The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

December 2003
MEMBERSHIP NOTES
 
 

 

 A VVA STAFF REPORT

HONORS

Mark Pitts, a member of Sons and Daughters in Touch and the son of Capt. Riley L. Pitts, reports that on October 31 the U.S. Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, renamed a firing range the Riley L. Pitts Memorial Range. Pitts' father was killed October 31, 1967. Captain Pitts was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. Captain Pitts' citation can be found at http://www.homeofheroes.com/moh/citations_1960_vn/pitts_riley.html

At Fort Sill, Ralph A. Jones commends The VVA Veteran for helping him bring his old unit back together. Jones writes that articles in The VVA Veteran inspired several of his buddies in 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery to form a reunion group. They served at Fire Support Base Illingsworth and provided artillery support for ARVN units during the April 1970 invasion of Cambodia. The reunion group now counts 140 members and recently planted a tree at the headquarters of the 6th/32nd Regimental Headquarters at Fort Sill to honor those who lost their lives at Fire Support Base Illingsworth on April 1, 1970.

Buffalo, New York, Chapter 77 is honored to announce that the remains of Navy LCDR Thomas Sitek, whose F-4 phantom jet was shot down over Ha Bac Province in North Vietnam on August 23, 1967, have been positively identified. Since 1992, his family has worked closely with the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii, now part of Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.

The remains of Sitek's co-pilot, Ensign Patrick Ness, were identified in 1986. Two of Sitek's grandchildren, Thomas Hammer and Andrew Hammer, served as pallbearers at the funeral. Chapter 77 will engrave a star next to Sitek's name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Buffalo waterfront to signify that his remains have been returned.

After serving in the U.S. Army for 32 years in Germany, Africa, Korea, and Vietnam, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Robert Olmes of Chapter 243 in Lee's Summit, Missouri, was honored with the presentation of The Order of The Silver Rose by Charles Stapleton, the chapter president. VVA Missouri State Council President Al Gibson attended the ceremony.

MEMORIALS

McCoy Area Chapter 462 in Sparta, Wisconsin, on May 11 dedicated a two-sided Vietnam Veterans Memorial which depicts three nurses and the medic portrayed in the film "We Were Soldiers."

WATCH FIRE WEDDING

During the Watch Fire held in Grove, Oklahoma, on September 20 Chapter 878 Treasurer Jim Clanin married AVVA member Mikki Clubb. VVA Oklahoma State Council President Lou Broughton gave away the bride; Chapter 878 President Teddy Reynolds served as best man. The ceremony was performed by the "Great Pumpkin" from Chapter 524 in Tulsa. The Great Pumpkin has a church in Avant, Oklahoma.

NEVER AGAIN

In June, Chapter 787 in Tampa, Florida, demonstrated its commitment to VVA's Founding Principle by throwing a Welcome Home party for Sgt. Stephen Dion, Jr., and his wife Karen. Dion had returned from duty in Iraq. He is the son of Joyce Koprowski and the step-son of Region 4 Director John Koprowski. After a rousing Welcome Home cheer by chapter members, Dion told of the long day and night marches to Baghdad, and said that all the packages sent by the chapter weren't received until the unit had been relieved and pulled back to Kuwait.

Also home from Iraq is Sean Harrigan, son of John Harrigan, a member of Robert E. Wheelock Memorial Chapter 327 in Stanhope, New Jersey.

Ssgt. Joe Rodriguez died about six months ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Although the World War II Iwo Jima veteran was not directly involved, his unit was immortalized in Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph and the bronze Marine Corps memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Rodriguez's family asked the members of the Washtenaw County Veterans Honor Guard, which includes members of Washtenaw County Chapter 310 to serve during the dedication ceremony for the Joe Rodriguez Memorial in St. Thomas Cemetery.

Chapter 333 in New City, New York, recognized the signs of depression and anxiety exhibited by local families who have children serving in the war in Iraq. The chapter contacted the New York Mets baseball club through the NYPD patrol unit in the borough of Queens and obtained 55 tickets for returning troops and their families. The Spring Valley Rotary Club donated a luxury bus for transportation. Chapter 1st Vice president Bill Winder and chapter public information officer Howard Goldin, who are retired New York police officers, arranged for the Patrol Borough Queens North to set up a barbecue area for the participants.

Beaver County Chapter 862 in Freedom, Pennsylvania, took part in dedication ceremonies for the Korean War Memorial in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. Chapter 862 has been very involved in bringing the memorial to fruition. Much credit goes to the Memorial Committee consisting of John and Sherry Namath, Bill Mums, Bob Grant, and the late Chuck Nowry.

Richard Jones, president of Santa Rosa, California, Chapter 223 urges his members to support Moms of Military Service members. They meet regularly to help support each other and raise money to send packages to their sons and daughters serving in the military around the globe. Additional information can be obtained by calling Jones at 707-539-8471 or e-mailing him at amphibvete6@earthlink.net

DONATIONS

The Granite State Vietnam Veterans Foundation presented a check for $15,000 to Maj. Gen. John Blair, Adjutant General for the state of New Hampshire. The donation will be used to acquire stained glass windows for the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery Chapel in Boscawen. Over the years the foundation has provided grants of more than $40,000 to projects including the Veterans Home in Tilton, Liberty House in Manchester, the New Hampshire Veterans Association in Laconia, and the VVA New Hampshire State Council.

Steve Mulcahy reports that incarcerated veterans at the Newton Correctional Facility raised funds to purchase a trailer-style barbecue for the Iowa Veterans Home. A Certificate of Appreciation was presented to the group on behalf of Governor Tom Vilsack.

Sarah Thompson of Chapter 842 in Tupelo, Mississippi, reports that the chapter donated a new POW/MIA flag to the local Veterans Park.

Chester County Chapter 436 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, donated funds to purchase a new volleyball net for the Coatesville VA Medical Center. The new net continues a tradition that permits spirited competition between VA residents and VVA members.

Northwest Chicago Chapter 209 made a $100 donation to the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation, and $1,000 to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. Chapter members Ron Wagenhofer, Richard Simmons, Ron Pasko, and Tom Parrie presented the check to Illinois Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn.

Chapter 787 in Tampa, Florida, donated $250 to purchase school supplies for the children of homeless women veterans in the local VA Homeless Program.

SCHOLARSHIPS

If your chapter or state council provides grants or scholarships, please send the total number of scholarships/grants, and the total amount provided in the last 12 months to scholarshipinfo@vva.org

McCoy Area Chapter 462 in Sparta, Wisconsin, awarded four $750 scholarships to area students again this year.

The VVA Virginia State Council awarded $1,000 scholarships to Jay Strand and Daniel Ignatowski. Strand is the photographer for the Northern Virginia Chapter 227 newsletter, The Journey, and served on the USS Chicago in the Tonkin Gulf in 1965-66 as a computer service tech. He is finishing work on a masters degree in Applied Engineering Statistics at George Mason University. Ignatowski, son of Len and Diane Ignatowski, is a junior at Radford University majoring in media studies.

Rockland County Chapter 333 in New City, New York, awarded a total of $3,000 in scholarships to four children of chapter members. Adam Chagares, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Chagares received $1,000; he is attending Ithaca College. Brian Frank, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Frank, attends Manhattan College and also received $1,000. Brian and Kimberly Winder, the children of Bill Winder, will split $1,000 because the chapter felt they were both qualified. Brian attends Dominican College and Kimberly is a student at Johnson and Wales University.

CHILDREN

Chapter 767 in Racine/Kenosha, Wisconsin, contributed funds to the Safe Haven Shelter in Racine. The facility is a shelter and counseling center for lost and runaway children. The center was founded 30 years ago and has helped countless children.

ODDS 'N' ENDS

Despite losing a leg while serving with the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) in Vietnam, Philipa Truman Sumpter of Georgetown, South Carolina, didn't let that get in the way of his rising to say the Pledge of Allegiance during Welcome Home ceremonies held by Chapter 925 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Newly elected National Treasurer Alan Cook was featured in an article in The Daily Review, a regional newspaper in northern California. Cook and his wife Cindy talked about the feelings he had as he accompanied Sons and Daughters In Touch to Vietnam in March on the same day his oldest son, Danny, deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. "That was a tough day," said Cindy, saying she felt like she was sending both her son and husband off to war.

CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR LEGISLATORS

In August, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) met with members of Tri-State Appalachian Chapter 172 in Cumberland, Maryland. Mikulski had a casual roundtable meeting with the group and said: "There are currently a lot of bad rumors going around about the VA, and unfortunately I can confirm them all. I think it is a disgrace that honorably discharged veterans have to pay to belong to the VA Health Care System. They paid their entry fee when they joined the military and should not have to pay again." Mikulski promised the group she would continue her fight for full funding of the VA.

Chapter 825 in Mays Landing, New Jersey, sponsored its sixth annual Delaware Veterans Homecoming. The event is held at the VA Medical Center in Wilmington; more than seventy organizations provide information on services available to veterans and their families.

Fresno, California, Forming Chapter members initiated a 20th anniversary commemorative event on October 23 honoring the 243 sailors and Marines killed in the Beirut barracks bombing and the 19 killed two days later in the invasion of Grenada. The event included a morning flag raising and lowering to half-staff by an Honor Guard of Marines, and a Proclamation by the city of Fresno designating the week of October 19-25 as "The 20th Anniversary of the Bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, and the 20th Anniversary of the Invasion of Grenada Commemorative Week."

The National Conference of Vietnam Veteran Ministers, founded by VVA National Chaplain Father Phil Salois, held a ceremony at the recently refurbished New York Vietnam Veterans Plaza on October 23 in remembrance of the 1,741 New York City residents who died in Vietnam. The ceremony followed the annual meeting of the NCVVM held at the Cardinal Spellman Retreat Center in the Bronx.

Chapter 324 in Milwaukee held ceremonies on National Lao-Hmong Recognition Day this year paying respects to those who served during the secret war in Laos in the 1960s. The event was held on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. Several thousand people attended the ceremonies, including American Gold Star Mothers who presented Certificates of Recognition to the wives and mothers of Lao-Hmong who were killed during the covert war. Chapter 324 and the Lao-Hmong community have worked together very closely for the last several years on projects benefiting the community.

Chapter 303 in Columbia, South Carolina, rededicated the Gold Star Walkway at Memorial Park in September. Chapter 303 has held a special ceremony honoring Gold Star families for many years.

Gary Lillie reports that Ann Arbor, Michigan, Chapter 310 president John Kinzinger thought the chapter should have a pig roast as a fund raiser. Lillie purchased a pig at the local 4H club and donated it to the chapter. Lillie named the pig after his favorite Hollywood actress/activist. The event raised money for packages for the troops, parties for veterans at local VA hospitals, and many other chapter projects. Lillie reports that the pig roast served 300 people and raised over $3,000.

Chapter 53 in Redondo Beach, California, wasn't content to have the entire stretch of California Highway 1 in Los Angeles County designated as the "Los Angeles Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway." The chapter is now lobbying Assemblyman George Nakano, the author of the Highway 1 bill, to have the full 500-mile section of California Highway 1 designated the Blue Star Memorial Highway. The Blue Star Highway idea goes back to 1944 when the New Jersey State Council of Garden Clubs beautified a 52-mile stretch of U.S. Route 22 from Mountainside to North Plainfield with approximately 8,000 dogwood trees planted as a living memorial to the men and women in the armed forces from that state. The Blue Star was chosen as a symbol because it was used during World War II on flags and homes of families that had a son or daughter in the service.

In Ocean Springs, Mississippi, on POW/MIA Day Robert Baker, VVA Texas State Council Chapter Startup Coordinator and State Director of the Order of The Silver Rose presented Silver Rose Medals to Michael D. Teter, Executive Secretary of the Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Seren Ainsworth, Mayor of Ocean Springs, and Rodney Wilkinson, Past Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Mississippi.

   

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