F. O. Eagles Hall

Jackson Chapter 109 

 General Membership Meeting - March 12, 2023


Call to Order:  The meeting was called to order by President John Riling, in Michigan Center,  MI at 10:00 AM.  The Pledge of Allegiance was recited, a moment of silence was observed for the POW-MIAs and those serving in harm’s way with the opening prayer by Floyd Carmichael.

Approval of the Agenda:  Motion by 310/154 to accept the agenda as printed, motion passed.

Approval of the minutes:  Motion 154/109 to approve the minutes of 12/04/22, motion passed. 

Introduction of guests:  Tom Burke, National Vice President    

Cheryl Gawne, DAR State Chair Commemorative Events

 Chapter 109; Michael Finch, Bill Stoka(sp) and Edith of AVVA 

Roll Call of Officers:

President John Riling - Present

Vice-President Ken Rogge – Present Secretary Gary Estermyer - Present

2nd Vice President Duke Mayo  – Present Treasurer Floyd Carmichael - Present

Roll Call of Chapters: 9 Jack Devine P, 18 Tom Sibley A, 31 William Collins P, 

73 Bob Elliot A, 109 John Gibbs P, 110 Ralph Sharp A, 133 Tom Romein A, 

142 Michael Goode A, 154 Steve Bago P, 175 Joe Mishler E, 180 Joe Coullard E, 

237 Jerry Cummings A, 259 Mike Goodpaster P, 264 Ronald Schrieber A, 267 Phil Smith P,

274 Duke Mayo P, 284 Dennis Bringard A, 287 David Huffman A, 310 Tim Driscoll P, 

313 Terry Ivey P,  380 Vic Romback E, 387 A, 390 Charlie Martin A, 494 Ray Essenmacher A, 528 Gary Estermyer P, 571 Dennis Peterson A, 583 Wayne Trapp A, 882 Terry Frank E, 

1047 Joe Prato A and 1083 Tom Meinhardt E

Present – 10        Absent – 15       Excused – 5                A quorum is present.

President’s Report (given after Treasurer report):  John welcomed everyone to the Eagles  hall in Michigan Center for this meeting.  He thanked Jackson 109 for hosting and the Eagles personnel for providing the meeting space.  John reported that VVA BOD has approved the MOU with ClearTrust Claims LLP.  Mr. Geoffrey Bestor of CTC has offered to represent VVA members with their asbestos claims and only charging a 10% fee.  This class action lawsuit is independent of VA claims.  Mr. Bestor has offered to travel to Michigan maybe in June or July to personally train our service officers on asbestos claims.  John attended the CSCP and National BOD meetings the weekend of January 18-21, 2023, as well as chairing the National Veterans Benefit Program meetings.  Gary Estermyer serves as secretary of the VBP committee.  John also reported that the law firm Bergman & Moore has entered a co-counsel agreement with Beasley Allen Law Firm to offer their service and advice to VVA members regarding the PACT Act / Camp Lejeune water contamination class action lawsuit.      

VetsVOA is still on hold pending accreditation from OGC.  

VVA National will have a tent near the Mall during the DOD 50th events from May 11-13, 2023, www.vietnamwar50th.com.  There will be displays, exhibits, entertainment at the event.

It was mentioned that the Space Force is underrepresented at times.  A Space Force flag should be added to the other branches on display.  On March 22 John had attended the Dearborn South unofficial VVA meeting in Florida.  John also reported he has various office furniture and equipment for sale to a good home.

On the Region 5 front, John and Mike Goodpaster had just traveled to Illinois for their state council meeting.  John is exploring the option of holding individual state pre-convention meetings instead of holding one weekend meeting for all the Region 5 states.        

John also suggested our members should consider becoming dual VVA/AVVA members, which is $50 lifetime and includes voting rights at AVVA meetings. 

1st Vice-President’s Report 

Ken Rogge announced that MSC is now working with new website management which is much more user friendly.  Under the new system Ken noted there has been 43 visits to the site for the month of February.  Check out the updates Ken has been working on, www.vvamsc.org. Ken continues to welcome chapter input.  The “Vietnam Veterans Michigan Foundation, Inc. (VVMFI) is open for accepting applications for assistance and Ken has a page on the website for the Foundation.  MOTION by 259/267 to donate $5,000.00 to the Foundation from the MSC general fund, motion passed.            

2nd Vice-President’s report:  Duke Mayo announced that his chapter Cheboygan 274 would like to host the October 2023 meeting.  MOTION by 274/310 to hold the October 8 meeting at The Chateau by Black Lake, motion passed.  Duke continues to reach out to northern chapters and those in the UP, some of which we haven’t seen in years.  John Gibbs reported he has been in contact with some veterans in the Lansing area who have expressed interest in re-forming a chapter.  John will investigate further.

Secretary's Report 

Gary Estermyer reported that according to his records there will be 24 chapters holding their elections next month in April.  Gary had emailed and mailed blank chapter election and finance reports to all those chapters.  Copies of the forms are available today also. Chapters not holding elections this year (they are on a 2-year cycle) are; 9, 109, 133, 284, 882 and 1083.  As the delegates should know, the official deadline for filing both of these reports to National and MSC is July 15, 2023.  

Gary will be updating the chapter contact list as reports are received.  Feel free to bring a copy of your chapter reports to our next meeting on May 21, 2023, in Battle Creek.                  

Treasurer's Report:  Floyd Carmichael reviewed the finance report dated 12/05/22 – 03/05/23.  He had transferred $20,000 from the General Fund to the VSO account due to the State being slow in their monthly processing.  He also has received funds the car program.   VVMFI balance is now over $17K.  The SC bills are being paid in a timely manner and the monthly deposits from National and random donations continue.  Floyd reminded the delegates that all chapters need to submit their finance report annually to the State Council and to National by July 15.  

If your chapter treasurer has questions simply contact Floyd at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

The MSC will again be offering the National Convention grants in 2023, without objection the amount will be increased to $750.00.  Floyd has the application and it’s on the website.  

National VVA Vice President:  Tom Burke and his spouse Robin had also attended the Illinois state council meeting and decided to double down and attend our meeting also.  Tom reported that VVA National President Jack McManus has scheduled, April 20th, an all day SC presidents and directors meeting to discuss the future of VVA.  Tom personally thinks we (VVA) have maybe 3 more effective conventions to conduct our business.  The aging veteran community has many issues to deal with.  Tom and many of us are attending an increasing number of funerals.  

Tom has read some national statistics that state approximately 1,500 Vietnam veterans die each month in the U.S...  The dissolution plan of 2019 speaks to many relevant issues however Household Goods fundraiser and staff issues were not addressed.  National VVA is now starting to exert some pressure on OGC to approve accreditation of VetsVOA which will be an option for VVA POA’s in the future.  OGC finds it intriguing that VVA is the only organization that has endorsed a new entity to transition it’s benefit program in the future.  

Tom is involved in the National VVA budget conversation which is also extremely important.

Tom emphasized the importance of the upcoming National Convention in August 2023.  He encouraged all chapters to send their delegates.  Check www.vva.org for convention details.  

National At-Large Director:  Sandie Wilson also reported the importance of delegates expressing their opinions on the future of VVA.  It is hoped there will be answers to the questions of VVA chapters and state councils being able to continue their work even after the National level closes.  Sandie mentioned that all VVA chapters have their own EIN number.  Chapters should begin to consider what issues are important to them. 

National essentially believes veteran benefits and legislative advocacy are very important.  POW-MIA has always been a top priority for VVA but how important is it today?                   


John Gibbs (109) announced his chapter will be holding an open house on Mar. 29th and they will be holding a raffle on April 29th.  .

Mike Schnieder (154) announced his chapter will feature their Traveling Wall, a pinning ceremony along with a DAR presentation on March 29th.  

Mike Goodpaster (259) announced his chapter will have a ceremony at the Wyandotte Vietnam Veteran Memorial with speakers, Canadian Vietnam veterans and a DAR presentation on 3/29.

Phil Smith (267) announced his chapter is planning their 21st Annual Dinner Dance.  

Tim Driscoll (310) announced his chapter will participate with the Ann Arbor VAMC event on the 29th.  Most VA hospitals will also have events honoring Vietnam veterans.

John Riling announced that IL has an Unknown Soldiers display from Rome, GA.

Cheryl Gawne, DAR Special MI Commemorative Event Coordinator then made her presentation to MSC.  John Riling accepted the DOD Partnership Award from her. 

Committee Reports

Constitution/Bylaws:  Gary Estermyer announced that he is withdrawing his proposed MSC bylaw amendment relating to the Election Committee. 

Instead, he will now present 2 motions for the delegates to vote on, one after the other.  

MOTION 1 – Effective immediately to make the Election Committee Chair an elected position.

                       2 votes for, 9 votes against, motion failed.

MOTION 2 – Effective immediately to make the Election Committee Chair an appointed position.         10 votes for, 0 votes against, motion passed.

Without objection President John Riling appointed Jack Devine as Election Committee Chair.

Gary then presented a National Convention proposed amendment. 

To insert language in Article II, Section 6, A and/or Article II, Section 8 … “The state council president may appoint the Election Committee Chair as with all the other committee chairs, without objection.”  

The delegates voted 11-0 to approve moving this proposal forward.  


Finance Report:  Floyd reported that the Smile.Amazon donation program has ended, effective on Feb. 20, 2023, however we should expect one more donation.



Duke Mayo spoke about a Cabela’s gift card or cash raffle fundraiser.  He suggests a top prize of $500.00.  Duke recommends that for each $5.00 ticket sold $1.00 would go to the sellers chapter.  It is imperative that chapter support (selling & buying tickets) is crucial for a successful raffle.  The delegates voted to support this fundraiser.  Duke plans to have the drawing date at our October 8, 2023 meeting in Cheboygan.              

Government Affairs  

Jack Devine reported on the upcoming MVAA Leadership Summit to be held May 3-5, 2023, in Traverse City.  There will be 9 sessions, which include;  Keynote speaker, Veterans Benefits, Networking with Veteran Service Providers, Working with your Legislators, Aiming for Zero (suicide prevention), What’s Next, VEO & Building Communities, Underserved Veteran Populations in Michigan (The Big Picture) and Aligning Focus (Building veteran-friendly communities).  MOH recipient James C. McCloughan will also speak.       

Jack also spoke about the Legislative Priority packet he co-produced on behalf of the Commanders Group.   This informational packet will be presented to the MI Senate and House Veteran Affairs Committee members and all the MSC delegates.  One important bragging right is the fact that for the $4.25 million received from the State grant the Coalition has returned $660 million in recoveries in the State!  The Coalition is also pushing for a rollover clause of the state grant money.  The current state veteran homes are located in Grand Rapids, Chesterfield Twp., Marquette (plans to rebuild), Detroit (future plans to build) and Traverse City/Clare area (future plans to build).  There are also plans to seek a Federal cemetery in Crawford County and perhaps in the Upper Peninsula in the future.  We also support hyperbaric health care, keeping the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund strong and functioning and reviewing the Michigan Vietnam Veteran Bonus act.  


Ken Rogge gave this report based on the recent National Membership Affairs report; 89,486 total VVA membership, 12,061 in Region 5, 4,874 in Michigan.  

Chapter 154 is now in 5th place nationwide and the only MI chapter in the top 25.    

Dual AVVA/VVA memberships are slowly climbing towards 700.


Missing In America 

Phil Smith reported that he now has four unclaimed veteran cremains in his possession that will be honored in the Dearborn Memorial Day parade, May 29, 9:30 AM. The Great Lakes National Cemetery ceremonies will take place 1 week after Memorial Day.              

National Cemetery  

Floyd Carmichael reported a current total of 42,925 burials at Ft. Custer.  Ft. Custer has a new director, Andre Logan.  All the cemetery roads are to be repaved, expansion plans may include space for an additional 3-4,000 casketed gravesites and 4-6,000 cremains.  Another committal shelter and a maintenance garage are also planned to be built.  Floyd has retired from their Honor Guard with over 5,500 volunteer hours but will still serve on their Advisory Board.  Floyd will also now volunteer on Tuesday’s in the front office answering the phone.   Ft. Custer “Day of Remembrance” program is planned, May 28, 2023 @ 2 PM.

Great Lakes National Cemetery (GLNC) Memorial Day ceremony will be on May 28th @ 1 PM.


1,581 - RVN & surrounding SE Asia area.

Floyd reported that 8 WWII and 5 Korea remains have recently been identified.  Floyd also did some research and found there are still 72,248 missing from WWII, 7,508 from Korea, 186 from the Cold War and 5 from the Gulf War.  81,500 is the total of American’s MIA. 

There was recent news that the National POW-MIA League of Families was going to disband.

However, they did in fact receive a sizeable donation to allow them to continue.

Product Sales: John Riling is looking forward to the upcoming VVA National convention and he is also seeking design suggestions for a new MSC challenge coin.    

PTSD / Veterans Health Care  

Sandie Wilson announced that PTSD remains a major problem with all veteran age groups.  Sandie also reported the VA has plans to open women veteran health clinics.  


 Phil Smith and Tim Driscoll reported that COVID issues (masking required) still persist at most VA facilities, so most group volunteer efforts/activities are on hold.  Individual visits are generally permitted and encouraged.  Volunteer hours should still be submitted to him and donations to Volunteer Services are always welcomed.  Tim also announced that the Ann Arbor VAMC has room for an additional Fischer House facility to have 16 rooms.  The Detroit VAMC plans to build a Fischer House which will have 26 rooms.   

Veteran’s Benefits / Service Program

  Gary Estermyer reported that we still have 14 accredited staff; 11 service officers, 2 admin. and 1 Director/CVSO.  The hand-out of all our VSO’s contact and schedule information will soon be up on the MSC website and copies were available now.        

Recoveries:       FY21 –  $13,925,883           FY22 - $15,721,015

Oct. - $1,517,109       Nov. - $1,468,864      Dec. - $1,551,213      Jan. - $2,178,298

Detroit RO, McNamara Building, 477 Michigan Avenue, Room 1226, Detroit 48226 is open 

with appointments preferred (313) 961-9568 for hearings and face-to-face meetings.  

Our service officers have been participating with the VA at PACT Act events.  

Gary also spoke about the Michigan property tax waiver change which now only applies on the homestead where the veteran lives or had resided if deceased.  Michigan is still assisting IL veterans until VVA National hires someone to take over.    

Veteran’s Incarcerated and in the Justice System

 Phil Smith reported there are now 28 Veterans Treatment Courts in Michigan and more are needed.    


Betty Pike reported they are preparing for their National Convention in Orlando where all the officers will be elected.  Each chapters’ AVVA representative will be recognized as a delegate at their convention.  Treasurer Floyd Carmichael made a motion (from the Executive Committee) to donate $2,000.00 to MI AVVA to help offset convention expenses.  Motion passed.    

New Business  

 See www.vva.org for convention updates

 AVVA & VVA Upcoming Meetings & Events 

April 20-23, 2023 – National VVA BOD & CSCP meeting, Silver Spring, MD

8777 Georgia Avenue, DoubleTree

May 3-5, 2023 – MVAA Leadership Summit, Traverse City, MI  VFW hall

May 11-13, 2023 – DOD Vietnam 50th event, DC, www.vietnamwar50th.com 

May 21, 2023 – 10:00 AM - MSC/AVVA General Membership meeting   

American Legion Post 257           Battle Creek Chap. 313

7475 B Drive North       Battle Creek, MI 

June / July 2023 – Region 5 pre-convention meetings, in OH, IN, IL

July 2023 – VVA/AVVA general membership meeting (date & location TBD, Howell?) 

August 8-12, 2023 – 21st  VVA National Convention,  Rosen Centre

9840 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819

$122.50 – rooms       $75.00 – registration         Free parking

October 8, 2023 – VVA/AVVA general membership meeting in Cheboygan

The Chateau by Black Lake lodge

August 5-9, 2025 – National VVA Convention – New Orleans, LA, Marriott    

Closing prayer Floyd Carmichael

Adjournment:   12:55 PM

Minutes taken by Secretary Gary Estermyer

Lodging in the Battle Creek, MI area:

Fairfield Inn                              Red Roof Inn                         Holiday Inn

4665 Beckley Road                  5050 Beckley Road                12812 Harper Village Drive 

Battle Creek, MI 49015  Battle Creek, MI 49015  Battle Creek, MI 49014

269.979.8000                           269.979.1100                          269.979.0500