|Vietnam Veterans of America|
Inland Empire Chapter 47 in Riverside, California, has been working with Amazon during the pandemic to provide many types of items to local veterans and their families in need. In July chapter members went to a local Amazon processing center and picked up 169 boxes of items. There were “personal hygiene items, laundry soap, dish soap, kids toys, reams of paper—you name it, it was probably there,” said Chapter Secretary (and California State Council President) Steve Mackey. The chapter delivered the boxes to several local nonprofits, including Loma Linda Veterans Village, an apartment community for low-income veterans.
During the pandemic the chapter is working hard to continue its pantry programs, which gather and help deliver food and personal hygiene items to homeless veterans. “The pantry program is working very well,” Chapter President George Swift said this summer. “We have been getting several monetary contributions, quite a few from Chapter 47 members. Working with these pantries takes a lot of time and effort. A big thanks to Michelle Mackey, Steve Mackey, and Betty Volk. Once a month my wife Diane goes to the 99Cents store and picks up razors. The other chapter members who help with these pantries are Tony Scrudato, Bill Summers, George James and Richard Hengstebeck.”
Chapter 47 member Zack Earp, a longtime VVA leader and a former California State Council president, received the Riverside City Council’s 2019 City Spirit Award on June 30 in a ceremony that had been rescheduled because of the pandemic. The award recognizes a city resident who, “by extraordinary deeds and community spirit, demonstrates good citizenship and dedication to enhancing the quality of life in the City of Riverside.”
Zack Earp “is a legend in the La Sierra community for his service to his community,” Mayor Rusty Bailey said. “His work on veterans’ issues and in education make him well qualified for the City Spirit Award.”
Earp, the mayor said, “currently serves as the president of the Alvord Educational Foundation; facilitates the Riverside Parkinson’s Support Group; serves as a member of the Salute to Veterans Parade Committee; and contributes to a veterans blog called Agent Orange Zone for people who, like himself, have suffered health problems from exposure to the defoliant used in the Vietnam War.”
A former chair of Chapter 47’s Agent Orange Committee, Zack Earp also served on the Riverside Mayor’s Veterans Taskforce; has done many presentations at local elementary, middle, and high schools and colleges and universities on veterans issues; and chaired the Riverside County Supervisors Veterans Advisory Committee.
“Zack Earp’s commitment to Riverside, to veterans, and to students in Alvord Unified [school system] is unparalleled,” City Councilmember Jim Perry said. “He has made a lasting impact on our city with his selfless devotion to service.”
Chapter 9 in Detroit, one of VVA’s oldest and most active, in July unveiled its newly redesigned website. https://vva9.org is a first-class, user-friendly site with spectacular graphics and lots of interesting and helpful information.
Newark, Ohio, Chapter 55 President Mark Rehl and other chapter members were on hand on July 1 for the funeral of Vietnam War veteran Dennis McKnew, a former Marine lieutenant who served in Vietnam in 1969-70, and who died alone on June 1. After word went out, some 200 people showed up for the funeral, including law enforcement officers, active-duty military personnel, and other veterans.
Texarkana, Texas, Chapter 278 continues its tradition of helping the local Elks Lodge place and take up flags on major holidays throughout the year. The chapter also recently helped a veteran in the community meet his rent payments, but has had to cancel or postpone other chapter events since the pandemic hit, including what would have been its 24th annual Veterans Information Fair. The chapter observed the National Moment of Silence on Memorial Day, May 25.
Lynchburg, Virginia, Stanley E. Taylor Chapter 196 has curtailed many of its activities during the pandemic, but has continued its community service work. That included supporting Hunters for the Hungry, a nonprofit statewide group that provides donated venison to people in need, and Terry Sharpe, known as “The Walking Marine,” who walked some 300 miles, from Summerfield, North Carolina, to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about veteran suicides.
At a chapter meeting earlier this year seven members of Greenville, South Carolina, Chapter 523—Jerry Brock, Jim Chance, Peter Flink, Skip Gribble, Ron Hall, Duane Kelly, and Harold White—each received a Quilt of Valor honoring their military service.
Rod Phillips, the president of Jacksonville, Florida, Chapter 1048, recently appointed 2nd Vice President Gabe Sanchez as its CDC/COVID-19 Administrative Officer. Sanchez is heading the effort to ensure “the safety and well-being of our members and guests in all future chapter activities,” Phillips said. The chapter suspended its monthly meetings during the pandemic, with the hope of resuming again in September or October.
“COVID-19 has stopped us from going out to the community to get donations,” said Tony D’Aleo, president of Duval County, Florida, Nicholas J. Cutinha Chapter 1046. So the chapter is making Vietnam veteran face masks available online. To get more info, see an image of the mask, and to order, go to https://www.bonfire.com/vva-chapter-1046/
Michigan’s two U.S. Senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, and Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell introduced legislation in June to name the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center after Lt. Col. Charles S. Kettles, a lifelong resident of Ypsilanti, Michigan, who died in 2019. The former 101st Airborne Division helicopter pilot received the Medal of Honor in 2016 for leading a rescue operation in the Vietnam War in 1967 that saved 44 soldiers. Kettles was a member of VVA’s Washtenaw County, Michigan, Chapter 310, which changed its name to the Charles S. Kettles Chapter 310 after he received the MOH.
See William Triplett’s 2016 feature on Kettles.
South Metro Denver, Colorado, Chapter 1106 “has not allowed COVID-19 to slow us down,” John Vargas, a chapter board member who is on the chapter’s Scholarship Committee, said. “Sure, it’s created a few changes in the way we help veterans and the community, but we’re moving right along.” For one thing, the chapter has been holding all its board and membership meetings via Zoom. “They’re still held on a monthly schedule,” Vargas said, “with positive results.”
The chapter also put in place a program—called The Buddy List—in which board members reach out regularly to all chapter members. Once a month and just prior to Zoom meetings, each board member makes at least ten telephone calls. “Some individuals were ill, some didn’t have access to Zoom, and some were quarantined or hospitalized due to COVID-19,” Vargas said. “Members and their families and caretakers receiving these calls were thrilled that someone cared enough to call them.”
The chapter’s Scholarship Committee—Vargas, Mike Karsh, Glen Payne, and Jim Marcille—couldn’t make personal visits to schools this spring, but they spread the word about the scholarships by phone, in the chapter newsletters, and through dozens of mailings. “What appeared bleak, turned into the best year ever,” Vargas said. The chapter received nearly 60 applications from high school seniors. The committee reviewed them carefully, then selected 13 students to interview. Six were chosen to receive $2,000 scholarships. They all read their winning essays to the chapter via Zoom.
Every year Eddie Uhlmansiek Chapter 10 in Cincinnati awards six college scholarships to deserving local students who are the offspring of military veterans. Chapter President Ed Brown announced the 2020 winners during the summer. The recipients are Emily Sizemore, who is studying chemical and biomedical engineering at the University of Connecticut; Jenna Sizemore, a biochemistry major at the University of Dayton; John Schumacher, a political science major at the University of Kentucky; Jill Rimer, who is majoring in arts management at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio; Jacob Trusty at Mount St. Joseph University; and Shiloh Prewitt, who is studying exercise science at Northern Kentucky University.
In other Chapter 10 news, a crew from the United Auto Workers Union Local 647 recently repaired the garage at the chapter’s headquarters at no cost to the chapter. “We would like to thank them for all their hard work,” Ed Brown said. The UAW crew installed new siding around the entire building, as well as a new electric garage door.
In August, Westchester County, New York, Chapter 49 announced its annual scholarship winners—six local graduating high school seniors. The chapter’s Scholarship Committee, chaired by Bob Miller, awarded the Peter Lambert Memorial Scholarship to JoAnna Galbo; the Peter T. McCauley Memorial Scholarship to John Boccardi, the Hamilton Fish Memorial Scholarship to Tyler Petschek, the William Sudderth Memorial Scholarship to Sophia Autorino, the Anthony Shine Memorial Scholarship to Morgan Robinson, and the Jonathan Shine Memorial Scholarship to Mark DeAngelis.
Members of Omaha, Nebraska, Chapter 279, have been instrumental in planning the state Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which will be built on city-owned property in Papillion. The chapter is supporting the nonprofit Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, which is in the process of raising $3.6 million. According to Chapter President Dennis Schissel, who heads the foundation, Chapter 279 members conceived of the idea in 2018. Prominent Nebraska Vietnam War veterans, including former U.S. Sens. Chuck Hagel and Medal of Honor recipient Bob Kerrey. have thrown their support behind the memorial.
The memorial will not have a central structure, such as a wall of names. Instead, it will consist of a series of large obelisks arranged throughout the two-acre brick plaza site, with trees planted among them. The obelisks will include summaries of the war’s events and list the names of the 400 Nebraskans who died in the war. There also will be an obelisk honoring women Vietnam War veterans and monuments for each of the military branches. A Huey helicopter will be on the site.
“We not only wanted it as a legacy to Vietnam veterans, but as a way to teach future generations about the Vietnam War and the sacrifices made by these veterans,” Schissel, who also is the Nebraska State Council vice president, told the Omaha World-Herald in July.
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