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March/April 2024 -   -  


Joe Cholewa, a member of Santa Rosa California, Chapter 223, recently received a Bay Area Jefferson Award, which goes to people making a difference in local communities, from KPIX-TV Eyewitness News. The award recognizes his longstanding work as a homeless veterans advocate. Cholewa leads the volunteer group, Sonoma County Veterans Outreach, which since 2017 has collected and distributed food, clothing, and items such as sleeping bags, quilts, flashlights, and toiletries to people in homeless camps and temporary housing in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. “Everybody’s human,” Cholewa told KPIX. “They all deserve a hand up instead of a handout.” For “post-traumatic stress, the best therapy I’ve ever had is going out and trying to help people. It’s better than any counseling. It just gives you a good feeling.”

Once again this year, Utica, New York, Chapter 944 will play a leading role in the Mohawk Valley Hometown Heroes banner program, which formed in Utica in January 2022 to honor local veterans by hanging banners in their hometowns with their names, military branches, ranks, and years of service, along with a photo. Hundreds of banners will be displayed in the city of Rome and in ten nearby towns, villages, and hamlets from Memorial Day to Veterans Day for three years.

Board members and the Officers of Cumming, Georgia, Chapter 1030 paid a visit to the Currahee Military Museum in Toccoa, Ga., on February 1 to donate a miniature replica of the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the museum. The replica, number one in the collectible Hasbro Toy Company’s GI Joe Military Memorials series, was given to the chapter by Becky Lee, a local antiques dealer and Vietnam War veterans supporter. “While we are grateful for Ms. Lee’s generous gift,” Chapter President Gary Goyette said, “our members wanted to make sure that the scale replica was in a place where it could be appreciated by the public and we decided that the Currahee Museum would fulfill that goal.”

Chapter 1030
Left to right: Vice President Ed Shoemaker, President Gary Goyette and Chapter 1030 members Carl Rieber, Larry Castleberry, Jack Lyyn, and Marty Farrell at the Currahee Military Museum in Toccoa, Ga.,to donate a miniature replica of The Wall. (Courtesy Marty Farrell/Chapter 1030)

After three-and-a-half years of work, Wapakoneta, Ohio, Chapter 1126 will unveil a new historical marker commemorating the 18th century French-built Fort Au Glaize and the Wapakoneta Shawnee Council House on April 7, outside Gethsemane Baptist Church in Wapakoneta. “The marker itself was completed as a community project of Chapter 1126,” said chapter member and local historian Ken Elchert. The event is open to the public.

The newest display in the compact Vietnam War museum in Clinton Township, Michigan, Chapter 154’s Veterans Support Center has a local connection: a famous photograph by John Olson from the February 15, 1968, issue of Life magazine taken during the Battle of Hue that includes chapter member Richard Schlagel. In the photo, Schlagel is one of a group of wounded Marines being evacuated from the heavy fighting who are piled on top of the front of tank. “The framed photo was the idea of Honor Guard vice commander Mike Bradley, after he found out about it through casual conversation with Rich,” chapter Second Vice President Tom Puruleski said. “Rich’s wife readily donated one of the magazine copies they had saved. The complete magazine is encased in the frame with the centerfold photo displayed. It was decided to make the presentation at a chapter membership meeting so we could all honor one of our own.”

Detroit Chapter 9, one of VVA’s earliest chapters, has donated its vast archive of materials to the University of Michigan Library. The collection is held at the University’s Bentley Historical Library. It includes materials from the VVA Michigan State Council and the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund, along with materials from VVA’s 2nd National Convention in 1985 in Detroit, chapter newsletters, correspondence, meeting minutes, and other materials. As the library notes: “Originally organized ca. 1978-1979 as Vietnam Veterans of Michigan, Chapter 9 was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation with the State of Michigan in April 1981. Chapter 9 membership was about 650 in 1987, making Detroit the largest local VVA chapter in the country. It has played an influential role in the national organization, sending several members to serve as national officers and hosting the 1985 National Convention.”

Rutland, Vermont, Chapter One provided $550 to one of its members during the winter to help pay a heating oil bill. Four chapter members, including President Bill Ellwood, recently took part in a one-day Leatherstocking Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Greater Toledo, Ohio, Chapter 35 donated $520 to the Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots program at its annual holiday potluck dinner in mid-December. The money will be used for toys for needy children this December. The chapter’s AVVA members sponsored a blanket drive in January and distributed the new and gently used blankets they collected to homeless shelters in the Toledo area.

Chapter 446
San Gabriel Valley, California, Chapter 446 members manning the phones for the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce holiday hotline on December 31. For the past 25-plus years, Chapter 446 members have volunteered to answer questions about the world-famous Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena. Last year, the questions were fielded by, from left, Chapter President Alan Stelzer, Board members Pete Serrano and James Maddox, and Treasurer Al Biernesser. (Courtesy Margie Young/Chapter 446)

Madison County, Ohio, Chapter 746 held a Town Hall meeting December 16 in the Marysville Veterans Memorial Auditorium to spread the word on the health consequences of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides and burn pits in Vietnam on veterans, their spouses, children, and grandchildren. Aurelia, Iowa, Chapter 888 set up an information booth at the big Cherokee County Ag Show on February 13 in Cherokee, Iowa. The event was sponsored by Cherokee Area Economic Development Commission’s Agri-Business Committee.

Daytona Beach, Florida, Chapter 1048 sponsored a free series of Paper Safe lectures for veterans, spouses, Veteran Service Officers, and other veterans’ advocates on March 24 in Port Orange, Florida. The event included presentations from Cape Canaveral National Cemetery and an attorney specializing in elder law.

Chapter 1048 President Bob Adkins and The Villages, Florida Chapter 1036 President Rick Rademacher attended the January 10 dedication of the Vietnam Memorial at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Fla. The striking, six-by-eight-foot black granite memorial features etched images of the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including the Three Servicemen Statue. Later in January, Chapter 1048 presented Director Bob Bendlin with a “sporty, red, 4-wheel drive, convertible” scooter, “with low mileage,” as the chapter put it.

Members of Tom Corey Chapter 25 in West Palm Beach, Florida, including Vice President Jerry Klein, donated and delivered pizzas to the inpatient Mental Health Care unit at the West Palm Beach VA Hospital on January 20. Urulee Watson, a member of Cincinnati Chapter 10, was recently appointed to a five-year term on the Hamilton County Veterans Service Commission. Watson said his goal is to raise awareness among local veterans and their families about the commission’s Veteran Service Officer program and make that program more user-friendly and effective.

Chapter 273
Continuing Providence, Rhode Island, Chapter 273's long tradition of supporting veterans in need, chapter officers presented ten $25 gift cards to the Providence Vet Center just before Christmas last year. Making the presentation to the Vet Center's Veteran Outreach Program Specialist Edward Smith were, left to right, Chapter 273 Treasurer Leo Saucier, Vice President Don Webb, President John Weiss, and Secretary Brian Carn. (Courtesy Brian Carn)


Harlingen, Texas, Chapter 856 is leading the effort to build a Vietnam veterans memorial honoring 23 local men who paid the ultimate price in the Vietnam War. “Harlingen is the only city in the Lower Rio Grande Valley without” a Vietnam veterans memorial, Chapter President Samuel Cardenas said. The chapter recently received approval from the Harlington City Commission and the city’s mayor to “honor these twenty-three KIAs,” he said, “with a beautiful monument made of black polished granite.” The chapter is aiming to raise $8,000 to build the memorial, which it will donate to the city and be placed in Pendleton Park, also known as Veterans Park. For more info, email sdcardenas52@yahoo.com.




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