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

March/April 2006
MEMBERSHIP NOTES
 



IN SERVICE 

Members of Ocean County, New Jersey, Chapter 855 took part in a wide range of charitable activities during the 2005 Holiday season. The chapter distributed 30 food baskets to area families in need, more than 150 toys to needy children, and food to area animal shelters. Chapter members also sent some 250 blank holiday cards to veterans incarcerated in Trenton to mail out to family, friends, military personnel, and other veterans. The chapter threw a holiday party for students at Davies Middle School in Mays Landing and donated two cases of candy canes to the Manchester Regional Middle School.

In November and December, members of Quad Cities Chapter 299 in Rock Island, Illinois, distributed 126 holiday gift baskets to needy veterans and their families. Andy Ortiz, Freda Goodwin, and Bob Brooks coordinated the program. At its December board meeting, the chapter formed a committee to review all requests for charity donations, since in recent years requests have outpaced chapter earnings, which come primarily from the Saturday Night Bingo games held at the Rock Island Lions Club.

During the holiday season, members of Liberty Bell Chapter 266 in Philadelphia, along with AVVA members, collected food for 40 needy families in the Philadelphia area. The chapter held Christmas parties for the children of the St. Francis Inn, a soup kitchen in inner city Philadelphia, and for the Catholic Workers, a local charity that sponsors after-school programs for latch-key children. Chapter members also put on their annual Christmas party at the Philadelphia VAMC; and for the third year in a row, the chapter Color Guard led the famed Philadelphia Mummer’s Day Parade. 

Members of Central New Hampshire Chapter 41 participated in the annual Holiday Food Basket Project in December in Concord. For the last 14 years, the chapter has collected, organized, and distributed food to the needy through the Holiday Food Basket program, which is organized by the Capital Region Food Program. The program delivers boxes filled with non-perishables, packaged foods, and fresh produce to 1,850 needy families in the region.

Baltimore Chapter 451 played host to a holiday party at the chapter’s headquarters for special-needs children from a local school in mid-December. The event featured appearances by Mrs. Claus (AVVA member Sandy Miller) and Santa himself (chapter member Bill Tucker). Each child received four gifts and a stuffed animal from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Twelve members of the Junior ROTC program at a local high school helped out, along with veterans from the community.

Richard Cortell, a life member of Newburgh, New York, Chapter 537, has set up a web site designed to help provide fresh food to patients in VA hospitals, which, he says, have stopped serving “freshly prepared food to thousands of veterans in order to save money.” Every day, he says, “more and more patients’ meals are prepared at remote locations, deep-chilled, shipped by truck to VA hospitals, and stored in large refrigeration units until they are ready to be served. Eventually they are re-thermalized (reheated) and served.” To learn more about this effort, go to www.freshfoodforvets.us or e-mail rcortell@frontiernet.net

Through the efforts of Tampa, Florida, Chapter 787 and Chapter 916 in Edgewater, Florida, the VA recently approved the request of Chapter 916 member Michael A. Weber for an electric wheelchair and lift gate. Weber has been receiving hospice home care since March 2005 due to end-stage liver disease (hepatitis C) and had been unsuccessful in getting the VA to provide the much-needed equipment until chapter members went to bat for him.

Bergen County, New Jersey, Chapter 800 presented a $625 donation in November to the state Department of Human Services’ Division of Veterans Services’ Tracers program. The donation was in the form of $25 gift certificates to Shop-Rite supermarkets that will be distributed to homeless veterans. The Tracers program also provides bus tickets to homeless veterans for transportation to job interviews, social services agencies, and to the VA for medical care.

William C. Kelemen, a member of New City, New York, Chapter 333, was named Rockland County, N.Y., 2005 Veteran of the Year in November. Among other things, Kelemen is a VVA New York State delegate, a member of the chapter’s Board of Directors, and co-chair of the chapter’s VA hospital visitation program. He received the award at ceremonies held on the Rockland County Courthouse steps officiated by VVA National President John Rowan.

Chapter 205 at the Auburn, New York, Correctional Facility held a program in December with members of Auburn Chapter 704 celebrating Chapter 205’s Christmas Drive program in which members made hats, scarves, mittens, and lap blankets and presented them to area schoolchildren, the elderly, and families in need. This year the items went to the St. Alphonsis Food Pantry, the Booker T. Washington Center, Casey Park School, and the Genesee Street School, among other institutions.

Jimmie L. Coulthard, a member of Chapter 320 in St. Paul, Minnesota, received the 2005 David W. Preus Award, which is named after the Rev. Dr. David W. Preus, Bishop Emeritus of the American Lutheran Church, and which goes to individuals who have demonstrated exemplary servant leadership in community and religious life. Coulthard is the CEO and president of the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), the only Minnesota non-profit that exclusively supports the needs of homeless veterans. Under his leadership, MACV has helped some 3,000 men and women with employment, education, and housing opportunities.

Many members of Bettendrof, Iowa, Gateway Chapter 776 participated in events in November and December for the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program by filling bags with toys for families registered in the program and by helping at the local distribution center. The group included Terry and Barb Berg, Mike and Sandy DeGeeter, Ed and Maggie Gaudet, Maggie’s children Katie and Pete, Harold Hansen, Barb Katz, John and Martha Lavelle, Mike Melroy, Lyle and Carolyn Peterson, David and Marianne Woods, Nate and Kathy McDaniel, and Carolyn and Arlen Beck.

Members of Western New York Chapter 77 met with Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) in February at the Vietnam Veterans Museum in Tonawanda. The chapter presented Rep. Slaughter with a copy of VVA’s Legislative Agenda for 2006, along with press kits with information about VVA and the chapter. “Rep. Slaughter was very receptive to our agenda and was also very direct in telling us that she believes there is enough support in Congress to pass Assured Funding” for the VA, said Chapter President Patrick Welch. “She encouraged us to keep fighting, and she fully supports funding to care for America’s veterans.”

Appleton Area Chapter 351 in Wisconsin held its 18th annual wreath sale at the Northland Mall and Sam’s Club during the holiday season. The chapter met its lofty sales goal of $2,000, which goes to community organizations such as Adopt Veterans Family, Appleton Military Support, and Cub Scout Pack 3157, which the chapter sponsors.

Grand Stand, South Carolina, Area Chapter 925 held its third Welcome Home Poker Run on April 8. The event raises funds for local veterans and their families, as well as disadvantaged children. It features a motorcycle-led procession through the South Carolina Grand Stand area, which includes Myrtle Beach, with stops at eateries along the way. The chapter color guard was on hand for the post-procession awards ceremonies.

AVVA members of the Thomas Davis, Jr., Memorial Chapter 616 at Mansfield Correctional Institute in Mansfield, Ohio, in January displayed the first AVVA flag in the state of Ohio. On hand for the occasion were, among others, chapter Vice President Barron Gurley and AVVA Representative Brian Smith. 

Warner Robins, Georgia, Chapter 902 co-sponsored a Welcome Home celebration for Vietnam-era veterans February 10 at the Robins Air Force Base Smith Community Center. Col. Andrew Busch, commander of the base’s 402nd Maintenance Wing, and Col. Theresa Carter, commander of the 78th Air Base Wing, offered remarks and also individually greeted and thanked the 60 veterans who attended the event. The Keynote Speaker was Chapter 902 President Jerry Clineman.

Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 President Nelson Peck is the producer of the chapter’s monthly public-access TV show, Straight Talk for Veterans. The shows cover topics such as VA services, PTSD, job search, and veterans’ education. Once all ten shows are complete, the chapter will produce DVDs that will be loaned to interested veterans and given to community service agencies to help veterans in the five-county area surrounding Rochester. The chapter also provides veterans’ benefits information one morning a week at the thrift store the chapter runs in Rochester.

Many VVA members are working to put on the Philadelphia Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Society’s 20th annual 5K-10K Race and three-mile fun walk scheduled for May 21. The proceeds from this event go mainly to the Vietnam Veterans’ Tuition Aid fund, which has helped countless sons and daughters of veterans with college expenses. Other proceeds go to St. Christopher’s Children Hospital. Among the VVA members who make the race work are Tom Murtha, the President of Philadelphia Chapter 266, and fellow chapter members Tom Reilly, Tom Ryan, Tom Roberts, Andrew Keenan (the President of the Philadelphia Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Society), and Bill Crean, and Fred Radtke of Chapter 430.

SUPPORTING THE TROOPS

In December, members of Washtenaw County Chapter 310 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, put together 30 care packages at the home of John and Jane Kinzinger to send to American troops in Iraq. Pitching in were Phil and Gena Hecker, Roy Hall, Ken Parks, the Kinzingers, and several friends of the chapter. 

Lafayette, Louisiana, Chapter 141 member Dean Poche was a member of the Color Guard that took part in homecoming ceremonies held in January for members of Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade, which had recently returned from a one-year tour in Iraq. “Dean is an example of an outstanding veteran and chapter member,” said chapter Secretary Karen Fontenot. “He is always ready and willing to assist in community service and is an asset to the chapter.”

Cliff Hayes, a District Director for the Buckeye State Council, led a recent effort to support the U.S. Helicopter Marine Medium 774 Squadron in Iraq. Four Ohio chapters—Columbiana County Chapter 40, Alliance Chapter 157, Wooster Chapter 255, and Akron Chapter 900—contributed funds that were used to send coffee and other items, as well as gift certificates for the Marines to purchase items at their PX for their Super Bowl party. The squadron showed its gratitude by sending American flags that have been flown on combat missions to the chapters. “To me and my chapters,” Hayes said, “supporting the troops means more than putting a magnetic ribbon on the back of your car or pick-up.”

A Special Forces group that was based at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and is now serving in Iraq, sent an American flag that flew over its compound at the air field in Baghdad and on a Black Hawk helicopter during a combat mission to West Tennessee Chapter 875 in Memphis in recognition of the chapter’s support. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to each and every soldier serving our country,” says Chapter Treasurer Bill Flanigan, “and we are waiting for their safe return.”

Scholarships

Westchester County, New York, Chapter 49 has increased the amount of its annual scholarships to $600 for 2006. The scholarships are awarded to six graduating high school students going on to college, universities, or technical or vocational schools who are children or grandchildren of a veteran who served on active duty in any branch of the military during any war or peacetime.

Applications went out in January for the nine $300 scholarships that will be given out this spring by Rock River Chapter 236 in Janesville, Wisconsin. The scholarships go to graduating high school seniors and to graduated students from prior years who had not been awarded a scholarship from the chapter. Eligible applicants are children and grandchildren of prior-service active-duty military personnel who were on active duty during the Vietnam War era.

Western New York Chapter 77 held its second annual Memorial Scholarship Spaghetti Dinner in February for the chapter’s Peter P. Tycz II Memorial Scholarship program. The event brought in more than $5,000. The proceeds go to graduating high school seniors who reside in Niagara or Erie County, have a relative who is a veteran, show a unique blend of academic achievement and community service, and anticipate enrolling in an accredited higher education program in the fall of 2006. Last year, the chapter awarded scholarships totaling $3,000 to 12 Western New York high school seniors.

Memorials

Chapter 809 in Salina, Kansas, helped sponsor a stirring ceremony last September at the St. John’s Military School. The ceremony centered on the unveiling and dedication of a permanent panel of the Moving Wall containing the name of Salina native Dennis Pugh, a 1962 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate who, while serving with the 25th Tactical Fight Squadron, was listed as missing in action flying a FAC mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos in March of 1970.

Roger McCorriston, Don Souder, and Fred Vinyard of South Jersey Chapter 239 in Somers Point took part in the November dedication ceremonies of the Veterans Walk Memorial at Egg Harbor Township Middle School. Souder, one of the principal organizers of the memorial, donated a POW/MIA flag and a hand-carved statue of an eagle.

At the chapter’s Veterans Day Dance and Dinner in November, South Jersey Chapter 825 in Mays Landing presented its Veterans Advocate Award for 2005 to New Jersey State Sen. Nicholas Asselta. Among other things, Sen. Asselta co-sponsored legislation to dedicate New Jersey Route 55 as “Veterans Memorial Highway.”

Central Pennsylvania Chapter 791 in Lewistown coordinated the October 15 ceremonies for the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway on the Route 22/522 Lewistown Bypass, a new 12-mile stretch of highway that opened to the public the following month. Among the speakers at the dedication ceremonies was Chapter 791 President Dennis Drass.


 

   

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