|Vietnam Veterans of America|
Wapakoneta, Ohio, Chapter 1126 is a young chapter. It was chartered on February 8, 2017, with 32 members. The chapter now has 86 members and meets in the local VFW 8445. In 2019 it was named Ohio Chapter of the Year by the Buckeye State Council.
Wapakoneta is a city of just under 10,000 people located about 56 miles north of Dayton. It is the birthplace of Neil Armstrong and, fittingly, the home of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Residents refer to the city as “Wapak, the small city with a big heart.” A friendly spirit, indeed, resides in Wapak with the community often pulling together for charitable projects. That’s why, when Chapter 1126 went to the city with an idea for honoring local veterans, its leaders were excited about helping.
The chapter’s idea was to sell and then place military banners, each with a veteran’s photo and name, on city utility poles. It wasn’t an original fundraising idea, but the chapter intended to use the money to make a lasting impact on the community. Military Tribute Banners in Florida made the banners, helped organize the process, and provided marketing materials.
“The banners are two feet by four feet, and have a veteran’s picture on both sides,” Ace Ambos, the chapter’s secretary-treasurer, explained. “The city volunteered to purchase the brackets and provide the labor to hang the banners. We sell the banners for $175 each. We didn’t do a lot of advertising, and had cash sales for 100 banners in less than two weeks.”
The chapter held a sales event at the VFW every two weeks for three months on Sunday afternoons when families could bring in pictures of their veterans and pay for the banner. Ambos copied the photographs and immediately returned the originals. The photos, along with information about each veteran, were then sent to the Florida manufacturer. Over a period of two years the chapter sold 635 banners.
The project resulted in 32 new chapter members stemming from local television and other media coverage of the banner project. The chapter also paid $25 toward a life membership when a veteran purchased a banner.
“We’re not done yet,” Ambos said. “We are now offering yard banners with a bracket for $130.” The yard banners are smaller—20 inches by 30 inches—and designed to be displayed on special occasions such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The banners include a photo of the veteran, his or her branch, years of service, and the war zone in which the veteran served.
Using proceeds from the banner sales, Chapter 1126 will build a $75,000 Gold Star Family Memorial in downtown Wapakoneta. The chapter formed a five-person committee to manage the project. Its members are Chapter President Mike Borges, First Vice President John Schwerck, Secretary-Treasurer Ambos, Diane Naseman, who lost a son in Iraq, and Wayne Detrick, whose brother died in Vietnam.
The chapter recently received approval from the city to construct the memorial. “The massive, 7-foot-tall, 13-foot-wide monument will be a reminder to appreciate the heroes and their families who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom,” Ambos said.
“It just always brings tears to my eyes honoring all our veterans who have passed and who have been killed in the line of duty,” Naseman said, “and it’s just a wonderful way of showing our appreciation for their service and sacrifices.”
Chapter 1126 may be a new chapter in a small town, but its members are making a big impact on their community and are leaving a legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.
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