VVA Chapter 391 in Sonora, Calif., celebrated its 30th anniversary this week. Veteran Frank Smart saw the need for a local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association in Tuolumne County, and requested information. The paperwork was processed, and the chapter was officially chartered on Sept. 12, 1988.
Over the ensuing 30 years, the organization has become a vital part of the fabric of Tuolumne County. Members are proud of their service, their communities and their fellow veterans, regardless of where or when they served.
“Chapter 391 has frequently been in the forefront advocating at the local, state and national levels,” says Larry Bramblett, president. “As the largest chapter in California and ninth-largest in the nation, our voice on veteran’s issues has been strong. That voice continues for a large number of issues that impact the current generation of veterans.”
Today, the chapter has 560 members, including 380 life members. The chapter participates in dozens of community events, with the chapter Color Guard appearing at more than 30 events last year. The chapter also organizes fundraisers for its many programs supporting community nonprofits, veterans in need, scholarships and other initiatives.
In the last five years, the chapter has awarded scholarships totaling $86,000 in support of continuing education. It contributes to community services such as Meals on Wheels, Adopt-a-Family, Relay for Life and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and operates an emergency response team to help fellow veterans facing crises.
The chapter stages Stand Downs to benefit homeless veterans, helped establish Tuolumne County’s Vietnam Veteran Memorial in 1991, organizes town hall meetings to address illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure, and helps veterans suffering from PTSD alongside the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America (AVVA).
“We sincerely thank our many sponsors for their generous donations over the countless events held by the chapter,” Bramblett says. “Our greatest thanks goes to the citizens of our communities for supporting our events. We are forever thankful for their support.”