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March / April 2009

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March / April 2009

North Jersey Chapter 151 in Bayonne has been involved in a large number of community-service endeavors in the last several months. The list includes taking part in Bayonne’s flag-retirement ceremonies, participating in Veterans Day ceremonies at City Hall, donating a DVD player to the Children in Crisis unit at the Hoboken University Medical Center, hosting a dinner party with gifts for the PTSD unit of the Lyons VA Medical Center, collecting and donating toiletries and games for patients at the East Orange VA Medical Center, holding its annual candlelight ceremony at Bayonne’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Christmas Eve, and making plans for the chapter’s 25th anniversary commemoration this year.

Thirteen members of Port Huron, Michigan, Chapter 284 helped put on a Thanksgiving Dinner early in December at the Grand Rapids Veterans Home, the large facility run by the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The chapter later hosted a Christmas party for about eighty children at the local detention center, providing the boys and girls with gifts and holiday cheer.

Central New Hampshire Chapter 41 provided the Color Guard for the presentation of the colors at a Veterans Day ceremony at the First Assembly of God in Auburn, N.H. More than forty veterans attended the services. The congregation recognized them for their service, and the veterans were given gifts.

New Hampshire State Council President Ray Goulet spearheaded the first New Hampshire Blood Drive for Veterans last fall. The one-day event resulted in sixty-four pints of blood donated at the American Red Cross Blood Services in Manchester. Several local businesses donated food for the blood drive, which, it is hoped, will become an annual event.

The Plymouth-Canton, Michigan, Chapter 528 Color Guard had a very busy Veterans Day. The group gave two presentations at the Cherry Hill Village Theater in Canton, then visited six senior centers, two churches, and one Girl Scout troop. The Color Guard also participated in the Veterans Day ceremonies at Plymouth Veterans Park. In early December, chapter members took part in the annual Christmas celebration at the Burger School for Children with Autism in Garden City. AVVA members helped organize the event, which included an appearance by Detroit Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson, who signed autographs and posed for pictures with the children and adults.

Many members of Springfield, Massachusetts, SFC Jorge Otero-Barreto Chapter 866 participated in the big Western Mass Stand Down held in Springfield in September. Chapter members worked in planning, set up, facilitating services, and tear down. The event included more than sixty service providers. The chapter manned a table providing veterans benefits information and setting up appointments for claims services.

With the assistance of Chapter 89 member Jim Doute, Lima, Ohio, Chapter 732 at the Allen Correctional Center provided Christmas funds to needy veterans and their families. The chapter also gave money to a local veteran who had suffered a heart attack and had been unable to return to work.

Holland, Michigan, Chapter 73 prepared and delivered Thanksgiving food baskets to fifteen families in Ottawa County. Then, during the Christmas season, the chapter packed more baskets with gifts and food and delivered them to fifteen other area families in need.

The Board of Directors of Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 approved its 2009 budget late last year, and it includes more than a few generous contributions. That includes $25,000 to the Greater Rochester Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s endowment fund; $1,000 to help the Gold Stars Mothers establish a chapter in the Rochester area; $3,600 to the Rochester Public Library for a display case that will hold Vietnam War memorabilia, along with $10,000 for an endowment that will provide library patrons with information on the Vietnam War and Chapter 20 far into the future; and $3,000 to VVA’s New York State Council for its service officers program in the Buffalo and New York regional VA offices.

The third annual Quad Cites Chapter 299 Welcome Home Veterans Day Dance at the COL Ballroom in Davenport, Iowa, was a big success. Some six hundred attended to hear the tunes of the fifties and sixties by the Coupe DeVille band, chow down on tacos, and take part in the AVVA-run raffle. The chapter made a profit of nearly $2,900, which went to funding and expanding the chapter’s 2008 Holiday Food Basket program.

Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Chapter 101 donated a total of $3,500 in its most recent fiscal year to veteran groups such as the local Veterans Relief Fund, and to community-service organizations, including the Fireman’s Memorial, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army, and the local food pantry.

Kentuckiana Chapter 454 in Louisville brought two truckloads of winter clothing and toiletry items to the Pike Street Clinic for the Homeless in Covington, Kentucky, in mid-December. Chapter members also presented a check to the clinic for $1,400. Chet Needy, John Mitchell, Terry Rupp, Ray Goings, Walt Oster, and Chapter President Bob Keller made the delivery.

Welcome Home to South Carolina’s newest VVA chapter, Chapter 1017 in Walhalla. The chapter received its VVA charter late in November. One of its first endeavors was participating in the annual Walhalla Christmas parade on December 6.

Fort Dodge, Iowa, Chapter 861 delivered twelve Christmas food baskets in December to needy veterans and widows of veterans. “Thank you for thinking of me during the recent holidays,” one recipient wrote to the chapter. “I’m 100 percent non-service disabled. I live alone and have a hard time dealing with the holidays. I was very much excited to have the chapter representatives deliver the food. It really made for a very nice holiday time having the food in my home.”

Members of Porter County Chapter 905 in Portage, Indiana, had a busy December, centering on support of the local Toys for Tots program. Chapter member Jim Atkinson was the program coordinator, and chapter members pitched in December 6 at the Valparaiso Armory at the annual Toys for Tots Christmas party. The following week, chapter members took part in a toy distribution event for needy families at the Armory. “It’s truly a joy to be able to help at this time of year,” Chapter President Jim Lynch said. “The kids we help are America’s future. Showing kindness, love, family values, and sharing will hopefully make them better adults.” The chapter also paid a visit on December 20 to the Indiana Veterans Home in Lafayette for its annual Christmas pizza and bingo party.

Sacramento Valley, California, Chapter 500 Board member Don Harper, AVVA member Rhona Nitsche, and chapter member E.D. McNeil took part January 27 in the annual Sacramento County Homeless Count. The three had a training session the week before, then joined more than four hundred other volunteers taking part in the count. In 2008, about 19 percent of Sacramento’s homeless were veterans.


At Washtenaw County, Michigan, Chapter 310’s bimonthly packing party for its Support the Troops program in November, sixty-five people showed up, including chapter members and family and friends of deployed troops. The big group packed a record number of 113 boxes (weighing between fourteen and twenty pounds each). That brought the total number of care packages in the program to just over eleven tons. Chapter member Elmer White matched donations of up to $500 to help defray shipping costs. The chapter’s 22nd annual Christmas Program on December 16 featured special guest Ashlee Baracy, the reigning Miss Michigan, as well as the presentation of a specially embroidered shirt to every patient at the local VA Medical Center.

VVA Board Member Tony Catapano, a member of  Greenville, North Carolina, Chapter 272, and Chapter President Don “Top” Simmons last fall presented a check, which represented the proceeds of a chapter No Limit Texas Hold ’Em Tournament, to Marcus Waller, the President of Veterans of Modern Warfare Chapter 8 in Greenville. The VMW chapter will use the money as start-up funds.

Nassau County, New York, Chapter 82 has adopted a U.S. Army platoon stationed in Afghanistan. Three care packages of toiletry items, non-perishable food items, batteries of all sizes, and travel-sized games will be sent to the platoon, which is part of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, and which includes the son of a chapter member.
Members of Western Massachusetts Chapter One-Eleven pitched in starting Thanksgiving weekend collecting for the Heroes At Home Project at the Sears at the Holyoke Mall. That program helps active-duty troops’ families with home repairs and renovations while their loved ones are overseas.

Passing Of The Guard


On August 22, 2008, VVA Chapter 82 in Nassau County, New York, participated in the F-14 Tomcat dedication ceremony held at Northrop Grumman headquarters in Bethpage. Chapter 82 presented the Parade of Colors before 250 current and retired employees.

Vice Admiral David Venlet, the commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, was a special guest. Along with fellow pilot Commander Hank Kleeman, he flew the F-14 Tomcat that shot down two Libyan MIG-23s on January 15, 1969. Grumman Corporation had submitted its proposal to build this new fighter aircraft for the U.S. Navy in June 1968. On June 15, 1972, the first catapult launch of the F-14 was completed on the USS Forrestal. In September 1974, it made its first deployment on the USS Enterprise. In 1975, it supported the evacuation of personnel during the final days of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

For 34 years, the U.S. Navy Fleet carried squadrons of the F-14. Aircraft 101 was the next to last F-14 produced and the last U.S. Navy F-14 to fly. It will remain on display at Northrop Grumman in Bethpage.

Chapter 641 at Winterhaven


On January 10, the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center held its annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down, known as Winterhaven. Several members of Silver Spring, Maryland, Chapter 641 joined several hundred volunteers who worked a Saturday to help veterans in need.

A wide spectrum of medical and non-medical services was provided, including hair cuts, lunch, and clothing. In the greater Metro D.C. area there are many homeless veterans, and many of them look forward to, and take advantage of, this event. The reaction of the veteran-participants was that this was a very positive event. The most sought-after item was a warm winter coat.

Every client was greeted at the giveaway station by Chapter 641 members Dave Gudes and Art Wong, who started the process of creating goodie bags. Bill Gray and Bob Morgan helped with coats and shirts. At the end of the line, Mike Najarian gave out rain ponchos and gloves. There was a large assortment of women’s clothing for the several female veterans who showed up on the cold and rainy day. Sharon Hodge of the VVA national staff helped distribute clothing and escorted those who needed help.

The day started at 7 o’clock in the morning and lasted for the crew of Chapter 641 until 6 o’clock in the evening—a rewarding and long day. VVA Chapter 641 and staff members at the National Office have participated in Winterhaven since it began in 1994.

Huey Project Takes Off


After nearly five years, Chapter 380 of Marquette County, Michigan, has its helicopter on display at its chapter building. Years ago, chapter Board member Vic Romback wrote to TACOM Life Cycle Management Command in Warren, Michigan, inquiring about the possibility of acquiring a Cobra helicopter. Although there was initial interest, TACOM was unable to provide one due to the war in Iraq. The word was put out to Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, and one of his staff learned that the Aurora, Illinois, Airport had two Hueys; would we like one?

Bob Becker, a local trucker, hauled it for free to our chapter in November 2007. In the spring, we started scraping, sanding, and fabricating a stabilizer bar and other small parts. Then it was time to paint her. Menard’s Hardware donated the paint, and Walt Racine, who owns Walt’s Auto Service, did the spray painting. On the front nose piece was painted the emblem of the unit she served with in Vietnam: Company C, 158th Aviation Battalion, “Phoenix.” It’s accompanied by the Red Cross of the 336th Medical Battalion, with whom she served in Kuwait.

When the restoration was complete, a crane lifted the Huey onto steel plates and a pedestal, both donated by Cleveland Cliffs Iron Mining Company.

The dedication ceremony will be held July 5.

Chapter 380 was chartered in 1988. Its 178 members and 22 associates volunteered more than one thousand hours at the Marquette D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in 2008. The 32-member Chapter 380 Honor Guard provided military honors for 47 veterans’ funerals last year. The Honor Guard provides casket guard, a rifle salute, Echo Taps, and a flag-folding ceremony.

Troop Boxes: Comfort Food


Rochester, N.Y., Chapter 20 successfully completed its second annual Support the Troops project, sending one hundred boxes of food to those in the Middle East. The objective: somewhere in the Middle East, soldiers will receive gift boxes, totally unexpected, from a group they don’t know. Planning started in September of 2008 with requests to the community to provide names of soldiers deployed to the Middle East who would be there through February.

Names started coming in and the list grew steadily. It eventually reached 127 names. A list of snack items was compiled with input from Vietnam veterans who well remember receiving similar packages from home. The decision was made not to include toiletries, but to focus on comfort food such as beef jerky, prepared macaroni and cheese, trail mix, hard candies, pepperoni, canned fruit, pudding cups, and canned pasta. Several community organizations included the list in their holiday projects, and the Chapter received more than $3,000 worth of donated food. RDA Container of Rochester donated 500 cardboard boxes with the Chapter’s logo and information to conform with postal regulations.

Girl Scout Troop 2004 in Trolley, N.Y., asked at each house they visited for a box for the troops. The girls arrived on the evening of packing with 143 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. A terrific group of volunteers got together that evening in January and in just one hour all the boxes were packed, sealed, labeled, and loaded on a truck.

The next morning, 25 volunteers (most of whom had helped with packing the night before) met at the Main Rochester Post Office where four postal clerks voluntarily had started work an hour before opening to process the boxes. Within an hour, the boxes were processed and in tubs ready to go on trucks. An enclosed letter from the Chapter told the soldiers that Vietnam veterans respected the work they were doing and the sacrifices made by their families. Nearly 75 volunteers worked with energy, smiles, and a passion to show those serving in harm’s way that they are appreciated and respected by folks back home.





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