Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 recently donated $16,000 to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester in Highland Park to replace four curbs on the memorial’s path. The Chapter also pledged to donate $5,600 in the next two years to Rochester’s Rundel Library for a video conference center designed for the families of those serving in the armed forces to speak to their service members via video conference. There will be signage noting that VVA Chapter 20 underwrote the center.
Northern Virginia Chapter 227 facilitated the donation of a new lift chair to wheelchair-bound John Williams, a Navy veteran and a resident of Compassion House, a local homeless veterans transition home. Chapter member Chuck Harris obtained the lift chair from a friend who wanted to donate it to a veteran. The Chapter put out an electronic “Minuteman Alert” and very quickly heard from the director of Compassion House. Within days, the chair was delivered to Williams.
Members of Redondo Beach, California, South Bay Chapter 53 hosted a resource booth at the city of Compton’s sixth annual Homeless Veterans Stand-Down held Sept. 19-21. The Chapter provided benefit and health information to many homeless veterans who attended the event. The Chapter has been a member of the stand-down committee for all six years of its existence.
Wallkill Valley, New Jersey, Chapter 1002 co-hosted a Veterans Day memorial service in Vernon, N.J., that drew some fifty veterans, families, and supporters. After the service, nearly two dozen chapter members sat down with a reporter for NorthJersey.com to talk about VVA. Chapter member John Harrigan was quoted in the subsequent on-line article, noting, among other things, that the Chapter regularly helps fellow veterans by driving them to area VA hospitals and clinics. “As everyone can see,” Harrigan said at the service, “the flag of our nation flies at half staff in honor of the brave men and women who gave their lives at Fort Hood, Texas. Let us not forget these brave men and women and our POWs and MIAs and the men and women of today who will become the veterans of tomorrow.”
Houston, Texas, San Jacinto Chapter 343 held its 19th annual Veterans Day Barbeque November 8 at Bear Creek. Organized by Chapter Vice President James Leonard, this fundraising event brought in nearly $4,600 in ticket sales, with a net profit of more than $1,800. Those funds will be donated in equal amounts to the Chapter’s Connally Scholarship, the local VA Fisher House, and to Bo’s Place, a Houston non-profit, free-of-charge bereavement center where the Chapter holds its monthly meetings.
For the sixth year in a row, Las Vegas Chapter 17 took part in the Las Vegas Intertribal Pow Wow, which was held November 14-15. At the event, which honors veterans and tribal elders, the veterans who attended received the Warrior’s Medal of Valor, as well as a certificate, and a lap quilt donated by the nonprofit Moms Love Quilts. Chapter 17 also received a wall quilt that honors Vietnam War KIAs and POWs.
Lazaro O. Camarillo III, a member of Corpus Christi, Texas, Chapter 910, was inducted into the Maxine Flourney 3rd Coast Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force Hall of Fame on September 19 in Alice, Texas—the first Vietnam veteran inductee. The Squadron’s mission is to preserve and illustrate the history of those who served and those who still serve in the U.S. military. Camarillo served with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam in 1969-70.
Washtenaw County, Michigan, Chapter 310 has given a membership in its Chapter 310 Friends group to 13-year-old Destiny Eadie in honor of her extraordinary efforts to boost morale among our troops overseas. In the last four years, she has sent more than 25,000 greeting cards to the troops, raising the money for postage, getting the cards signed, and mailing them. Destiny and her parents, moreover, attend just about every Chapter 310 function and meeting. Chapter 310 is one of VVA’s most active chapters in supporting the troops. For years, the Chapter has held periodic box-packing parties to send comfort items overseas. The total has reached 1,800 boxes—about 18 tons of food and other items.
Robert E. Wheelock Memorial Chapter 327 in Stanhope, New Jersey, recently awarded a $500 scholarship to Karissa Suckiel, the granddaughter of Chapter member Ed Suckiel. Her award-winning essay was read at a chapter meeting by Mike Rahill.
L-Z Bluegrass Northern Kentucky Chapter 88 awarded $500 scholarships to Taylor Little, a student at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, and to Lynn Brown, who attends Thomas Moore College in Crestview Hills.
Baltimore Chapter 451 recently announced the three recipients of its $500 2009 scholarships. Shelby Bonomolo, who has done volunteer work for the chapter, is a graduate of The Catholic High School and is studying nursing at the Community College of Baltimore County. Joseph Fleming, a consistent honor-roll student at Dundalk High School, attends Towson University. Sarah Molling, a sophomore at the Maryland Institute College of Art, is majoring in studio art.
Leominster, Massachusetts, Chapter 116 recently held its 20th scholarship presentation at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Monument Square in downtown Leominster. Eleven sons and daughters of Chapter members who demonstrated a commitment to their studies, to the community, and to veterans received 2009-10 scholarships: Cassandra Cooley, Mathew Ellam, Ashley Gearing, Nicholas Grudziecki, Michael Hazzard, Jeffrey Jollymore, Michael Nolan, Mary Kate Simmons, Gina Stacy, Rachel Tamas, and Sean Toohey.
Sacramento Valley, California, Chapter 500 gave out four 2009 scholarships, which go to Vietnam veterans or their relatives, based on the quality of essays they write on a topic chosen by the Chapter’s scholarship committee. The Chapter published the essay in its November newsletter of the winner of the Sarah Bonnifield Scholarship, Michelle Schmidt, a student at California State University Sacramento.
The three winners of Plymouth-Canton, Michigan, Chapter 528’s 2009 Essay Scholarship Contest each received the $500 first-place award: Samuel Bell, the nephew of Chapter member Dean Bell; Regan Byers, an AVVA member; and Lauren Wietchy, the niece of Chapter member Jim Austin. Three other contestants received a Letter of Participation. Mary Boudreau, Debby Bradley, Cheryl Brown, Nancy Dignan, Rich Whipple, and Ron Wroblewski served as the judges.
Members of Somers Point, New Jersey, Chapter 228 took part in POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies September 18 at Patriot Park. The ceremony was also dedicated to the memory of Don Souder, a VVA member who began the POW/MIA ceremony in Somers Point in 2007. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew presented Souder’s wife Kim with a state resolution honoring her husband. “We ask these men and women to put their lives on the line for us, and as many times as we go to war, I don’t think we can understand what it is to be a prisoner of war and how it must feel for their family and friends,” Van Drew said. “This is the least we can do.”
Members of the John Franklin Morrison, Jr., Chapter 1019 in Winchester, Virginia, played important roles at the annual POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies in September at the POW/MIA Memorial at Jim Barnett Park in Winchester. Board Member Wayne Graham offered the opening remarks, after which came the Pledge of Allegiance and benediction. Winchester Mayor Elizabeth Minor spoke, as did former World War II POW Loring Carper, Vietnam War POW Mike Benege, and Alan Morrison, the brother of the chapter’s namesake. After the speeches, AVVA members Katie Woods and Cyndy Hollender-Stancliff placed roses on the memorial’s benches, and Chapter members read aloud the names of the missing in action from the state of Virginia.
Appleton, Wisconsin, Area Chapter 351 held a very successful fundraiser in conjunction with POW/MIA Recognition Day. The chapter raised nearly $2,500. The funds will go to buy POW/MIA materials, which will be distributed to local schools to promote POW/MIA educational efforts, as well as to create a scholarship in honor of a local service member still missing in action from the Vietnam War. The scholarship will be awarded to a local high school student continuing his or her education. Chapter members Leroy Johnson, Bill Kunz, and Chris Mediam were particularly instrumental in the success of the fund-raiser
BY BERNARD EDELMAN
Quincy, Mass., is called the City of Presidents because it was the home of John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. It also was the home of U.S. Air Force Captain E. Alan Brudno and Navy Captain Richard A. Stratton, who endured long stretches in the Hanoi Hilton and other prisons after having been shot down over North Vietnam.
Alan Brudno took his life four months after he was repatriated, after having spent seven and a half years as a prisoner of war. But Dick Stratton survived the war and thrives today.
The United Combat Veterans of Quincy, which each year honors the ultimate sacrifice of the 48 boys of Quincy who perished during the Vietnam War, erected a monument, crafted of Quincy granite, to honor the service of Captains Brudno and Stratton. By doing so, the group hopes to raise the consciousness of the citizenry about the “distinguished and exemplary service” of these two former POWs who “courageously endured years of captivity [and] remained faithful to their country and their fellow prisoners of war, and returned home with honor.”
What is unique about this monument is the rendition of the POW image: The silhouette looks up—in defiance? with hope?—rather than down in defeat and submission.
Said Bob Brudno, Alan’s brother and himself a Navy veteran of the war: “If you are going to put ‘Never surrendered. Never broken. Never forgotten’ on the front of this monument, then lift the head of the symbolic POW. That is how people who view this monument should picture Dick Stratton and Alan Brudno. Our POWs bowed only when they were forced to do so.”
Added Alan Brudno’s widow, Debby: “Alan was very proud to be a Quincy native and would bring me here often to show off his hometown. I know he would be thrilled with all that is going on today and for that, I thank you.”
Last August, Chapter 146 in Omaha, the first VVA Chapter in Nebraska, received good news from the state. The Chapter learned that it would receive official recognition of its 25th anniversary. Sure enough, the next month, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, himself a Vietnam veteran, signed an official State Proclamation recognizing the Chapter for a quarter-century of work In Service to America.
The Proclamation cited the Chapter’s work with the VA Medical Center in Omaha, the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home, and the National Wheelchair Games, and noted that the Chapter “provides financial support to organizations and agencies that contribute to veterans’ well-being.”
Chapter members traveled to Lincoln on September 17 for the official recognition ceremony with the Governor in the State Capitol. The Governor issued the Proclamation, which named the week of September 15-18, 2009, Vietnam Veterans of America Week in the Cornhusker State, “to honor Vietnam veterans for their service to our country and to honor those who continue to serve through the generous activities of veteran service organizations.”
Participating in the ceremony at the State Capitol were VVA Nebraska State Council President Dottie Barickman, Chapter 146 President Frank Shotwell, Vice President Tom Brady, Secretary Herb Quigley, Board Member Gilbert Styskal, and members George Abbott and Vicki Salmon.
BY TOM BURKE
At a Board meeting of the Buckeye State Council last summer, we discussed incarcerated issues in our state. During the discussion, First Vice President Jim Kuschel brought up the idea of having the State Council hold a board meeting inside a correctional facility.
We figured that there would be lots of red tape and roadblocks, or that we’d get a flat no. Take an entire Board of Directors into a state facility? Had that ever been done before? Never in Ohio.
VVA has nine incarcerated chapters in the state. We had met many times with department heads of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to discuss veterans incarcerated issues. A big part of me said this would be an educational opportunity on both sides of the gate. The inmates would have the opportunity to learn about what their Buckeye State Council is doing, and the Board would have an opportunity to better understand Vietnam veterans who found themselves incarcerated.
I contacted Brian Byorth of ODRC. We had sat on many a forum together. He supported the idea, indicated that it would take some doing, but that it could be done. Two months later I reported to the Board that it looked possible. Then we had meetings and phone calls about security issues, video issues, and what we would be allowed to bring in, among other things. We finally chose Chapter 822 at the Marion, Ohio, North Central Correctional Institution.
Now it was up to the Warden to decide if he would allow it. After discussions with his staff, we waited three more months. Then we were advised that the project had been approved. We were elated. The state of Ohio had agreed to allow for the first time an outside veterans’ entity to hold a full-blown board meeting inside an institution’s walls.
On October 24, we headed to Marion. I had invited Gary Jones, the Chair of VVA’s POW/MIA Committee to join us. James Kaster, a member of Columbus Chapter 670 who works in the Ohio Attorney General’s office, was part of the group.
I hitched a ride with Joe Jennings, the State Council Executive Director, and Mokie Porter, VVA’s national Communications Director, who would video the event. We were warmly greeted by Warden Ed Sheldon and his public affairs staff and several of his correctional officers.
The staff took good care of us. We passed among the inmates, exchanging greetings as we walked across the yard. When we arrived for the meeting, Chapter 822 members stood and greeted us.
I opened the meeting with the Pledge, invocation, moment of silence, and so forth. We then moved through what the Board deemed to be a normal agenda. We were asked several questions. It seems Chapter members try to keep informed about Ohio state legislation. There also were questions about assistance upon release, job availability, and housing. Lunch was catered by the Chapter President and by Chapter Adviser Officer Calvin Thomas.
Gary Jones addressed the group, providing information on his committee, as well as its trips to Vietnam in search of MIA remains. This seemed to be an interesting topic to the members and apparently a surprise as well.
This was a tremendous learning experience for both sides. We received nothing but positive responses from the institution and from State Council Board members. The ODRC suggested that we do this again at another institution.
Tom Burke is the President of the Buckeye State Council.