Chicago Chapter 242 held its 11th annual Dinner Dance October 10. One hundred and eleven Vietnam veterans, family members, and friends showed up for the festivities at the Lido Restaurant. Vietnam veteran Warren Saunders of local Channel 5 News was the keynote speaker. Proceeds from the event’s raffles and silent auction went to fund Christmas gifts, which chapter members delivered to veterans at the Hines VA Hospital and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.
Paul Barry, Jr., the president of Greater Hartford, Connecticut, Chapter 120, gave the keynote speech at the town of Manchester’s Veterans Day commemoration at Manchester Memorial Hospital, which was built in the early 1920s. The chapter, which provided tons of support for the October 16-19 visit to Hartford of the Traveling Wall, is planning its 25th anniversary celebration in May.
Members of South Bay, California, Chapter 53 in Redondo Beach participated in the September 13-15 Compton Homeless Veterans Stand Down and the October 15 Honor A Hero/Hire a Veteran Job Fair at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The chapter helped plan both events and was a patron sponsor for the Job Fair, which was co-sponsored by the California Employment Development Department and the U.S. Veterans Initiative.
Members of Kentuckiana Chapter 454 in Louisville took part in the annual Operation Stand Down, held October 22 at the Male High School in Louisville. Chapter members worked in the clothing room for the event, which was sponsored by the Louisville VA Medical Center, the Coalition for the Homeless, and the Louisville Metro Council.
LZ Bluegrass Chapter 88 in Florence, Kentucky, celebrated its 25th anniversary In Service to America, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Kenton County Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Erlanger on November 8. The ceremonies began at 2:00 at the Memorial and moved on to a barbeque dinner at the Elsmere Senior Citizens Center.
The Broward County, Florida, Chapter 23 Color Guard took part in the 21st annual Veterans Day Celebration of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which was held at the Big Cypress Entertainment Complex to honor members of the tribe who served in the armed forces of the United States. Florida State Council President Jerry Klein and 1st Vice President Ben Humphries were on hand for the event, along with Chapter 23 President Connie Christensen and many other chapter members.
Northern Virginia Chapter 227 made three cash grants at its November board meeting: to the Virginia War Memorial for $100; to Vacations for Veterans, $250 to support its programs that provide free vacations for recovering active-duty military personnel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; and $200 for the Memorial Day Writers Project, to cover the cost of the tent rental for this annual event held near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
Don Holland, the president of Baton Rouge Chapter 488, recently gave a talk at a local home for homeless women veterans. He focused on veterans benefits and how to apply to the VA for them.
At its October general meeting, the members of Grafton, Ohio, Correctional Institution Chapter 559 voted to donate $500, which was raised from the chapter’s annual Walk-A-Thon, to Providence Hospital in Cleveland for its Crisis Center, and to donate $300 to the Joseph Home of Cleveland for the homeless and $100 for the local Jaycees’ Toys For Christmas program.
Members of Quad Cities Chapter 299 in Rock Island, Illinois, distributed food baskets to needy families and individuals (both veteran and non-veteran) on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the Saturday before Christmas. The chapter’s Charities/Donation Committee disbursed more than $6,000 in 2008. That included a disbursement of $140 to the Boy Scout troop the chapter sponsors.
Members of Santa Rosa, California, Chapter 223, the state’s second largest VVA chapter, volunteer on the first Friday of every month to distribute food at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, Sonoma County’s largest hunger-relief organization, which serves some 60,000 people each month. Chapter members also help with outreach to the homeless every Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Redwood Gospel Mission.
Marie Mayo, the secretary of Ponca City, Oklahoma, Chapter 750, who also serves as secretary of the Oklahoma State Council, was honored as Oklahoma Woman Veteran of the Year at the annual Ponca City Veterans Day parade held on November 6. She had received the award on November 1 at the annual Oklahoma Women Veterans Recognition Day luncheon. The award is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.
Westchester County, New York, Chapter 49 had a busy December. On December 13, the chapter hosted the “Wreaths Across America” program at Lasdon Park, the home of four memorials and a museum that honor all Westchester County servicemen and women, all of which were heavily supported by the chapter. The chapter presented seven wreaths at the Park’s Westchester Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The following day, chapter members took part in the annual holiday party held at the Stress Unit at the FDR Montrose Campus of the VA Hudson Valley Healthcare System. On December 21, Chapter 49 held its annual candlelight vigil in the Lasdon Park Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the chapter’s way of honoring during the holiday season those who did not return from Vietnam
Region 3 Director Bruce Whitaker and South Carolina State Council President Avery Taylor were on hand in November for the official VVA Charter presentation to newly formed Chapter 1017 in Walhalla, South Carolina. Chapter 1017 is South Carolina’s tenth VVA chapter.
Members of Ft. Hood Area Chapter 1000 in Killeen, Texas, are working with the Texas Military Family Foundation to support our active-duty troops. Every Tuesday, chapter members Bill Wittaker, Willy Williams, Gene Smith, and John Footman, along with AVVA chapter representative Lynn Kennedy, provide snacks, coffee, and tea to soldiers at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center. “Sometimes soldiers try to pay us, but we tell them their money is no good here,” Kennedy said. “One Army chaplain told us, ‘You think this a small thing, but believe me, to them it is a big thing.’ To us, it is the least we can do to honor their sacrifice and devotion to our country.”
Warren Fitts, the vice president of Baytown, Texas, Chapter 922, coordinated an effort to send homemade Christmas cards put together by students at the Sterling and Goose Creek Memorial High School Key Clubs to our troops overseas. “For several years I have been honored to help these great young people get their cards to our wounded warriors and to our troops in the field,” Fitts said. “It is so nice to be able to help out and get homemade cards to our troops, and the troops’ feedback hits the heart.”
While in Washington, D.C., to commemorate Veterans Day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, members of Chapter 12 in Allenhurst, New Jersey took time out to make a visit to recovering service personnel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “I feel that every veterans organization should make a trip to Walter Reed and welcome these brave soldiers home,” Don Davison, a Chapter Board member, said.
Ed Brown and Frank Crist of the Eddie Uhlmansiek Chapter 10 in Reading, Ohio, were on hand October 1 at the Lebanon Correctional Institution for the dedication of a Veterans Memorial, which was constructed with funds raised by incarcerated Chapter 592. The ceremonies were led by Chapter 592 Lead Adviser J.T. Hall and Chapter President Robert Conway.
The Color Guard (Paul Masi, Tony Sparaco, Mike DiGuiseppi, Bill Torres, and Stu Behan) of Nassau County, New York, Chapter 82 posted the colors and paid tribute to veterans of the Korean War at the July 27 re-dedication of the Massapequa Park Korean Veterans Memorial. Chapter 82 President Joe Ingino spoke at the ceremonies.
Fairmont, West Virginia, Chapter 874 recently donated three flag poles and American flags to the city of Monongah, West Virginia, for its Veterans Memorial. The Chapter 874 Color Guard (Second Vice President Roger Roy, Henry Heck, Chapter President Ivan Freeland, Robert Miller, Robert Long, and First Vice President Cecilio Besares) presented the flags.
Fresno, California, Chapter 933 was the moving force behind the Vietnam War Monument that was dedicated in June on the grounds of the VA Central California Healthcare System Hospital in Fresno. “As far as we know [the Fresno VA Hospital] is the only VA with a monument dedicated to Vietnam veterans,” said David Phillips, the system’s Public Affairs Service director.
Baltimore Chapter 451 played a big role at the official Veterans Day program at the Maryland Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Chapter Honor Guard helped open the ceremonies; chapter member John Bartkowiack was the Master of Ceremonies; Chapter Chaplain Kenneth Cullings gave the Invocation and Benediction; and Chapter President George Dahlke led the Pledge of Allegiance. Chapter 451 hosted a reception and luncheon afterwards, during which there was a balloon release to honor Agent Orange victims and widows. The Agent Orange Quilt of Tears Memorial was on display.
Tim Driscoll, the president of Washtenaw County, Michigan, Chapter 310 attended the Friends of VVA 310 Gold Star Moms luncheon in October. “All of our Gold Stars Moms were wonderful and a joy to meet,” he said. “Our VVA 310 Friends who were there were all moms also. Everyone was tied to our veterans. It was humbling. It made me proud to be with them.”
Plymouth/Canton, Michigan, Chapter 528 honored the winners of its annual Essay Scholarship Contest at the October general membership meeting and presented them with checks, certificates, and congratulatory letters. The winners were Samuel Bell (first place, $750), Mathew Thomason (second place, $450), and Alex Enright (third place, $300). The Scholarship Committee of Dean Bell, Don Dignan, and Tom Brown were assisted by this year’s judges: Mary Boudreau, Cheryl Brown, Nancy Dignan, Cheryl Martin, Rick Popa, and Rich Whipple.
John Spencer, a member of Plymouth-Canton, Michigan, Chapter 528, organized the annual POW/MIA ceremony at the Canton Veterans Memorial. Chapter member Cheryl A. Vatcher-Martin and two others read the names of the fallen and missing from Michigan at the ceremony. Two former POWs from World War II attended the event.
BROOKLYN CHAPTER 72
Spreading Holiday Cheer
BY JOE PIAZZA
On December 20, Brooklyn Chapter 72 threw a party at the Manhattan Campus of the VA Hospital, New York Harbor Health Care System, for the men in the chapter’s adopted ward on the 15th floor, west. The ward treats veterans with alcohol- and drug-related problems. The patients come in any time they like, voluntarily, to receive help and treatment.
The party spread included four three-foot heroes, soft drinks, and special baked goods. The entertainment was provided by James Johnson and Colette Whitney, who are singers and entertainers.
The Chapter 72 members who made the event possible include Chapter President Luigi Masu and Joseph Piazza, MOPH Chapter 405 Commander. Other participating chapter members and volunteers were Michael Cerillo, Edward DeRose, Danny Friedman, Irene and Barry Berger, Paul Friedman, Steve Corretto, Andrew Manicone, Stanley Lukosevicius, Lara Pali, Tom Ingram, Linda Tatem, Frank D. Brunner, Beverley Hyman, and the Neftlebergs. The event brought cheer to the patients and to the chapter members and volunteers.
A Christmas Story
BY CANDIS CHANEY
Every Christmas, the students and faculty of St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie, Maryland, come up with a project to give to people in need. This year, the students made mini-Christmas trees for the recovering soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center. VVA Household Goods Director Quentin Butcher made arrangements for Diane Blair, St. Pius’s Director of Development and Programs, along with eleven of her students, to come to VVA National Headquarters to present The Giving Project.
When the students arrived, VVA’s Veterans Benefits Department was conducting the week-long annual basic training for service officer candidates from across the country. Everyone in the class paused from the training to gather around while the students presented the handmade Christmas trees. In return, VVA members gave the students key chains and information on Vietnam Veterans of America’s history.
The students had brought their own decorations and decorated their individual trees. Each tree had its own card with the student’s name and a note written on the back. This year alone, the students sent more than three hundred trees. The previous day, VVA members Bernie Edelman, Mike Najarian, and David Gudes attended three classrooms of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who decorated the trees and boxed them up.
“The children were very involved and concerned about making the trees look good,” Gudes said. Later that evening, VVA members presented the Christmas trees to young patients at the Walter Reed Medical Center over dinner.
In addition to the Christmas trees, the students gave VVA a handmade Prayer Flag. The smaller kids used their white paint thumb prints to represent the stars, and the bigger kids used their red paint hand prints to represent the stripes. The end result resembled the American flag. The painting went on display behind the receptionist’s desk for the staff, vistitors, and all to see.
VVA looks foward to participating in this tradition next year and the years to come. “It’s the least we can do,” said Chris Ambrosini, 14.
Chapter 391, Sonora, California
In Service To Its Community
In Novermber, the members of Chapter 391 in Sonora, California, the largest chapter in the state, showed once again that they have a very large heart when they paid a visit to Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center Unit, one of just four facilities in the country providing intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries to more than one organ system. It’s located at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto.
In addition to providing recovering servicemen and women with pizza and soft drinks, the Chapter distributed commemorative T-shirts and hats to everyone on the unit. Chapter member Ron Columbani coordinated the visit.
Among other community service work, the Chapter distributed thirty Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets throughout Sonora and Tuolumne County. The baskets, which contained the fixings for traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, were given to needy veterans of all wars, as well as to senior citizens.
The Chapter also recently awarded six $1,000 scholarships to exceptional high school seniors heading to institutions of higher learning. And for the seventh year in a row, Chapter 391 hosted a fundraising golf tournament. This year, half the proceeds were donated to Meals on Wheels, the nonprofit organization that delivers hot meals to the elderly. John Marrs, the tournament chair, and Dan Brown, the Chapter President, presented the check to the charity.