The VVA Veteran® Online

July/August 2013

16th National Convention Hosts:
Florida Chapters 1046 and 1059


VVA’s 16th National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, will be hosted by Nicholas J. Cutinha Chapter 1046 in Duval County and Clay County Chapter 1059. Although both chapters are very young—Chapter 1046 was chartered in October 2010 and Chapter 1059 in January 2012—both are committed to improving the lives of veterans of all eras.

Last November Chapter 1046 renamed itself to honor Fernandina Beach native and Medal of Honor recipient Nicholas J. Cutinha, who was killed in Vietnam on March 2, 1968, during a mission near Gia Dinh with C Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. Cutinha was posthumously awarded the MOH in April 1970 for saving the lives of nine fellow soldiers.

November also marked Chapter 1046’s participation in the first Jacksonville Week of Valor, a week-long, city-sponsored series of events honoring active duty military and veterans. The chapter participated in the annual Veterans Day ceremony; provided the primary honor guard at the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts Military Appreciation NFL game; attended the dedication of the local Marine and Navy Corpsmen Memorial; and attended a Veterans Salute.

In February the chapter honor guard took part in a Tet Festival held by local Vietnamese. Chapter members also set up a table displaying Vietnam War memorabilia.

“Some of the Vietnamese had been there during the war,” Chapter 1046 Public Affairs Director Les Bertrand said. “So they told their stories, and we told ours.”

Along with many other initiatives—such as supporting local JROTC programs, presenting at local high schools and libraries, and participating in local POW/MIA events—Chapter 1046 members do a lot to take care of their fellow Jacksonville-area veterans.

“Many of them are on the fence about their service,” Bertrand said. “It was a major trauma. It helps them to talk to someone who knows what they went through. Many Vietnam veterans in the area have medical problems, and we want to help them learn about these problems and the benefits they can get.” One chapter member is in the process of getting certified as a veterans service officer.

“Our goal is to make all veterans feel welcome,” Chapter 1046 President Tony D’Aleo said. “That wasn’t the case when we came home, so we’re jumping in to change things now.”

The chapter has participated in two homeless stand downs. In May several Chapter 1046 members attended a World War II Veterans Appreciation Day dinner at a senior and assisted living residence. The chapter honor guard presented the colors at the event.

Chapter 1046’s major project is to erect a Vietnam veterans monument at the Jacksonville National Cemetery, which they hope to have completed by the end of March 2014. The chapter is raising all the funds for the monument. The chapter has received approval to have the monument built, and the design phase is underway.


Gary Newman, originally a member of Chapter 1046, saw a need for a chapter in his home county, so he founded and is the current president of Clay County, Florida, Chapter 1059. Although little more than a year old, the chapter has grown quickly and is extremely active.

The chapter regularly puts on barbeques for the residents and staff of the Clyde E. Lassen State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Augustine. The chapter also regularly collects toiletries, towels, socks, and the like and puts together “survival bags” for the local needy.

In April Chapter 1059 attended its second ten-day Clay County Agricultural Fair. The chapter was the first veterans service organization to set up a booth at the event. On Memorial Day chapter members decorated veterans’ graves with flags at Holly Hill Memorial Park and Mausoleum.

The chapter’s proudest accomplishment, however, is that it was instrumental in bringing together all the VSOs in the county to form the Clay County Veterans Council in September 2012. Paul Haws, Jr., vice president of Chapter 1059, chairs the council, and Newman is the council’s vice chair. “It’s new; it’s exciting,” Haws said. “We work with the county manager and board of commissioners to ensure our veterans are getting all the county services they deserve,” Newman added.


In September Chapters 1046 and 1059 co-hosted and sponsored an Agent Orange Town Hall Meeting in Jacksonville to educate veterans and their families about the intergenerational impact of Agent Orange. (See “Florida’s Agent Orange Rock Star Tour,” November/December 2012.) Both chapters donated money to offset the travel costs of the meeting’s panelists. The chapters provided refreshments, manned the registration table, distributed literature, and publicized the meeting.

For five days in early May the Junior BETA Club of Green Cove Springs Junior High School hosted the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. Several Chapter 1059 members and one Chapter 1046 member, along with members of other local VSOs, provided continuous security for the Traveling Wall. Members of Chapter 1046 also were on hand to help people locate names on the Wall.

Both chapters are involved with the Jacksonville Veterans Court mentor program. Eight Chapter 1046 members and one Chapter 1059 member are mentors, each having committed to one year working with a formerly incarcerated veteran to help him or her reenter society.

At the Convention both chapters will have members manning merchandise booths and will operate a van to get Convention attendees around Jacksonville. Chapter 1046 will have its honor guard at the opening ceremonies. The two chapters also arranged for a few local former Vietnam War POWs to attend the POW/MIA ceremony.

“We are really looking forward to having everyone enjoy our city,” D’Aleo said. “Jacksonville is a great military city.”

16th National Convention Awardee: Arlo Guthrie


Arlo Guthrie, ©Michael KeatingBy happenstance, Arlo Guthrie and VVA shared the same hotel during VVA’s 2007 Convention, and the singer performed an impromptu private concert for VVA members. This year, Guthrie and VVA will be together by choice, not chance, as the son of legendary Woody Guthrie receives VVA’s President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Arlo Guthrie’s breakout 1967 hit, “Alice’s Restaurant,” tells the tale of a young man arrested in a laughable encounter with small town police and later rejected for military service because he had been arrested… for littering. “Alice’s Restaurant” resonated with millions of listeners as both a sly satire of 1960s America and a new anthem of social awareness. The song took Guthrie’s message to an international audience—all the way to Vietnam, in fact.

“I got more letters from guys in Vietnam than I did from folks here at home,” Guthrie recalled. “I got one picture of a tent somewhere in Vietnam with a sign on it that said ‘Alice’s Restaurant.’ The note with the picture said the officers didn’t get it and just stared at the sign, which made it all the sweeter for the troops,” Guthrie laughed. “It was a great way to support our guys. And give them a smile, too.”

Guthrie’s sense of heartfelt connection to the Vietnam War took a different form several years later. “I saw a news report about Vietnamese refugees,” he said, “the so-called ‘boat people.’ I was moved by their predicament. These people helped us in the war, fought beside us, and now they’d lost everything. I think I felt the problem more directly because my father [folk singer Woody Guthrie] was a refugee himself, displaced by the Dust Bowl. So I have a sense of how hard it is.”

The Guthries had two houses, and “we decided to offer one to a refugee family.” The Guthries learned that Catholic Relief Services could help. “I told them we had space,” Guthrie said. “They said they had a family no one would take—a father and nine sons and grandsons.”

Guthrie said he had imagined the family would be “mom, pop, a couple of kids. But what we had, in fact, were ten men. Our spare house wasn’t that big, but the group needed shelter and they moved in.”

The patriarch of the group had been a translator at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. His oldest son, Kim, was an ARVN Special Forces soldier and instructor. “Kim was one of those guys trained to kill you fifty different ways,” Guthrie said. “Of course, with us he was the gentlest man you’d ever want to meet.”

Orienting the refugees, helping them learn English, find jobs, and locate other family members went slowly. “Here were people dropped into another country with virtually no similarity to their homeland,” Guthrie said. “It was a steep learning curve, for both them and the Guthrie family.”

But in time things worked out. One development was the Vietnamese cuisine cooking class Kim taught at the local community college. “The students loved the food and they loved Kim,” said Guthrie. “They encouraged him to open a restaurant.”

Kim was a Special Forces soldier who knew nothing about restaurants, “but it was a new life in a new country and Kim agreed to try,” Guthrie said. “Turns out he needed $10,000 to open a restaurant, so he went to the Small Business Administration for help. It took a while, but the application was finally approved. But when Kim went to get his money, the woman he dealt with belittled and insulted him—a veteran who was our ally in war, who lost everything in that war, and both earned and deserved our help. What did Kim do? He tore the check into pieces and threw it on the woman’s desk and walked out. I can’t say how much I admired his refusal to allow an idiot bureaucrat to insult his pride, integrity, and ambition.”

When Kim’s former students learned what happened, they raised the money he needed to launch the first Vietnamese restaurant in the area.

But Kim’s problems weren’t over. “Kim had just opened his restaurant when a group of local bullies gathered outside, shouting racial remarks, ethnic slurs, terrible stuff. Kim came out thinking he could talk to these guys. The thugs made a critical mistake: They assaulted Kim. Before you know it, there’s about four guys down. Many broken bones. Kim figured it was all over for him.

“So the cops arrived and looked at the guys on the ground. They looked at Kim and they looked back at the guys on the ground, and they asked Kim if he could teach them how to do that,” Guthrie laughed. “Suffice to say the thugs were arrested, and Kim went on to open several restaurants before he retired.”

Guthrie said his experience as a refugee sponsor led him to look carefully at the impact of the Vietnam War. “Most Americans have no idea how difficult the conditions were for the Vietnamese. It was hell for them, struggling to survive, to preserve their homes, their families. They deserved our help. I’m glad I could play my part.”

Playing his part is a Guthrie family value. “My parents taught me that’s all you can do—show up and play your part. They said you won’t always be right, you won’t always win, but you can always show up. We all have an obligation to do that.”

Guthrie noted that Vietnam veterans have been exemplary in doing that very thing. “I am very respectful of the commitment and sacrifice of Vietnam vets,” he said. “Over the years it’s become only more apparent how significant the burdens have been for them. I wish we had more Vietnam vets in government helping us make mature decisions with some attention paid to the consequences of our actions, both in national and individual terms.”

Arlo Guthrie, ©Michael Keating

Also: David Bonior’s Speech To VVA’s Founding Convention.
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