Diane Ficke’s first homework assignment in school was to go home and write about the Vietnam War.
All she had to do was watch it on the news.
Growing up during the war, news of Vietnam and the soldiers who fought there seemed to consume every news channel on every TV.
Both Ficke’s father and later her step-father served as airmen flying over country and working as an air adviser on the ground.
They both inspired her to serve as well. Now retired she continues to support Vietnam veterans who were neither, welcomed, honored or respected for their service.
While many have heard of the Vietnam Veterans of American, few know there is a sister organization that anyone can join to support local veterans.
Ficke is the president of the local chapter of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America in Central Alabama, Chapter 607 that funds, supports and helps Vietnam veterans in Montgomery and surrounding counties.
The AVVA is a nationwide nonprofit veterans’ organization that was created to address to improve issues affecting Vietnam veterans and their families, the community and veterans of all eras. Anyone who wants to support local veterans, such as family members or friends of Vietnam veterans are invited to join.
Ficke is passionate about serving her fellow veterans because of her step-father, Bill Richards who fought in Vietnam and succumbed to his illnesses from Agent Orange in March. She made sure he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. with full honors.
“We cannot thank our Vietnam veterans enough, ” Ficke said. “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another. It is very personal to me growing up during the war, I watched it play out on television.
“I know what it’s like to come home and have a feeling of isolation and not being able to fit back into society once having been deployed.
“Even worse, Vietnam veterans came home and death came with them in the aftermath and illnesses associated with the toxic chemical, Agent Orange. They were unpopular, not appreciated, honored or thanked and all they did was answer the call to defend their country.”
Ficke works to turn the tide and make sure local veterans receive the care and respect and they deserve. She and the local AVVA works directly with the Vietnam Veterans of America of Central Alabama Chapter 607 in several different community outreach programs.
They hold regular town hall meetings for veterans in rural areas. A flag retirement ceremony is offered free to the public to properly dispose of old and tattered flags and is held at Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery every Veterans Day. A brick ceremony is held every Memorial Day to remember and honor all fallen veterans of Central Alabama.
The AVVA also helps sponsor the displaying of local Vietnam War memorials in each county. Made to look like the famous Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., each local monument is sculpted in black marble and holds the names of each veteran who died in the war and were from that county.
Four have been unveiled so far – in Wetumpka, Prattville, Montgomery and most recently in Tuskegee.
Source: The Montgomery Advertiser