When Chapter 789 of the Vietnam Veterans of America met March 6 at the Golden Hibachi in Hinesville, the group’s monthly agenda included reminders that Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, March 29 is National Vietnam Veterans Day and there’s a canned food drive in the works for April.
Those followed something more immediate: a “special presentation” recognizing Chapter 789’s 20th anniversary.
The presentation was made by VVA Region 4 Director Spence Davis, who also is the organization’s Georgia State Council president. Recognized during the event were past presidents of the Liberty County chapter, including Harvey Stokes, Henry O’Neal, Paul Spence, Carol Schetrompf, the late John Menard, the late Harold Hemingway and Dan Sippel.
Chapter 789’s current president is retired Sgt. Maj. Adna Chaffee IV, for whom the VVA appears to be a ministry of sorts.
He notes the Liberty chapter’s annual trips to the Dublin VA Hospital with Christmas baskets, and an effort to provide fast food restaurants workers with Christmas gifts.
There’s also the VVA’s work on behalf of the homeless in Liberty County and its advocacy for veterans and soldiers in a number of areas, ranging from exposure to Agent Orange to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Hepatitis C, which impacts approximately one in five Vietnam veterans, according to veterans groups.
Many of the causes VVA backs now are based on the lack of support Vietnam veterans such as Chaffee and Davis feel wasn’t given them and their comrades when they returned from the war.
“When we came home, weweren’t treated all that great,” Davis said. “Nobody would help us, that’s the reason we got started.”
These days, Chapter 789 doesn’t miss a chance to step up and help other soldiers, Chaffee said.
“We have not missed a welcome home for 3rd ID soldiers since the division went to Iraq (in 2001),” Chaffee said. “We’ve been out there rain, sleet, snow, whatever, to give them a welcome home we didn’t get.”
The VVA chapter’s work has its appeal for members, who, like retired Maj. Luis Carrera, miss the camaraderie and helping fellow soldiers.
Carerra, a helicopter pilot who served two tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Purple Heart, now serves as an ambassador for the Army Reserve and continues to stay active in veterans causes.
“It’s about taking care of soldiers and veterans,” he said. “The bottom line for me is that’s what it’s all about.”
That has its appeal. When Chapter 789 started 20 years ago, there were 25 members, Chaffee said. Now there are 134 spread around the country, and local VVA leaders want to see more Vietnam veterans sign up. There are also membership opportunities for those who didn’t serve in Vietnam through the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. — a service organization that works through its local chapters and includes veterans and others who share the group’s aim of working on the behalf of veterans.
Life membership in the VVA is $100, Davis said. Annual membership dues are $25. VVA Chapter 789 meetings are held the first Monday of every month. The next is April 3.
For more information, call 912-368-6679.