The local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, the Edward G. Sharpe Chapter 596, not only raises funds for veterans in need, but also honors veterans from Vietnam and all other wars through its …
The local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, the Edward G. Sharpe Chapter 596, not only raises funds for veterans in need, but also honors veterans from Vietnam and all other wars through its pinning ceremonies.
VVA is the only congressionally chartered veterans’ service organization dedicated to Vietnam veterans, this is due largely to society’s distaste for the Vietnam War back in the 60s and 70s.
“Because of the time period, a lot of mainstream veterans’ organizations wouldn’t let us be members. It was an unpopular war and we were being called all sorts of names,” stated Doyle Hughes, Chapter 596 treasurer and charter member.
The VVA’s motto is “Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another,” and this camaraderie grows each month at its meetings at the Cleveland Senior Center at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.
The Cleveland chapter was established in October 1991. To start a chapter, there must be at least 25 charter members, and Cleveland had over 40. To this day, there are 150,000 members throughout the country’s various branches.
“We help veterans in this region. We don’t ship money out of our area, and only serve Bradley, McMinn, Meigs and Polk Counties,” Hughes added.
The VVA not only provides financial support for veterans in need, but also hosts pinning ceremonies at senior living homes to thank these veterans of valor for their service.
The VVA’s pinning ceremonies involve giving a commemorative pin of thanks as well as a certificate recognizing service to all veterans, regardless of which war they took part in. These pins are marked with their respective branch’s insignia and are a welcome gift from retired veterans. Recently, Chapter 596 conducted a pinning ceremony at Etowah Healthcare Center, where they pinned nine out of 10 veterans, including one from WWII.
In addition to the pinning ceremonies, if the group hears of a veteran needing something built, such as a ramp, they’ll go out and build it themselves. Chapter 596 president James Dean also has a storage facility filled with hospital beds and motorized and non motorized wheelchairs to donate to veterans. Most families — once they no longer need the items — will give them back to the VVA to donate to another veteran.
All funds taken in go to support veterans, but those who receive aid must present their discharge papers before aid is given.
“We vet people first. We also don’t contribute to self-destructive lifestyles,” stated Tim Green, Chapter 596 secretary. “Unfortunately, there are people who’ll abuse the system and go around to numerous organizations requesting aid.”
Cleveland members will work with those who genuinely need aid, but once they’ve given the aid, VVA members walk them through steps to ensure they don’t need aid again and can handle themselves in the future.
Unlike many other organizations, VVA doesn’t call asking for money; instead, it gets all of its funding through donations set up at grocery or retail stores and through events. Dean stressed if you ever get a call from someone asking for money for VVA, it’s not VVA.
The big event the VVA has planned for 2019 is its 26th annual golf tournament being held at the Waterville Golf Course on Saturday, May 18. Entering costs $60 per player and you can sponsor a hole for $100, with $10 per mulligan, limiting two per person. Those who sponsor a hole get one free play-through. To feed all the hungry golfers, O’Charley’s is providing lunch for participants.
Cash prizes are on the line, with $250 for first place, $150 for second place, $100 for third place and $50 for fourth place. There is also a $50 prize for longest drive, a $50 prize for closest to the pin and a $500 prize for a hole-in-one. A drawing for door prizes will also take place after the tournament.
May 18 is also Armed Forces Day, and the VVA members encourage residents to come out and participate, as everyone is welcome to play and all proceeds go to benefit local veterans.
“Sometimes it’s electricity, sometimes it’s rent. We’ve even helped veterans with a hotel room for a night or two,” Dean said. “We do whatever we can to help vets of all kinds and want to continue doing that.”
For more information, call 423-920-2782. The 26th Annual VVA Golf Tournament takes place at Waterville Golf Course located at 3855 Dalton Pike. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. with tee time at 9 a.m.
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