A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

April 2000/May 2000

Membership Notes

A VVA Staff Report


Membership

Truman Christopher of CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee, Chapter 203 bet his buddy Charlie Hobbes that the chapter recruiting drive would end up like all those in the past. Tru thought they would be lucky to get 10 new members. Charlie had other ideas. Through sheer determination and will--and a lot of telephone calls--and a weekend stint at the local mall, the chapter has gained 56 new members. In a letter to The VVA Veteran, Christopher says, "All you need is one hard-headed ex-MP with a lot of dedicated members and supporters, and you can add new members to your roll call."

Memorials

The Irish Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a project that will honor the service of the Irish-born who served and died in Vietnam with U.S. and Australian forces. According to project coordinator Declan Hughes, 21 Irishmen have been identified as having died while serving in Vietnam--seventeen with the U.S. military and four serving under the Australian flag. In Ireland, the site selection process has begun, and fund-raising activities are under way. For more information on the Irish Vietnam Veterans Memorial, contact Hughes via e-mail: dectwth@tinet.ie

The Moving Wall traveled through the Southeast in early spring with stops in Charleston, South Carolina; Broward County, Florida; and Barnwell, South Carolina. James "Gunny" Gregory of Chapter 780 encouraged everyone participate in the experience in Charleston. In Broward County, The Moving Wall was displayed in conjunction with the Broward County Veteran Living Museum. Ceremonies included a Salute to Military Women and a Veterans Recognition Day. Chapter 828 sponsored the presentation in Barnwell as part of ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

In Support of Fellow Veterans

Redding, California, Chapter 357 raised $500 for the World War II Memorial Fund at a fund-raising dinner. The chapter also hosted the Pearl Harbor Survivors Breakfast.

Chapter 278 in Texarkana, Texas, donated $275 to the World War II Memorial Fund. The amount represents $1 for each name carved into the Vietnam tableau of the local Korea/Vietnam Memorial. The chapter is also hosting a Salute to Korean War Veterans, June 25, the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the war.

Liberty Bell Chapter 266 in Philadelphia will participate with Chapter 38 of Philadelphia and vicinity and the Korean War Veterans Association at a memorial service on June 25 at the site of a proposed Korean War Memorial. The memorial will honor more than 600 servicemen from the area who died or saw action during the Korean War.

In March, Chapter 303 in Columbia, South Carolina, joined with other veterans to break ground for the Korean War Memorial in Columbia's Memorial Park. The memorial will include a bronze statue similar to one at the Korean Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Rock River Chapter 236 in Janesville, Wisconsin, has resolved to honor Korean veterans during the next three years for their service to our country. Special ceremonies are being planned as part of the commemoration.

In Georgia, the State Legislature passed HR 1029, "A Resolution commending all Vietnam Era/Vietnam Veterans and their families and to recognize May 5-7, 2000, as the 25th Observance of the ending of the Vietnam War."

In February, Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles introduced legislation in the Alaska legislature to proclaim April 9 of every year Former POW Recognition Day and the third Friday in September as POW/MIA Recognition Day. The Governor also supports House Bill 330 and Senate Bill 236, which would recognize November 9 as Women Veterans Day in recognition of the increasing number of women choosing military careers.

Phoenix Chapter 726 at the Polk Correctional Institution in Florida presented its annual Women's History Month Program hosted by chapter president Terry Faddis. Mary Ellen Harlan of the Hillsborough Veterans Council was the featured speaker in a program that included an Army Nurse Corps video and a film by Jack Smith of ABC-TV News.

Homeless

A healthy Mexican-style lunch was served at Harmony House, a residence for some 80 working homeless men near downtown Houston. Local VVA Chapter 343 members Charlie, Andre, and Marsha Riti; Lee McKean; Kelly and Jessica Peters; and Vince Villasnenor joined with Wolf Biedenfeld, Steve Blumenthal, Arturo Aguilar, Kurt Hafner, and Carlos and Mario Uresti to help serve.

The plight of the homeless veteran has been a central theme in the life former Miss Kentucky-- now Miss America-- Heather Renee French, who speaks out vigorously for changes in the way America deals with homeless veterans.

After the pageant in Atlantic City, Heather Renee French returned home to Augusta, Kentucky. A homecoming reception was held where Drew and Judy Vargo were introduced to French and her parents, Diana and Ronnie, a Purple Heart Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In February, Miss America visited the White River Junction, Vermont, VA Hospital where she spoke about homeless veterans and their particular needs, including VA outreach concerning Hepatitis C and liver disease.

In March, Kentuckiana Chapter 454 joined forces with Miss America to help veterans fight hepatitis C. Free hepatitis C screening was offered at the UAW Hall in Louisville.

Tri-Cities Chapter 335 in Kennewick, Washington, and San Jacinto Chapter 343 in Houston took part in three separate Stand Down events in early spring. Chapter 335 volunteers worked Walla Walla, Yakima, and the 8th Tri-Cities Stand Down in Kennewick while Chapter 343 sent volunteers to Beaumont and Houston and another scheduled for Galveston in June.

Honors

The Vietnamese-American Community of the USA-New England Region, The American Vietnam Era Veterans of the USA, and the Canadian Vietnam Veterans of the USA presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to VVA National Chaplain Father Philip Salois on April 8. The citation reads: "In Recognition of your Devotion, Integrity, Selflessness, High Principles, and Hard Work on Behalf of the Vietnam War Veterans."

In January 1968, Air Force Sergeant Ronald Allen Keith earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam. More than 32 years later, the decoration was presented to him in a ceremony at the Wisconsin Resource Center. Wisconsin VVA chief service rep Tom Burkhalter, discovered the oversight while reviewing Keith's claim. Wisconsin State Council president John Margowski and National VVA Homeless Veterans Task Force Chair Bob Piaro took part in the ceremony.

Mobile Riverine Force Association member and General Counsel Larry "Gunner" Ethridge is the new chair of the American Bar Association. Ethridge served on the USS Askari in 1969 and 1970.

Reba Fertitta of Vidor, Texas, wrote Richard McMillan, president of Birmingham, Alabama, Chapter 416 and told him how much the chapter had helped her. Her husband, Gary, was a Vietnam veteran who lived with PTSD until he died in 1993. While on the internet, Fertitta found chapter member Frank Middleton. She was having difficulty locating her husband's military records. Middleton assisted with that task, and he also took time to discuss PTSD. Fertitta has been a member since 1998 and considers her life blessed for the association.

Education

Patrons of the Des Plaines, Illinois, Public Library are the beneficiaries of a subscription to The VVA Veteran provided by Chapter 311. Brian J. Mulcrone of the chapter says: ...a VVA Veteran magazine subscription is a way to better inform the public about VVA: our mission and values; our national and local community-service projects; and veterans issues." Mulcrone went on, "It is our fondest hope that this communication aid will better enable the public to make informed decisions in support of veterans, VVA, and our country." The gift was presented to the Library Board by chapter president Robert Gilman. The VVA Veteran will be available in the periodicals section of the library.

New York Rep. Vito Fosella joined students at PS 42 for a presentation of "The Vietnam War Experience," an educational program developed by Thomas J. Tori Chapter 421 in Staten Island. Gene DiGiacomo, Mike Cocozza, and Tony Lordo have taken on the task of reviewing and updating the program, now in its sixth year.

Bayshore Chapter 721 charter member and inaugural chapter vice president Fred Varlese was elected state commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) for the Department of New jersey, and he was appointed as aide-de-camp to the national commander of the MOPH.

Scholarships

Central Wisconsin Chapter 101 has begun the annual process of awarding scholarships. A reminder to chapters and state councils that also have scholarship programs: VVA is accumulating a list of the number and amount of scholarships our members provide each year. If your chapter isn't on the list, contact Joe Saxman at gwenibaer@aol.com with the information. To date, 39 chapters and two state councils have provided 288 scholarships totaling over $67,000.

Children

Akron, Ohio, Chapter 34 will send a group of volunteers to the Super Kids Classic at Derby Downs for the 19th consecutive year on June 3.

   

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