|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Membership Nptes, May/June 2021|
Morristown, Tennessee, Chapter 1073:
COVID-19 has played havoc with Morristown, Tennessee, Chapter 1073’s efforts to support our community and its veterans. We had a few meetings in 2020, and we did get some things accomplished, but we hope that 2021 will bring more aspects of normal.
One of our major programs has been put on hold. The duffel bag program—in which we fill bags with underwear and clothing, along with personal hygiene items such as wash cloths and towels, soap, razors, combs, toothpaste, and toothbrushes; first aid items such as Band-Aids and Vaseline; and in the fall and winter augment the inventory with coats—is sitting in storage. More than fifty duffel bags are packed and ready to go, and others are in production. Although they are much needed and in high demand, we decided that it was not safe to distribute clothing and supplies during the pandemic because of possible contamination. (See “Restoring Dignity: Tennessee Chapter 1073’s Duffel Bags for the Homeless” in the September/October 2014 issue.)
Just recently, however, we were invited to bring our duffel bags to the Mountain State VAMC. Although our program was originally intended for the homeless, many veterans are admitted to the hospital nearly destitute, often without even a change of clothing. The clothes and hygiene items in the duffel bags are a big help.
The chapter’s Walters State Community College Endowment awarded its first scholarship to Joshua Shek, a recently discharged veteran. During his ten years in the military Shek served as a medic. He is enrolled in the outstanding Walters State nursing program.
The endowment currently totals $21,000. Only money earned from its investments may be used to fund the scholarships. In that way, the endowment will be supporting veterans for years to come. Remember: Flowers at a funeral don’t last long, but a donation to the endowment lasts forever. Donations can be sent to: Walters State Foundation, 500 Davy Crockett Parkway, Morristown, TN 37813.
The chapter’s endowment fund also has had an unanticipated multiplier effect. Other local veterans organizations were impressed by our initiative and followed suit. Walters State now has three separate scholarship programs for veterans and their families funded by three VSOs.
It’s been a terrible year for the meet-and-greets we regularly had at Walmart, Lowes, and Food City. During these sessions we provided information about our community projects. It was also a great way to locate and recruit local veterans.
We did have a very successful meet-and-greet on the Fourth of July at the Veterans Overlook on Clinch Mountain off Hwy. 25-E. We set up displays illustrating our activities. It was a beautiful Saturday with social distancing, masks, and elbow bumps. There were lots of questions and discussions, and many veterans picked up membership applications. The event also solidified our decision to build a Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Things moved very rapidly after that. Plans were made and permits secured. The memorial at Veterans Overlook atop Clinch Mountain was dedicated on November 7, the weekend before Veterans Day. About two hundred people attended the dedication ceremony, including local politicians. It is a very tranquil, peaceful, beautiful place overlooking the Lakeway Area of East Tennessee with its backdrop of mountains.
Despite the pandemic, the holiday season came as usual, and some veterans and community members were in need. We helped through the Holiday Hope Fund, Appalachian Outreach, and Feed My Sheep Ministries, and chapter members donated generously to our Christmas Fund.
Many other times during the year Chapter 1073 and its members helped veterans in need. We were there with batteries for powered wheelchairs, temporary housing, groceries, clothing, and medical needs.
THE FLAG GROUP
What could be better than being known as “The Flag Group”? A recent call asked just that. We were able to respond by providing the brand-new Lakeway Christian Academy with 45 classroom flags, three larger flags, and an even larger outdoor flag for the athletic area. We also donated a POW/MIA flag to the school.
Additional flags were delivered to other area schools during the year. Many had added classrooms in an effort to maintain social distancing, and we made sure those rooms had flags.
Once again this year we placed flags on veterans’ graves, but in light of the pandemic we reduced the number of participants. Most of the flags were distributed in the veterans’ areas of Hamblen and Jefferson County Memorial Gardens, but some were given to individuals to place in small and family cemeteries.
Ordinarily our Memorial Day cemetery flags were paid for with funds raised from raffles held as part of our monthly meetings. Some useful and some ridiculous things are raffled, including shirts, hats, clocks, watches, walking sticks, and tools. Everything is donated and everyone wins. These raffles help us get to know each other and strengthen our mission of supporting veterans.
Another endangered funding source was the advertising on our trailer, which we take into the community to promote our efforts. But with very few outings this year, we felt our trailer supporters, who make an annual donation in exchange for advertising space, were not getting the exposure they deserved. So the chapter BOD decided not to bill the advertisers this year but to keep the ads in place. We were pleasantly surprised that checks from our supporters have continued to arrive.
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