Bostic read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, “Rejoice evermore ... Pray without ceasing.” She said, “Everybody knows there’s power in praise (and) thanksgiving. There’s something amazing sometimes about the power that we have, especially when we’re praying . I know that you’ve all had Thanksgiving and I’m sure all of you had a good time.”
Bostic said, “We have to remember, God is in control no matter how bad things seem. You know as a child, we give Him praise and He loves us and wants us to give us His blessings. We must always go to the father for our needs and be sure we give Him our blessings and praise.”
Tommy Townsend, who served in Vietnam, was introduced as guest speaker. He began by telling about the small airplane on the table next to him. It was painted red and had a spinning propeller on the front of the nose and a short piece of tubing sticking out the bottom so the plane can act as a wind vane. It was given away as a door prize and Bostic’s name was drawn.
The red airplane was made by an 84-year-old disabled veteran named George Martel, a World War II veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, who makes them and gives them to people and to services.
Townsend said he was raised in Cleveland. His father was a Baptist minister at Calvary Baptist Church on Ocoee Street and also a pastor at Westwood Baptist Church until he passed away when Tommy was 14 years old. Townsend said, “My mom had to raise me and three other kids and had a hard time of it and when I was about 16, I thought I knew it all, so I quit school ... and when I turned 17 I said, ‘I want to go in the Army.’” He said he had to “get my mamma to sign for me and she didn’t want to sign — I kept beggin’ her, beggin’ her.”
His mother said, “Son, I can get you in there, but I can’t get you out,” so she signed for him. When he was asked, “Where would you like to go to?” he said, “I’d like to go to Hawaii.’
“After being in Hawaii for a year ... the whole division was activated and was sent to Vietnam; we all went to Vietnam.”
Townsend said on the second day after their arrival they were bombarded with mortars and everyone jumped in the fox holes. “It was like that saying, ‘You never meet an atheist in a fox hole.’ And I never did see one all the time I was in Vietnam.”
“While I was over there,” Townsend said, “we had two guys in our company that got killed on Valentine’s Day, 1966, but I was thankful that we didn’t lose any more guys in our unit than what we did.” He added, “A lot of people say you’re lucky and I say, ‘No, it’s not luck, it’s God.’ No doubt in my mind, God brought me out of Vietnam and watched over me a lot of times — when I could have gotten killed, but didn’t.”
Townsend said, even after 46 years, he still suffers post-traumatic stress disorder which is manifested in vivid dreams, flashbacks and other symptoms. He takes his medication to help him sleep and goes for treatments, also, at the VA clinic in Chattanooga where he meets up with a psychiatrist and 14 other Vietnam veterans every Monday.
He said he also suffers from complications from Agent Orange,a highly toxic defoliant used in Vietnam to kill off the tree leaves and vegetation, so we could see the enemy better. He is 100 percent disabled. He said there are a lot of mental problem cases among veterans and their suicide rate right now is 18 a day all across the United States, which includes Vietnam, Iraqi, Afghanistan and other veterans.
Townsend said when they came back, “we left Vietnam and 24 hours later, we was on the streets. They weren’t given counseling or any guidance. He said he is still really jumpy — “if I heard a loud racket or something, I got down on the ground — just something I have until the day I die, but with the help of the good Lord, I’m gonna make it through.”
About Agent Orange, he said during the Vietnam war approximately 19 million gallons was sprayed. Now America is spending 40 million dollars cleaning up the spills, removing it from the soil and the place where it was stored and trying to stop the illnesses that the agent causes. He said, “There’s all kind of diseases, a lot of cancer, heart trouble and diabetes and everything that it causes and the guys I was over there with, I tried to look em’ up on the Internet and I found like 45 guys I was with and out of them, we met about eight that’s died of cancer and stuff. It can lay dormant for years and it just comes in on you all of a sudden,”
Townsend said they have a reunion every year — 11 to date. The first year there was one, then four guys showed up, and the next year, there were 25. “I really look forward at it every year to see the guys I served with.” he said. The Vietnam war, he said, was the first war America fought when there wasn’t a front line — it was guerrilla warfare surrounded by enemy.
Townsend is a member of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter No. 25 which helps the veterans in town with groceries, light bills and other needs. The chapter hosts car shows, also, at Bradley Square Mall. All the money they raise goes back to helping local veterans. “This year alone, we’ve spent out over $6,000 helping local veterans pay their electric bills or buy groceries” or take care of other needs, he said.
He is a member of the Vietnam Veterans Chapter No. 596, also, which aids the veterans in many ways and a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Townsend said if anyone would like to help any veterans here in Cleveland, he’s the treasurer for the Disabled American Veterans local chapter No. 25. He said to give our donations locally instead of sending them elsewhere, because “every penny we get is given back to veterans here in Cleveland — everything we get goes back into the community.” And, he added, “If anyone sees a veteran coming back from tour — especially in uniform — go up to them and shake his hand and to tell him how much we appreciate them — it would mean so much to the veteran.”
He told about plans to build a nursing home here. The funds and land have been acquired and now vets are waiting for state approval and construction will begin by the first of the year. He said they go to Knoxville each year to present gifts to the veterans with the help from kids in summer school and they give a cash donation, also, of $500 or $600 every year for them to buy whatever they need. Their hope, he said, to get a home built in Cleveland and they can receive donations to give here in town.
Joe Ben Chase offered the closing prayer.
The door prize, compliments of Steve Robinson of Cleveland Plywood, was won by Bostic. She then drew for the third door prize — a small 10 Commandments donated by the club — which was won by Joe Ben Chase.
The next meeting will be held at Golden Corral Restaurant at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.