|Vietnam Veterans of America|
The latest honor for Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch, one of Vietnam Veterans of America’s earliest leaders and a founder of Rochester, New York, Chapter 20, came on October 1, when the Greece, N.Y., school system held a dedication ceremony naming the road that leads to Greece Olympia High School’s football field in his honor. Gary Beikirch Way is now marked with a plaque embedded in a large rock that reads: “This plaque serves to honor the dedication, service and sacrifice of Gary H. Beikirch, Greece Olympia Class of 1965. In addition to serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and receiving the Medal of Honor for his bravery and heroism, Gary also served as a middle school counselor in the Greece Central School District for 25 years.” The ceremony preceded a ribbon cutting unveiling the school’s new football field.
Utica, New York, Chapter 944 held its 16th annual Gold Star Mothers Ceremony and dinner on Gold Star Mothers and Family Day, September 26. The event included a wreath laying at the local Gold Star Mothers’ monument with the presentation of the colors, the playing of the National Anthem, a chaplain’s prayer, “Taps,” and recognition of Gold Star Mothers and their families.
Rutland, Vermont, Chapter One recently donated $500 to No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that provides emergency financial aid and used vehicles to Afghan interpreters and their families who worked with U.S. forces and have emigrated to the United States. The chapter also presented a $2,000 scholarship to Alicia Caputo, a second-year engineering student at Stafford Technical Center. That scholarship was set up to encourage Stafford students to continue their educations. It is open to children and grandchildren of American veterans.
Montgomery County, Maryland, Chapter 641, which has organized monthly Wall washings at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for more than 20 years, recently received an official accolade for its volunteer work from U.S. Park Service Ranger James Pierce. The letter reads: “On behalf of the National Park Service and the National Mall & Memorial Parks, we wanted to send our sincerest gratitude for your efforts. The work your group completed was phenomenal. With your help, we were able to wash the Wall. You were able to see firsthand just how much our maintenance [workers] have to do and were able to get work done that doesn’t always get the attention it needs. The effort you displayed was brilliant, an example of just how great our volunteers are. You help us keep our standards [high] for the benefit of every citizen and international visitor who comes to see the memorial. Thank you for continuing to be such fantastic volunteers.”
Butte County, California, Chapter 582 sponsored a three-day stand-down early in October to help local homeless veterans—many of whom had lost their homes in this year’s large fires—with housing, food assistance, clothing, and other items (including sleeping bags, boots, canteens, and jackets), and access to veterans benefits. Some forty organizations took part in the stand-down, including the county Veterans Service Office, Ampla Health family medical clinics, House and Heart, and the local Community Housing Improvement Program. “As a veteran myself, it hits right in the heart to see these people being able to get help and get back off the streets,” said Chapter President Ron Matheson.
Philadelphia Liberty Bell Chapter 266 held its 25th annual name reading at the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial on October 23, the 38th anniversary of the memorial’s dedication. The ceremonies included a prayer for the dead by Chapter Chaplain Ronald “Doc” Speight and remarks by Chapter President Steve Uchniat honoring the names on the memorial’s black-granite wall. Chapter members, families, and friends read all 648 names of the Philadelphia men and women who perished in the war; a bell sounded after each name was read.
Pinellas County, Florida, Chapter 522, held its 16th annual dinner for local Gold Star Mothers during the chapter’s Gold Star Mothers and Families Day commemoration. The chapter “provided an amazing evening of entertainment and great food on a dinner cruise,” said Toni Gross of the local Gold Star Mothers group. The chapter, she said, shows “care and concern for us GS moms. Whenever I ask [them] to send a color guard for a GS family ceremony, they have never told me no.” She offered “a huge thank-you to each and every member of Chapter 522, from our hearts to yours.”
VVA chapters throughout the nation commemorated National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 17. They included the following:
Green Bay, Wisconsin, Chapter 224 held a ceremony at the chapter’s Brown County POW-MIA Memorial Stone in front of the Brown County Courthouse in Green Bay. “We’re here to remember the POW and MIAs from the Vietnam era across the state of Wisconsin,” said Chapter President Ken Juza. He went on to read each of the names of the service members memorialized on the stone as local veterans placed candles in remembrance. Juza reminded those in attendance of VVA’s Founding Principle, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another,” and said, “We cannot forget these guys. We have to keep the candle lit.”
Rochester, New York, Chapter 20 held its annual commemoration at the chapter’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester in Highland Park. Clinton Township, Michigan, Chapter 154 conducted its annual 24-hour POW/MIA Vigil at the town’s Resurrection Cemetery. Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Chapter 238 had its 13th annual POW/MIA ceremony at the Vietnam War Memorial in the city’s Veterans Memorial Park. Chapter President Duane Canon told a local TV news reporter: “Enjoy the program and you remember that there are still lots of people, service men and women, who are still missing. We can’t forget them.”
Lawton, Oklahoma, Chapter 751, along with the local Korean War and Defense Veterans chapter, hosted a POW/MIA Recognition Day event at Elmer Lewis Park in Lawton. Chapter President Aaron Boone was among the speakers. Gallia County, Ohio, Chapter 709 co-sponsored its POW/MIA event with the local VFW post in Gallipolis City Park beside the Spirit of the American Doughboy World War I veterans memorial. Jackson, Michigan, Chapter 109 commemorated the day with a 24-hour vigil, including a ceremony with a missing-man table, at the chapter’s Field of Honor adjacent to its meeting center.
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