Long Beach Chapter 756 recently marked its 20th anniversary with a dinner at the Spaghetti Factory, with 43 of its 154 active members in attendance. Before the chapter received its charter in 1997, the nearest VVA chapters for Long Beach residents were in Torrance, Riverside, and Pasadena, and the Los Angeles-area traffic often thwarted attendance.
Chapter President Conrad Gomez attributed his chapter’s longevity to tireless outreach — “going to the right places; picking the right events” — and making new members feel welcome. He credited his fellow former U.S. Air Force veteran Max Stewart for founding the chapter. “He is always there, and we’re always trying to network together,” Gomez said.
Chapter 756’s most visible achievement is the Long Beach Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the city’s Houghton Park, which was dedicated on Veterans Day 2000. Designed by a local art student, it features an actual Huey helicopter that logged thousands of combat hours in Vietnam. Tastefully lit by night, the monument features a plaque honoring Long Beach’s 103 Vietnam KIAs and MIAs.
The chapter arranges outings for Long Beach VA Hospital patients, and sponsors the VVA Art Contest, a popular painting competition at Woodbridge High School in nearby Irvine, awarding scholarships to the winners. Chapter 756 also works closely with the local Vietnamese community; chapter members join Vietnamese veterans at the Vietnam War Memorial in the nearby city of Westminster on a monthly basis.
As part of its outreach to all veterans, the chapter also supports Patriots and Paws, the Air Force Sergeants Association, Vets to Vets, and the Anaheim 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. “We want to make sure that currently deployed service personnel don’t come home and feel rejected,” said Gomez. “Our pursuit is always to be there for any form of help, from suicide prevention to helping women, especially women with sexual trauma.”