter’s helicopter and a Vietnam War MASH unit with the Vietnam Campaign Ribbon and VVA logo hologrammed over it. “It is unbelievable,” Chapter President Dave Neudecker told the Newark Advocate. “The detail is so precise, you can see a piece of chewing gum one soldier has in his mouth. For a man who has never been in the service, he was able to depict it all. It is a tribute to all veterans, past and present.”

For the fourth year in a row, members of Louisville, Kentucky, Kentuckiana Chapter 454 helped residents of the Bashford Manor Nursing Home with their day trip to the Kentucky State Fair at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. The Chapter members who helped this year were President Bob Keller, Dona Scheicker, and Larry Westerfield.

Cumberland, Maryland, Chapter 172, the first VVA chapter in Maryland and VVA’s largest, celebrated its 25th anniversary October 3. The Chapter and VVA have “come a long way,” Bob Peck, a Chapter board member, told the Cumberland Times News. “If it weren’t for us, health care for the nation’s veterans wouldn’t be nearly what it is. Vietnam veterans were the ones who started pushing for treatment for PTSD and the cancers and diabetes that are caused by exposure to Agent Orange.” Chapter President Bob Cook noted that Chapter 172 “is known nationally as one of the foremost chapters for helping veterans. Chapters all across the country look to us and are organizing themselves like us.”

POW/MIA

Tuolumne County, California, Chapter 391 honored POW/MIA Recognition Day September 18 by distributing more than 1,200 black clovers at nine locations manned by a total of 24 volunteers. That included post offices flying the POW/MIA flag in Jamestown, Sonora, Columbia, Twain Harte, and Tuolumne. The Chapter took in some $900 in donations for its community service endeavors, as well as donations for bricks for a Veterans Memorial planned at the new VA Medical Clinic on Mono Way. “It was a good day, and I want to thank all the volunteers who endured the heat to make this an honorable day,” said Dick Southern, VVA Region 9 director.

VETS CONNECT

Santa Rosa, California, Chapter 223 held its second annual Welcome Home Barbeque July 27 for active-duty military personnel and for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at Veterans Memorial Hall. About a hundred people attended the event, which offered a range of veterans’ services, along with a strong “welcome home” message. The speakers included Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gary A. Medvigy, who formerly served in the U.S. Army Office of Military Cooperation and the Special Operations Command. “We just want to give back to these young veterans,” said Chapter President John Crooker. “No one appreciates veterans more than veterans.”
Staten Island, New York, Chapter 421 is a strong supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides programs and services to severely injured service members during their transition to civilian life. Chapter members recently attended a Wounded Warrior breakfast and a fundraiser. Chapter member Joe Cammarata was a guest speaker at the fundraiser where Chapter President Gene DiGiacomo presented a check for $500 to the non-profit organization on behalf of the Chapter.

After receiving a donation of 77 cases of Girl Scout cookies from the Ann Arbor Girl Scout Council, Washtenaw County, Michigan, Chapter 310 send them to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The labeling, boxing, and mailing took place on August 25. Those boxes brought the Chapter’s total shipments to the troops to 1,742 since the Chapter began its Support Troops campaign in 2002. Postage for all those boxes has added up to some $27,000; the Chapter estimates the value of the contents at $100,000.

Greater Hartford, Connecticut, Chapter 120 has adopted Marine CPL Michael Gero, the grandson of Chapter member Nancy Rouselle. Gero recently deployed for his third tour in Iraq. The Chapter donated phone cards to CPL Gero when he was home on leave, and it will be sending care packages to him.

Spurred on by Chapter member Donald Landrum, Gainesville, Georgia, Chapter 772, in conjunction with Operation Bandanas, is sponsoring Georgia Bandanas, which is sending Psalm 91 (AKA the Warrior’s Psalm) bandanas, free of charge, to American troops overseas. The Georgia program, which is being supported by several other VVA chapters in the state, receives all of its funding from contributions made by churches, civic organizations, and the general public. Operation Bandanas has sent more than 95,000 Psalm 91 bandanas to the troops since November 2006. For more information, see www.operationbandanas.org

MEMORIALS

Members of Charleston, South Carolina, Chapter 780 played important roles in the July 5 dedication of a new War Memorial statue at the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park. The memorial honors those from Mount Pleasant who died in service to their country in all the nation’s wars. Chapter members Walter Springer, Vander Baker, James Gregory, Melvin Marks, and Mike Hadbavny laid a wreath at the base of the statue to honor Vietnam veterans. Chapter member James Livingston, a retired Marine Corps General and Medal of Honor recipient, was one of the guest speakers, as was U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. Confederate re-enactors were present, along with the Parris Island Marine Corps Band.

The groundbreaking for the foundation of the Veterans Memorial at the Ben J. Rogers Regional Visitors Center on Interstate 10 west of Beaumont, Texas, took place on September 28. The Memorial is a project of Southeast Texas Chapter 292 and will be dedicated to veterans of the five uniformed services of all eras. The project has been two years in the making, including design, fundraising, and publicity. When completed, the black granite memorial will be about nine feet high with a five-sided obelisk sitting atop a five-pointed star. On each side of the obelisk will be a half-size bronze statue representing each service, along with a bronze seal. The sculptor is Ron Petitt, a founding member of Chapter 292. The memorial was officially dedicated on Veterans Day.

 

El Paso, Texas, Chapter 844 takes seriously VVA’s founding principle, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” The Chapter works closely with active-duty personnel at nearby Fort Bliss, where many Army units deploy before going to Iraq and Afghanistan, and after they return home.

At regular dinners hosted by another local VSO, Chapter members greet the troops as they arrive. Before dinner, the Chapter Color Guard—Eusebio Molina, Joe Sanchez, Joel Garcia, Ray Fierro, James Dawson, Bill Perry, Harold Self, and Mike Fernandez—posts the colors and presents a POW/MIA table ceremony. Each ceremony honors a missing service member whose name is chosen at random. His name, rank, unit, and other information is read, and then the audience joins Chapter members in rendering a hand salute. After the ceremonies, Chapter members socialize with the troops.

The Chapter also honors a missing service member at the start of each monthly Chapter meeting. The ceremony is similar to the one at the Fort Bliss troop dinners. Immediately following the Pledge of Allegiance, the selected service member is honored by a reading of his name, unit, and available information. The Chapter observes a moment of silence, renders a hand salute, and listens to a prayer from the Chapter Chaplain.

The honored POW/MIA for the month of October was Franklin Harlee Canup, Jr.

 

BY CLAUDIA GARY

While VVA chapters find many ways to help their communities honor fallen soldiers, a chapter near Cincinnati takes part in an unusual community initiative. It turns out that a local Boy Scout troop’s offer to join Chapter 649’s commemoration in Clermont County, Ohio, started with one Cub Scout’s effort to understand the scope of troop losses in Iraq.

During the fall of 2004, Chapter 649’s then-president, George Kinnaird, received a phone call from Boy Scout leader Regina Herbolt, whose son Robby was a Cub Scout. “He had asked his mom, ‘How many is a thousand?’ because the death toll in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom had reached that milestone,” Kinnaird said. “Veterans Day was approaching, so he asked whether he could put out a thousand crosses.” Kinnaird consented, and the chapter helped the Boy Scouts make the extra crosses.

Every Memorial Day since 1993, Chapter 649 has held a 24-hour vigil in the Memorial Park, which local residents often refer to as the “Helicopter Park” since its centerpiece is a restored Huey that was flown in Vietnam. The park is dedicated to Lt. Andrew Haglage, a 25-year-old U.S. Marine Corps pilot who was killed in Vietnam in 1969. Chapter 649’s ceremony has included placing more than five hundred crosses and reading the names of all local residents who lost their lives while serving in Vietnam.

The Scouts initially had contacted town offices for permission to construct a field of white crosses in Union Township Veterans Memorial Park. “When they approached the township,” Herbolt said, “they were told to contact VVA Chapter 649.” That may seem unusual, she said, “but this group of veterans is a bit different.”

Former chapter president Cliff Riley—who received VVA’s 2009 Commendation Medal—remembers that Robby Herbolt “also wanted to recognize local families who had lost someone in the 9/11 attacks. We thought this was a wonderful way for us to reach out to another generation.” Eventually the Boy Scouts put out nearly four thousand crosses.

Chapter 649’s year-round activities include fundraisers and community service.  “We have an annual golf tournament and a biking event—which current president Ron Miller put together,” said chapter secretary Ken Williamson. “We also support various not-for-profit groups, including Joseph House for Homeless Veterans and local food banks.” In addition, he said, “we go to schools and talk to students about the Vietnam War.”

Steve Tam, a charter member of Chapter 649, said that since the chapter’s 1991 founding, “We have a bigger crowd every year, as more people come to realize what this memorial service is all about.” During this year’s Veterans Day ceremonies, he said, “We unveiled a Gold Star Mothers memorial.”

 

BY DEBORAH WILLIAMS

The 21st anniversary session of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Veterans Braintrust took place in Washington September 23-26. The Veterans Braintrust began 21 years ago as a way to bring together experts from around the country to exchange information and ideas about veterans’ issues with Congressional Black Caucus members. 

The forums consist of discussions on a variety of topics including health, education, employment, incarceration, entrepreneurship, entertainment, and youth development. Each Braintrust session is chaired by one or more members of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

This years’s session included discussions of VA claims, PTSD, and a host of other issues. The Veterans Stakeholder Roundtable Discussion consisted of experts, including VVA’s Tom Berger.

VVA’s Veterans Health Council displayed and distributed information at the meeting. On hand were Sharon Hodge, who is a national office staffer, and Jerry Yamamoto, VVA’s Minority Affairs Committee Chair. VVA President John Rowan also attended.

 

 

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