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

May/June 2004



VVA members across the country are gathering at all hours of the day and night to welcome our troopsactive duty, Reserve, and National Guard alikeas they return home after deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other troubled spots around the world. Members also represent VVA at local ceremonies honoring those who gave their lives in service to their country.

John Miner reports that Vermont, with barely 613,000 residents, had its sixth Operation Iraqi Freedom casualty March 14. William J. Normandy of East Barre became the latest casualty, joining Kyle C. Gilbert, Mark A. Ervin, Solomon C. "Kelly'' Bangayan, and Pierre E. Piche. State-by-state figures are available at


Chapter 77 in Buffalo, New York, welcomed members of the 105th Military Police Company of the New York National Guard when they returned from a 15-month
deployment April 24. Chapter 77's color guard was the lead unit greeting 3-KC-135s from the 107th Air Refueling Wing based at the Niagara Falls Air Base. The troops also were greeted by some 2,000 family members, friends, and other military personnel.

The joy was tempered by the loss of two members of the unit, Sergeant Heath McMillin of
Canandaigua and Specialist Michael Williams of Buffalo.

On April 2, 50 soldiers of the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, were welcomed by the Chapter 77 Honor Guard when they returned from a one-year deployment in Iraq. They were greeted at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base by family members and members of Chapter 77. The homecoming was particularly special for former Marine chapter member Adam Zlotek, whose daughter, Cpl. Kimberly Jones, was part of the returning unit and carried the 402nd flag home.

Former New Jersey State Council president Jack Bronson, who now lives in Statesboro, Georgia, reports that Chapter 789 in Hinesville has greeted more than 200 flights of returning troops at Fort Stewart. VVA members "JRay'' (Jimmy), "Old Hippie'' (Ralph), and others swell with pride when men and women in uniform march into the gymnasium at Ft. Stewart after a long deployment to the war zone.


The service programs conducted by Buffalo, New York, Chapter 77 may explain why it was selected to receive the prestigious DeWitt Clinton award from the Masons. Bruce Brand, the Master of Queen City-Christopher G. Fox Lodge 358, notified chapter treasurer Al Brusetti of the honor. The DeWitt Clinton Award recognizes "distinguished or outstanding voluntary community service by a non-Masonic organization or individual whose actions exemplify a shared concern for the well-being of Mankind and a belief in the worldwide Brotherhood of Man. To qualify, a nominee must be distinguished for outstanding contributions of time, skills, and financial support given freely toward truly significant endeavors in the interest of their community.''

Capitol Chapter 542 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was recognized by Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) with the presentation of a U.S. flag flown over the Capitol in Washington as a tribute to the chapter and the services it provides. The chapter presented miniature Vietnam Veterans Memorials to Rep. Holden and Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Pa.) for their support of awarding the Combat Medics Badge to aero medics.

National Chaplain Philip G. Salois received the highest honor of the Knights of Columbus for the Jurisdiction of Massachusetts when he was presented the coveted Lantern Award on Patriots Day, April 19. The citation accompanying the award is a long chronicle of the organizations, services, awards, and peer recognition he has received. Salois is a board-certified expert in traumatic stress and has traveled widely on behalf of better understanding and cooperation among the veterans of the world. Father Phil proudly wears the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Silver Star, earned during his service as an infantryman with the 199th light Infantry Brigade, the Redcatchers, in Vietnam.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), the only member of the U.S. Senate who served in the Vietnam War as an enlisted man, hosted a Washington, D.C., presentation of the award-winning documentary, Be Good, Smile Pretty on May 5. A question-and-answer period with film-maker Tracy Droz Tragos and her mother, Judith Droz Keyes, followed the screening. VVA Communications Director Mokie Porter spoke at the showing.


William A. Ward of Chapter 756 in Long Beach, California, reports that the city of Seal Beach has completed its Vietnam War Memorial. It will be dedicated to the memory and honor of LTJG Paul Eugene Swigart, Jr., who was killed on February 5, 1969. The section of beach known as Eisenhower Park, site of a memorial to World War II veterans, will be home to the plaque, which was presented by Chapter 756 to the city.

Mike Stetz, a reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune, is researching an article on how the war affects small towns. While he and a photographer traveled through the San Joaquin Valley of California, Stetz interviewed the Lau family of Livingston near Merced Chapter 691. While in Merced, Stetz interviewed chapter members Ed Mentz, Sr., the chapter president, and Gary Frago. The interview focused on plans by the chapter to commemorate PFC Karina S. Lau on Memorial Day 2004. Lau, 20, of Livingston was onboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter when it went down in Al Fallujah in Iraq. She was assigned to the 16th Signal Battalion and died on November 2, 2003. The chapter has done extensive research and has found that the Merced County Veterans Memorial has a Vietnam War Memorial element unveiled on Oct. 25, 1976, commemorating another Livingston resident, 1LT Peter J. Gallo.


The graceful cable-stayed bridge between Pasco and Kennewick, Washington, is home to the Vietnam War Memorial featuring U.S. and POW/MIA flags. Police say someone intentionally aimed a vehicle at the granite marker behind a metal fence and meant to do damage to the memorial, which lists more than sixty dead from the mid-Washington area. It is the second attack on a community landmark within the last five months.


Chapter 767 in Racine, Wisconsin, hosted the 12th annual Thoughts For Food event. The multi-venue event collected more than 7,100 pounds of food and $35,000 to support local area food banks. Chapter Public Affairs chair Pat Adams reports the largest one-night music festival in the Midwest collected food and cash donations at 15 different sites and that the event featured over 70 bands.


New York Chapter 32 in Queens is sponsoring the Moving Wall October 2-8 in Cunningham Park, Queens. More information about the presentation can be obtained by contacting the chapter at 718-830-0037 or by e-mail,

Chapter 780 in Charleston, South Carolina, joined with the Heritage Motorcycle Rally and presented the Wall That Heals in Charleston. James "Gunny'' Gregory reports that the event was a tremendous success and thanks all who participated.


Chapter 451 in Baltimore is still actively involved in Operation Remember. The project is targeted for completion by Memorial Day 2004, the 15th anniversary of the dedication of the Maryland Vietnam Veterans Memorial. For additional information, go to the chapter website

Chapters in Region 6 were invited by Regional Director Steve House to a memorial
ceremony commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. A full range of veteran speakers, color guards, and participants has been scheduled and the public is invited. Additional information is available at or

The Monmouth Message, a paper published for the military and civilian personnel of Ft. Monmouth, N.J., featured an article about the 2003 Sons and Daughters Vietnam journey. The article described the moving ceremony on China Beach honoring the fathers and quoted the chair of VVA's Veterans Initiative, Bob Maras, saying, "It was the most moving moment of the entire trip.''

Suffolk County, New York, Chapter 11 took part in the first St. Patrick's Day Parade in East Islip in March. The color guard took part in the parade, as did chapter president Rich Kitson, and many chapter members.

Ed Mentz has been appointed chair of the Veterans Incarcerated Committee in California, and has begun reaching out to Joint Efforts, Inc., a non-profit organization associated with veterans from eight states, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor in an effort to transform the lives of veterans who are incarcerated and break the cycle of recidivism. Mentz attended training on May 15 for a pilot program at the Atwater Federal Penitentiary.


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