The Vietnam Veterans of America National Chapter of the Year - 1999 & 2007
Newsletter of the Year 2007, 09, 11 & 15
|LTC. (Retired) Charles Kettles receved the Medal of Honor - July 2016|
|US Army photo by Sgt. Brand|
Happy birthday U.S. Marine Corps! November 10th was the Corps’ 241st birthday.
I want to thank all of you Veterans that served and hope you had at least one occasion where someone thanked you for your service. I said prayers in my church for not only us survivors but for those that made the ultimate sacrifice, and those that have not returned. We still have service men and women in harm’s way in today’s conflicts, so let’s not forget about them either. I also prayed for the families that had to stay behind and spent their days wondering and worrying. I was not married during the time I was overseas, but I know my parents were beside themselves. Letters they received brought some comfort but there is always an undertone of worry, especially in a mother’s heart. I’m sure it’s the same with the spouses left behind.
I hope all of you Veterans were able to attend one of the many Veterans Day celebrations that took place during the week of November 7. I’m sure some of you were able to catch at least one free or discounted meal that was offered by many of the restaurants in the area. It took me a week to get rested up after what seemed like endless events to attend. I am always glad to see so many events honoring the Vets though. It keeps the community aware of all those who fought for the freedoms that they enjoy, and lets us know that we are not forgotten.
Did you know that Veterans Day originated as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 at the first anniversary of the end of World War I? In 1926 Congress passed a resolution to make it an annual observance. It became a national holiday on November 11, 1938. In 1954, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day.
Another tidbit: there are approximately 22 million military veterans in the United States at the end of 2014, of which 9.9 million were over the age of 65 and 2.1 million are under 35. (Data from VA Veteran Statistics, https://www.va.gov/vetdata/veteran_population.asp). Veterans represented about 6.8% of the population at that time.
Several members from our Chapter attended the Veterans Tribute Concert by The Saline New Horizons Band and Measure for Measure Men’s Choral Society on November 6. As has been done in past years, each branch of service is recognized by the playing of each of the branch of service’s hymn. Veterans in the audience were asked to rise as their branch song was played. Most were Army and the least was one lone Coast Guard Vet. It was excellent music, much of which was conducted by Robert Albritton, Jr. He was our youngest son’s band leader when he was a student at Pioneer, learning percussion. As is the case in many of the activities in Saline, Robison-Bahnmiller Funeral Home was a sponsor. Washtenaw County Council of Veterans was a co-sponsor. A big thank you goes to both parties.
Afterwards, around 40 of us converged on the VFW hall for a Packing Party. Heather Kendrick, Miss Washtenaw County, and Laura Bloomensaat, Executive Director for Miss Washtenaw County were part of that forty and helped with packing. We were able to put together around 54 boxes to ship out. That put us very close to 4,000 total boxes sent. We received generous donations from several people and one company. It looks like we received enough to more than break even. Thank you very much to all who came out to help.
On November 9th, five Veterans Honor Guard members, including our own John Kinzinger, Roy Hall, and Marv Rivers and I, posted colors at the Michigan Theater. This was for an event to support and fundraise for a Fisher House at the VA Hospital. It was announced in the opening ceremonies that the government had given the green light for the project for the first Fisher House in Michigan. Fisher House is the “Ronald McDonald House” for military families. There were six speakers who gave, at times, emotional speeches about their time in service. One soldier, just four months into his deployment, was a triple amputee from an IED. Another was a female Army officer who did two tours in Iraq. Another was a WW II Veteran Air Force B-17 co-pilot who was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government and later was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. Of note was an Iraq Veteran suffering from TBI who gave an emotional speech. The vehicle he was riding in was rammed by suicide bomber, killing the other four members of his team. His mother had to hold his notes as his hands shook too much to hold them himself. The last speaker was both funny and poignant. Charlie Plumb flew 74 combat missions over North Vietnam. His F4 Phantom was shot down and he was subsequently captured by the enemy. He spent six years as a POW during the same time as Senator McCain. He retired after 28 years of service. He told the story of an enlisted POW who memorized every name, telephone number, family member name and address of every other POW - apparently to keep his mind off of his situation. The Vietcong on one occasion decided to release one prisoner to go home. Charlie refused, the officer in the next box refused, McCain refused. All of them insisted that the enlisted man go home. After much arguing by the enlisted man he got on a plane for home. He took all his back pay and went to every address he had memorized to let the family members know that their loved one was still alive! What a story!
Another excellent event was the 25th Anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was held on November 10. Gold Star family members received corsages and Memorial challenge coins presented in a formal velvet box. Master of ceremonies was performed by Major General William Henderson who was a Marine Corps F-4 pilot in Vietnam and one of the members of the 25th Planning Committee. Opening remarks were performed by Brenda Stumbo, the Township Supervisor who was a Township Trustee at the time of the original dedication of the Memorial. Colors were posted by Julianna Smith from the Friends of VVA, Kathy Driscoll representing the AVVA 310 and me. Marine Vet Herm Steinman performed on his bagpipes, as he has done at many of our events. All the original committee members of the Memorial were recognized, both those no longer with us and those in attendance. They were: Dennis Davie, Milton Davis, Paul Dumsch (D), Tom Fifield, John Kinzinger, Jack McManus, and Tom Smith (D). Gordon Moore provided the invocation. General Henderson read a speech written by Colonel Kettles. The Colonel was not able to attend as he was in the hospital getting a knee replaced and then suffered a minor stroke.
Major General William Henderson reading LTC Charles Kettles comments
John Kinzinger gave his thoughts and memories on the Memorial from its inception to fruition and dedication. Tom Fifield gave his thoughts on the Memorial and then read the Theme from the plaque that is on the Memorial. Marv Rivers and Wendy Hibbitts took turns reading the names of the seventy-six names on the Memorial wall with Pete Belaire ringing a bell between names. Jack McManus gave the closing remarks. Brenda Stumbo gave emotional dismissal comments. Afterward we were fed hors d’oeuvres of mountains of shrimp, Swedish meatballs, veggies, and desserts. Everyone seemed to enjoy the event, the food, and the comradery.
I would like to thank John Kinzinger for overseeing this event, and to all the committee members for stepping up to help make this a very memorable event. Thanks to Al Merritt and crew for getting the Memorial grounds in especially great shape. Thanks also to Debbie Swanson of The Sweet Shoppe for the desserts and cookies, Jessica and the Sidetrack for the excellent food, Hyperion Coffee for the beverages, and Delux Tent and Events for the tables and napkins. This may be our last Memorial Anniversary event as most of our members are getting on in years. Everyone should be very proud of all our members who made this a very special event. If you have time, stop out and take a moment of reflection at our beautiful memorial. Also, check out our latest addition inside the Township Hall next to the display cabinet. We’ve added a Vietnam map with pins that show the approximate areas where our 76 honored veterans were when they were killed.
The last event that I participated in was the 7th Annual Veterans Day Celebration at Concordia University. They started their program with coffee and donuts and a gift bag for each registered Vet. They also had several tables staffed by different agencies to answer questions and hand out information. Next we moved to the Chapel for Chapel Service. Posting of Colors was performed by the U.S. Army ROTC Program’s Honor Guard. The Concordia Choir performed the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Then, on behalf of the Washtenaw County Council of Veterans, Jon Luker presented the American Flag to Green Beret veteran CSM Rev Mark Kincaid. The flag was previously flown at the U.S. Capitol on July 4, 2016 in honor of Michigan Veterans and Service Members, and LTC Charles Kettles. The Message was given by the very funny and entertaining Rev John Bookshaw. He was a former Chaplain in the Army. He did a very good job of comparing the words of the Bible relating to serving and military personnel’s service. While he moved quickly around the stage like he was on a caffeine high, his message was enjoyed by all. The next phase of the day was a luncheon in the Black Box Theater. It was laid out very, very elegantly. There were blue table cloths on the tables, an ice sculpture of the U.S. Flag, a Veterans Day cake laid out with precut servings, and a serving line that allowed a very nice flow to the serving. On the menu was salad, rolls, carrots, whipped potatoes, chicken breast, pork, and gravy. The food was very delicious. The Concordia Band played a couple of times during and after the meal. Several toasts were made to our Veterans, active duty personnel and student Veterans. The Guest speaker was Command Sergeant Major Mark Kincaid, retired Army Special Forces. He is a Combat Veteran, Jumpmaster, Combat Diver, Special Forces and Ranger who holds several Military Occupational Specialties. After he retired from the Army, CSM Kincaid finished his pastoral studies and subsequently became an ordained minister. He served as pastor for fifteen years at the Owosso Free Methodist Church. He is currently the Senior Pastor of a Free Methodist Church in Dade City, Florida. I did not stay after the lunch and program, but Concordia put on seminars throughout the day and ended with a packing party in the afternoon.
For the first time ever, my wife and I participated in the Dawn Farm Thanksgiving event. Apparently this is the twenty-ninth year the Chapter has done this. We met with John & Jane Kinzinger, Roy & Bonnie Hall, George “the Chief” Perrault, and his grandson and son-in-law at Kroger to go shopping for Thanksgiving food for Dawn Farm. Afterwards we all met at Dawn Farm and delivered the food, with much thanks from the staff and the residents. We prayed that they would be successful in ridding themselves of their demons. All in all, it was a very eye opening night. I’m very glad I attended and so glad that we, as a Chapter, reach out to the community in ways like this. I am, again, very proud of our Chapter!
And the best event I attended in November was my 47th anniversary to my beautiful bride. Hard to believe she has put up with me for that long.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our Christmas Party at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital on December 20. We will meet in the lobby at 1730. It’s a very satisfying time of giving to the patients.
Lastly, thanks to all of you that helped get the word out regarding the Veterans millage proposal. It passed by over 70%. Another job well done by the VVA 310 Team!
Sgt. Dave Draper