More than 750 people attended the 25th anniversary celebration August 26 for the Thomas H. Corey Palm Beach County Chapter 25 at the Callaway Armed Forces Reserve Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. The event included a tribute to the newest generations of veterans, entertainment, and color guards presented by all branches of the military. Dennis Koehler, the Florida State Council legal adviser, served as Master of Ceremonies. He and former VVA President Tom Corey founded the chapter in 1981. Featured speakers included Corey; Florida State Council President Jerry Klein; and VVA National Secretary Barry Hagge, who honored the chapter for 25 years of living up to VVA’s motto, “In Service to America.” On July 11, the Palm Beach County Commission had presented the chapter with a proclamation that declared August 26 as Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 25 Day.
Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Chapter 67 was instrumental in organizing the Philadelphia Regional Stand Down to aid homeless veterans September 8-10 at Lighthouse Field. “We had approximately 350 participants,” said chapter member George E. Brown, “men, women, and children. The event itself passed with no major calamities and with plenty of good food and other services.”
One of the newest projects undertaken by Nassau County, New York, Chapter 82 is supporting a house for homeless veterans in West Hempstead run by the Nassau County Division of Family Services. Since March, the chapter has been collecting food items to donate to veterans living in the facility, and the chapter currently is working on providing a computer, the No. 1 item on the house’s wish list. “All in all, this is a great way for the chapter to reach out and help some brother vets who have come across hard times,” said Chapter President Carol Johnson. “This is truly a win-win situation for all involved.”
Members of Chapter 682 at the Powhatan Correctional Center in Powhatan County, Virginia, have been extremely active in community-service endeavors since the chapter began in 1990. Among the chapter’s accomplishments: holding fund-raisers for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, purchasing and donating books for Powhatan’s libraries, setting up a mentoring program for at-risk youth at Thomas Dale High School, making contributions to a student college fund, reducing behavioral problems among members by encouraging them to stay infraction-free, donating fans to elderly indigent veterans at Powhatan, creating a consumer math class for members, sponsoring job fair seminars, sending care packages to a military unit in Iraq, and hosting PTSD seminars.
Racine/Kenosha, Wisconsin, Chapter 767 has had a busy year in service to veterans and the community. In March, the chapter presented three televisions, six DVD/ VCRs, a theater-type popcorn machine, and a cash donation to the Veterans Home in Union Grove. On Memorial Day, the chapter presented two living statues and manned the POW/MIA Remembrance table at ceremonies at the Southeastern Wisconsin Veterans Cemetery. In May and June, chapter members performed their annual clean-up at the Veterans Memorial in Pritchard Park. In June, the chapter dedicated the Bruce Smalley Memorial Library in honor of one of the chapter’s charter members on the second floor of the Racine Veterans Center. And on July 4, the chapter had two floats in Racine’s Independence Day Parade. The floats, accompanied by chapter members and the chapter Color Guard, depicted The Wall, the Three Fightingmen statue, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. In October, the chapter was named Wisconsin Chapter of the Year by the Wisconsin State Council.
Members of Illinois Chapters 311, Des Plaines; 693, Wheaton; 209, Chicago; and 242, Chicago were on hand on September 2 at the Airborne Andy Veterans Picnic at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Arlington Heights, where they each received a special Patriotic Pillow from Dan Finn, a member of Blue Island, Illinois, Chapter 153, and his wife, Christina. The Finns have presented their small pillows adorned with the American flag to American service personnel and to veterans since September 11, 2001, to honor their service and sacrifice.
USAF Vietnam veteran John E. Bellwoar, who died in 2002, finally was given a proper burial in September through the efforts of Erma, New Jersey, Chapter 602. When Chapter President Joe Pettit learned that Bellwoar’s cremated remains were unclaimed in a private funeral home, he led a chapter fund-raising effort that came up with $1,000 to pay to have the remains released. The chapter then arranged to have a military burial at the Crest Haven Veterans Cemetery with an honor guard from Maguire Air Force Base. “We are doing our best to make things complete,” Pettit said following the funeral, which 13 chapter members attended.
The award-winning Springfield, Massachusetts, Chapter 866 Color Guard had the honor of leading the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade for the fourth consecutive year. The chapter, which sponsors a local Boy Scout troop and Cub Scout troop, took part in the September 22 Western Massachusetts Stand Down, which was held at the Greek Cultural Center in Springfield. Chapter members presented the POW/MIA Recognition Ceremony, and the Color Guard presented the colors and led the rifle salute at the event’s opening ceremonies.
Members of Greater Hartford, Connecticut, Chapter 120 took part in the September 22 Stand Down 2006, held at the State Veterans Home campus in Rocky Hill. The chapter donated $500, and chapter members volunteered at the all-day event, which offered a wide range of services to some 550 veterans. The Connecticut State Council also donated $500. “This has been a very, very productive day,” said chapter member Linda Schwartz, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs. “People’s lives are transformed here.”
The State University of New York at Brockport, along with the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago and VVA’s Western New York District chapters, sponsored “The Things We Carried” art exhibit in October at SUNY Brockport’s Drake Memorial Library. Inspired by the Tim O’Brien book of the same name, the exhibit was one of several events planned during the fall semester, incorporating themes from the book. The following VVA chapters provided items that members brought home from their Vietnam War tours of duty: Chapter 20, Rochester; Western New York Chapter 77; Chapter 193, Leroy; Chapter 268, Lockport; Chapter 459, Cassadaga; Chapter 681, Niagara Falls; and Chapter 865, Jamestown.
Members and friends of Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 spent the better part of a recent Saturday afternoon sorting through scores of collection bins filled with bags of groceries that had been collected in the spring. The chapter then sent all the perishables (rice, pasta, cake mixes) to St. Joseph’s House, a local food pantry, soup kitchen, and emergency shelter that serves the poor and homeless in Rochester. The canned and bottled goods were set aside for Thanksgiving baskets the chapter distributes to needy families.
Chapter 227, The Dean K. Phillips Memorial Chapter in Northern Virginia, celebrated its 21st anniversary at its September 21st membership meeting. The gala event included the chapter’s first unfurling of the AVVA flag, which will now stand in line with the American, VVA, and POW/MIA flags at all of the chapter’s events. Al Weed, a Vietnam veteran and retired Army Reserve Command Sergeant Major, presented a talk at the meeting, comparing the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq.
Liberty Bell Chapter 266 in Philadelphia participated in that city’s Stand Down for three days in September at Lighthouse Field. Chapter 226 members and friends helped the homeless and in-need veterans and their families at the event with shelter, meals, employment assistance, medical assistance, drug- and alcohol-treatment information, veterans benefits counseling, legal advice, haircuts, and just plain friendly conversation.
The Baltimore Chapter 451 Honor Guard had a very busy summer. The group participated in the Dundalk Heritage Fair opening and closing ceremonies and in three 4th of July parades: in Dundalk, Towson, and Catonsville. The big fall event for the group was marching in Baltimore’s Columbus Day Parade.
Liberty Bell Chapter 226 in Philadelphia hosted the Memorial Day ceremonies at the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The chapter’s Color Guard joined those from the Memorial Society and the 82nd Airborne in honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation. The chapter followed that event by taking part in a second ceremony at its headquarters, with an open house for members, families, and friends.
Western New York Chapter 77’s highly successful Food Pantry has provided assistance to more than 1,400 Western New York families and has disbursed more than $500,000 worth of food and cash cards since it was founded. Most recently, the Buffalo-based Tops Food Markets donated some 4,000 pounds of goods to the Food Pantry, which was unloaded from a Tops food truck into the chapter’s basement offices by a phalanx of members and friends. “Veterans helping veterans continues in the finest spirit of caring and giving to others,” said Chapter President Patrick W. Welch. “Words cannot properly convey my heartfelt thanks to all who give of themselves for others.”
Phoenix Chapter 726 at the Polk City, Florida, Correctional Institution held a full day of activities on Memorial Day. The chapter Color Guard led the ceremonies at the institution’s central flagpole, after which the chapter organized softball, card, and board games, followed by evening ceremonies that included prayers of remembrance, a reading of the names of deceased chapter members, a flag-lowering, and an ice cream and cake social.
Del Mayes, Roy Hall, Dave Stokes, and John and Jane Kinzinger of Washtenaw County, Michigan, Chapter 310 recently visited every patient at the Ann Arbor VAMC as part of the chapter’s annual ice cream party for patients. In addition to treating each patient to ice cream, the chapter members distributed special cards made by local elementary school students to the veterans. The chapter also threw its annual Halloween Party at the hospital on October 28. “Sundays are normally real quiet and slow for the hospitalized veterans, except when we come to visit,” said John Kinzinger.
Quad Cities Chapter 229 in Rock Island, Illinois, was named Citizen Group of the Year and Citizen of the Year in Rock Island in August. “The judges based their decision on the pro-active involvement that our chapter engages in,” said Chapter President Bill Albracht. “They looked at the entirety of the chapter’s civic involvement from the Honor Guard’s final tributes in the gardens of stone, to the holiday food baskets we give out Quad City-wide.” After receiving the award from the mayor, the chapter “received a standing ovation for several minutes,” Albracht said. “In all of my years of being involved in public functions, I was never so moved. We are truly honored, and we are truly humbled.”
Seventy-three VVA members, including many from Monroe, Michigan, Chapter 142, submitted responses to a survey put together by Terri Kovach for her dissertation at Wayne State University, which will be published as The Constant Companion: The Integration of Vietnam War Combat Experiences into Later Adulthood. The results of the survey “tell us something important about Vietnam veterans who live in our communities,” Kovach said. “They also make it clear that the efforts of Vietnam Veterans of America are important. Veterans’ organizations may be the best programs to help returning veterans who feel that they don’t fit in when they get back to civilian life.”
Denton, Texas, Chapter 920 has worked in many ways over the last two years to support the soldiers and families of its local Texas Army National Guard unit, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 112th Armor, which went to Iraq in December of 2004. A bumper-sticker campaign raised more than $5,000 for the effort. With that money the chapter provided moisture-wicking OD tee shirts to each member of the unit, which came in handy in the 130-degree summer heat in Iraq. Chapter members also sent care packages with hard-to-get items, such as CDs, DVDs, phone cards, and good cigars. More than $500 was raised and distributed for school supplies for the children of the soldiers. The chapter sponsored a welcome home parade for the unit in December of last year, the first such parade in Denton since World War I.
Members of Grand Junction, Colorado, Chapter 57 joined with members of the Patriot Guard in helping with the funeral of a soldier from Montrose, Colorado, who died in Iraq, when members of a group from Kansas threatened to disturb the soldier’s family during the funeral service. Chapter members helped form a line which shielded the family from the protestors and allowed the funeral to proceed uneventfully.
Texarkana, Texas, Chapter 278 hosted its 13th annual Ride to Remember and balloon release on September 3 on U.S. Highway 71 through Texarkana, where the event concluded at the Korea/Vietnam War Memorial. Chapter members and supporters rode motorcycles and later released 202 balloons, one for each resident of the four-state area still unaccounted for in the Vietnam War. The names of those still missing from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas were read at the ceremonies.
The Ponca City, Oklahoma, Chapter 750 Color Guard took part in the September 16 dedication of that city’s POW/MIA Monument. Among those in the crowd of some 500 were Oklahoma State Council President Nate Washington and many VVA members from the Sooner State.
President Len Ignatowski and Board Member Joe Celesnick of The Dean K. Phillips Memorial Chapter in Northern Virginia were in attendance on August 26 for the dedication of a new plaque honoring the chapter’s namesake at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. The chapter voted to replace a weather-damaged plaque at the refuge’s Captain Dean K. Phillips Parachute Drop Zone, honoring Phillips, who served with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam and as commander of the Signal Company of the 11th Special Forces Group at Fort Meade, Maryland, prior to his death in 1985.
“As an early advocate for Vietnam veterans health and economic issues, he was responsible for the Vietnam-era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974,” the plaque notes, “and was instrumental in obtaining federal government approval for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” The chapter’s name and the VVA founding principle, “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another,” also are inscribed on the plaque.
Members of San Jacinto Chapter 343 in Houston and Galveston County Chapter 685 took part in the July 7-9 display at Brookside Cemetery in Northeast Houston of the Dignity Memorial Vietnam War Experience, a three-quarter scale model of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Chapter 343 presented the colors during the July 8 Candlelight POW/MIA Recognition Service at the memorial and members of Chapter 685 performed the POW/MIA Table Ceremony
Leader of the Pack: Maine State Council President John Wallace
Maine State Council President John Wallace was sworn in on September 9 as an Aide-de-Camp to the staff of Maine Governor John Baldacci in his capacity as the state’s National Guard Commander in Chief. “It took about 15 years to get VVA recognized for this honor,” Wallace said. “But the state now realizes that VVA has done more for veterans and works better with the VA on behalf of veterans than any other VSO in the state. We all speak as one, but VVA leads the pack.”
As an Aide-de-Camp, which comes with the rank of Colonel in the Maine National Guard, Wallace will attend monthly meetings with the Guard’s commanding general and quarterly meetings with the Governor on military and veterans’ matters.
Those duties come in addition to Wallace’s extremely active work for VVA, for which he drives some 15,000-20,000 miles around the state every year. “I’m on my fourth vehicle,” Wallace told us. “I joined VVA in 1989, hit the ground running, and I haven’t stopped since.”