Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Chapter 862 held its tenth annual Tet Party February 21 at The Fez in Hopewell Township. More than six hundred people attended the event, which included a POW/MIA/KIA ceremony, dinner, music, and dancing. The Chapter took in more than $16,000, which it will use to fund its community-service programs and projects. “The money will be donated to projects that benefit veterans of all wars,” Chapter President F. Skip Haswell said. For instance, the Chapter recently purchased and installed a flag pole for the Beaver World War II Memorial.
At the April 24 meeting of Wallkill Valley Chapter 1002 in Vernon, New Jersey, Deborah Campbell of Tee It Up for the Troops, a non-profit organization that supports veterans, presented chapter President John Harrigan with a check for $1,000 for the chapter’s veterans’ assistance programs.
Northern Virginia Chapter 227 presented the 13th annual Vince Kaspar Awards for Excellence in the Arts at its May 21 membership meeting. The awards recognize local high school students’ work in poetry and art. The poetry winners read their poems, and the art was on display. The chapter also presented a $1,000 grant to the Arlington County Public Schools for its summer school program for new immigrants, which is designed to accelerate their assimilation into American society and culture. On Memorial Day, the Chapter conducted its annual wreath-laying and memorial ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) was the keynote speaker at the April 4 Grand Opening ceremonies of Fire Base Henry, the new headquarters of Smoky Mountain, North Carolina, Chapter 994 in Franklin, North Carolina. Other guests included representatives of North Carolina’s U.S. Senators, Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole, local elected officials, and Nathan Henry, the former Vietnam War POW for whom the new chapter headquarters is named.
Roman P. Nidzwiedz and other members of Bordentown, New Jersey, Chapter 899 were the driving forces behind a three-year effort to enact a state law providing for the proper burial of the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans stored in funeral homes, hospitals, and prisons. After many, many hours working with state legislators, a bill was passed early this year by the New Jersey Legislature. Nidzwiedz and other veterans were on hand on February 4 when Gov. John Corzine signed the bill into law. Now, veterans’ organizations such as VVA have the right in New Jersey to receive veterans’ unclaimed cremated remains in order to arrange for proper military burial at sea or on land at the Brigadier Gen. William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in Burlington County.
Texarkana, Texas, Area Chapter 278 hosted its 13th annual Veterans Information Fair on May 16, Armed Forces Day, at the city of Texarkana’s Southwest Center. The fair helps veterans and their families, as well as active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard military personnel and their families get information from a variety of sources on VA benefits and programs. There was no charge for the fair. Voter registration for Texas and Arkansas also was available.
Porter County, Indiana, Chapter 905 played a large roll in the June 12-13 Relay for Life event in Portage, one of the largest cancer fundraisers in the area. The Chapter Honor Guard presented the colors at the opening ceremonies and had a tent to provide water to the relay participants. Chapter members also took part in the “Patriotic Lap” at the closing ceremonies.
During the long, cold winter of 2008-09, Central Minnesota Chapter 290 distributed warm clothing to more than 250 veterans. The Chapter’s annual Roast Beef Dinner and Live and Silent Auctions Fundraiser, held in the spring, was a big success. More than 250 dinners were sold, and the action at the auction was brisk.
Redondo Beach, California, Chapter 53 recently made donations to the new American Gold Star Manor Memorial Fountain and the Run for the Wall bikers organization. The Chapter is one of several sponsoring a golf tee at the VVA National Convention tournament to support the Mike Nash Scholarship Fund.
Boy Scout Troop 57, sponsored by Appleton, Wisconsin, Chapter 351, this year had five new Eagle Scouts. That brought the number of Troop 57 Eagle scouts to 80. The Chapter inscribes those Scouts’ names on plaques that are displayed at Highlands Elementary School. The Chapter helped honor the new Eagle Scouts at the Eagle Court of Honor on May 17 at the Grand Chute, Wisconsin, town hall.
Rock Island, Illinois, Quad City Chapter 299 members, including Bobby Mac McSparin, Ron Staes, Harry Hanson, Terry Lynch, Mike Green, Ray Hamilton, and Bill Albracht, helped during the set-up of the 43rd annual Modern Woodmen Bank Quad Cities Memorial Day Criterium bike race in downtown Rock Island. The chapter received donations from the race committee for every man-hour worked. The huge event, consisting of thirteen criterium races and eight children’s races, attracted more than five hundred cyclists from all parts of the country, racing at speeds up to 35 mph. The races started at 8:25 a.m. and went till 5:30 p.m. The Chapter Color Guard presented the colors during the opening ceremonies of the event, a Memorial Day tradition in the Quad Cities.
On May 25, Baltimore Chapter 451 once again put on the Memorial Day program at the Maryland Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and hosted a reception after the ceremonies at the Chapter’s headquarters. Chapter Chaplain Kenneth Cullings offered the benediction and, with Chapter President George Dahlke, the invocation. The Chapter’s John Bartkowiak served as master of ceremonies, and the Chapter Honor Guard took part in the processional and placement of the colors. Those in attendance included Maryland Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, the keynote speaker, and guest speaker Rep. John Sarbanes.
Greater Hartford Chapter 120 led the Armed Forces Day/Shad Derby Parade May 16 in Windsor, Connecticut, for the sixth consecutive year. The Chapter Color Guard was the lead contingent in the parade. Carrying the colors were Roger Feder, Ted Groenstein, Russ Crawford, and Roger Anderson. Bill Chiodo and Charles Hallgren carried the Chapter 120 banner, and Chapter members Mike Daugherty, Bob Venti, Frank Zizzamia, and Pattie Dumin marched behind the banner. John Cutler drove the Chapter’s vehicle, with Connecticut State Council President Billee Culin riding shotgun.
Len Ignatowski, Chapter 227’s President, acting on behalf of the Virginia State Council, formally presented the state’s newest chapter, Northern Shenandoah Valley Chapter 1019, its official VVA Charter on March 3 in Winchester, Virginia. Also on hand for the occasion was West Virginia State Council President Dave Simmons. Chapter President Arnie Eversen and Vice President Ken Watts, who co-founded the chapter, presented certificates to the 30 charter members. The chapter will be named in honor of Winchester native PFC John F. Morrison, Jr., a 1st Infantry Division soldier who was killed in action on December 30, 1967
Sacramento Valley, California, Chapter 500 hosted its annual Reading of the Names during Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 24, at the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The commemoration began with a brief opening ceremony at 7:00 a.m., followed by a solemn reading of the 5,822 names inscribed on the Memorial.
Western Massachusetts Chapter One-Eleven sponsored its annual Memorial Day Eve Ceremony at 7 p.m. at the Chicopee Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Chicopee, Massachusetts. This marked the 18th year the chapter hosted the event. The following day, Chapter members marched in the Memorial Day parade in Ludlow.
Lakeport, California, Chapter 951, in conjunction with the Lake County Fairgrounds, hosted the June 11-15 visit of The Moving Wall, the traveling half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, now it its 25th year. Chapter President Dean Gotham, Vice President Dan Davie, and members Warren Fox and Dennis Yow did the bulk of the preparation, including fundraising. Marin County Chapter 547 signed on as a co-sponsor for the event. Gotham called the event “a true community effort.” In addition to cash donations, many people volunteered for the event.
Michael P. Callahan Memorial Chapter 955 in Wildwood, New Jersey, is raising funds to build a permanent Vietnam Veterans Memorial in that seaside town. With the support of the city’s mayor and commissioner and through the efforts of former Chapter President Greg Mazotta (who died last year) and his cousin and Chapter member Vince DePrinzio, the chapter received a plot of land in a city park for a memorial featuring a 235-foot graphite wall, similar in appearance to The Wall in Washington. “We know that we have a long way to go, but we’re confident we’ll get there,” DePrinzio said.
Joseph Barattia, a member of Bergen County, New Jersey, Chapter 800 and the chair of the Bergen County Veterans Advisory Council, is coordinating an effort to have area veterans contribute to building a new home in Hillsdale for Marine CPL Visnu Gonzales, who is paralyzed from the chest down as a result of a sniper’s bullet that severed his spinal cord while serving in Iraq in 2004. The Homes for Our Troops organization acquired the lot for the home and held a groundbreaking ceremony in January; local contractors donated materials; and local veterans will provide the manpower to build the LEED-certified home.
BY NANCY DAHLSTROM, ALASKA DISTRICT 18 STATE REPRESENTATIVE
On May 23, the Alaska State Legislature’s Joint Armed Services Committee co-chairs, Sen. Bill Wielechowski and I, hosted the Decoration of Honor Ceremony honoring 177 Alaska military members who lost their lives from Statehood (1959) through December 31, 2008.
In 2007, I sponsored legislation creating the Alaska Decoration of Honor to recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation. The ceremony was attended by more than 500 family members, loved ones, and dignitaries including Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Seventy-two honorees were represented by loved ones at the ceremony. An additional 75 do not have a listed next of kin, which makes it difficult for the state to honor them. Many are from the Vietnam War era.
To be eligible to receive this award, an armed services member must have listed Alaska as his or her home of record or deployed from Alaska, and then was killed in action or in support of combat. For further information on the Decoration of Honor, call my office at 907-622-3783 or email Representative_Nancy_Dahlstrom@legis.state.ak.us
By Connie Jones
On Friday, May 22, Task Force Omega, following the central route to join other motorcyclists on Memorial Day for Rolling Thunder in Washington, D.C., swept through Lookout, West Virginia, and roared into the parking lot of the Nuttall Middle School. Beckley VVA Chapter 860 was waiting for them.
“This is our fourth year,” VP John Jones said. “Every year gets bigger.” The chapter was not alone in its enthusiastic greeting. The road from the highway was lined with students’ welcome signs. The VAMC in Beckley brought disabled veterans to the school on a field trip. As the riders approached the school, the Nuttall Band launched into a patriotic serenade. Students, their parents, and other members of the community cheered.
It’s only a couple hours on one day, but it’s a very big deal for the chapter and the community. “We grilled 480 hot dogs. Plus, we gave them drinks and chips,” Chapter President Mitch Carte said. “The chapter picks up the bill, which ran around $500.” Local churches supplemented the feast with pasta and potato salads.
The event was the brainchild of postmistress and AVVA member Debbie Martin. She worked out the logistics between the motorcyclists, the school, and the community. Another chapter project at Nuttall Middle School was the creation and installation of a tribute to the four graduates who died during the Vietnam War. The plaque includes their photographs and birth and death dates.
Some chapter members have deep roots in the school, with several generations as alumni. Task Force Omega provides an opportunity to teach students about the Vietnam War and the costs of war. During a ceremony in the school gym that highlighted the sacrifices of Korean War veterans, the POW/MIA table ceremony was presented and two Korean War veterans spoke.
But every day there are opportunities for chapter members to educate kids. One evening, Chapter 860 AVVA representative Connie Jones watched students respectfully lower the flag, then bunch it up to stow it. “That just ain’t right,” she told the startled students. Two VVA members showed up several days later to show the kids how to fold the flag properly. At the conclusion of the May 22 event, two Nuttall students lowered the flag, then correctly and carefully folded it.
“It’s all for the kids,” said Carte. “They look forward to this from one year to the next.”