About 35 North Dakota National Guard soldiers this week will put the finishing touches on a parking lot project at the American Veterans, or AMVETS, Club Post #20 in Steele, N.D.
The Guardsmen, who hail from the 835th Engineer Detachment (Asphalt Team) and the 897th Engineer Detachment (Concrete Section) — based about 80 miles northeast in Carrington — assisted the veterans organization through a state civil-military construction project. The program provides soldiers with realistic training while providing community nonprofits and governmental agencies needed assistance.
“This was a mutually-beneficial project for our guardsmen and the residents of Steele,” said Maj. Gen. Alan S. Dohrmann, North Dakota adjutant general, who visited the units last week. “Our airmen and soldiers spend two weeks conducting annual training to build upon their military knowledge and collective skills. Being able to strengthen our communities by providing assistance and build our guardsmens’ readiness at the same time is a win-win for our organization and those we serve.”
In May, the 815th and 897th soldiers spent a unit drill weekend clearing the AMVETS parking lot site by using their inventory of earth-moving equipment. Earlier this month, the guardsmen began pouring concrete for the facility’s new 75-by-135-foot parking lot, as well as additional gutters and driveways.
Sgt. 1st Class Joel O’Neil of West Fargo, N.D., serves as the units’ noncommissioned officer in charge and acting commander. He said the AMVETS project gave the units the opportunity to train in their respective military occupational specialties, which include heavy equipment operators and concrete/asphalt equipment operators.
“The project has given us the chance to do some convoy training and mobilize the equipment we need, as well as conducting planning for the project,” he said.
O’Neil said his soldiers bring a depth of experience and knowledge to the project, many of them formally working in construction of some kind in their civilian professions.
While in Steele, which touts a population of about 800 residents, guardsmen have been housed at the local high school, sleeping in classrooms and using the shower facilities in the locker rooms.
The Guard members’ presence also has been appreciated by Steele residents, said Lavonne Stockert, the Steele AMVETS manager.
“They’ve been very pleasant, they’re easy to work with and they wanted to help out people in the community in addition to the concrete work,” Stockert said.
Stockert said the new parking lot came just in time to accommodate some additional traffic coming into town later this summer. Steele residents will celebrate a Kidder County all-class reunion later this month at the AMVETS and also will host a car show later in the fall.
Detroit, MI – On its third day of the service marathon, dubbed “Operation Motown Muster,” national veterans nonprofit The Mission Continues has brought together hundreds to participate in a weeklong service engagement that will jump-start a long-lasting transformation in a city or community identified with a particularly high level of need.
Home to nearly 700,000 residents — many of whom are already hard at work shaping the future of their city — Detroit was a prime location for The Mission Continues’ inaugural Mass Deployment. During Operation Motown Muster, The Mission Continues veterans and local volunteers will provide a much-needed surge in Detroit’s revitalization efforts, a gap in the city’s current capacity.
US Navy Veteran and Mass Deployment Director for The Mission Continues, Joshua Arntson, who is responsible for leading the first ever effort of its kind here in the US, spoke with AMVETS prior to deploying his veteran alumni in Operation Motown Muster. After 2 deployments and 4 years with the military, Arntson, like many of our veterans, offer high-quality operations management & tactical experience necessary to kick-start the city’s accelerated transformation goals.
“Veterans (and military) have skills and we can build long term sustainability in cities here at home,” said Arntson. “Veterans are rooted to serve, and Mission Continues offers us (veterans) an ability to impact the community, tap into our current networks and advance these neighborhoods through continuum of service.”
Over this past weekend, Arntson and his Mass Deployment team went to Central High School, which once groomed history makers and leaders. Eli Broad, William Davidson, Senators Carl and Sander Levin and Nobel Prize winner Melvin Calvin are a few of this iconic institution’s alumn. The school now has fewer than 350 students enrolled, and a graduation rate of less than 50 percent.
Each day, the team will deploy and execute a variety of high-impact missions, including construction, landscaping, painting and public arts projects. Specific projects include:
Refurbishing indoor and outdoor facilities at Central High School and Priest Elementary School to make the schools a safe and inviting place for students to learn,
Beautifying three public parks and future green spaces in the Osborn Neighborhood to create a safe, lively space for families to play, and
Cleaning up 40 acres of vacant land and converting portions of the Chene Ferry Market into clean, vibrant spaces for community events and an urban farm.
Following this week-long service marathon, The Mission Continues will maintain a veteran volunteer presence in the city to continually support local Detroit nonprofits over the next several years. And, in 2017, they’ll select a new Mass Deployment city with a goal of jump-starting long-term transformational change in another community.
FOX RIVER GROVE (nwherald.com) – Cary-Grove AMVETS Pearl Harbor Memorial Post 245 will host its 29th annual picnic for hospitalized veterans Wednesday.
The event will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lions Park, 747 S. River Road in Fox River Grove. Veterans will begin arriving about 11 a.m.
The picnic will include food, beverages, music and games. Boat rides and fishing also will be a part of the day’s activities.
AMVETS Cmdr. Gary Foster said he expects about 400 veterans to attend this year’s event, which he said is about the same number of veterans that were there last year.
Veterans from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago are expected to attend this year’s event.
The picnic will relocate to the Algonquin Township office, 3702 Route 14, Crystal Lake, if there is any rain that day.
Cary-Grove AMVETS still is looking for volunteers and money donations. Volunteers can help serve food, participate in the day’s activities and will be able to get to know the veterans.
Donations can be sent to AMVETS Post 245, P.O. Box 741, Cary, IL 60013. For information, call Foster at 847-639-3936.
There was a ceremony Thursday morning at the Brig. Gen. Wendell H. Gilbert Tennessee State Veterans Home in Clarksville. AMVETS (American Veterans) donated a golf cart to the center that will be of great benefit to its residents.
“A gift like this raises the quality of life for our residents,” said Ed Harries, Executive Director of Tennessee State Veterans Homes. “For our residents who might not be able to walk well, this will allow them to get outside and see the grounds. Thanks to AMVETS’ generous donations, this is happening at all four of our Tennessee facilities.”
The Home, which has been open since late 2015, will eventually house 108 residents, primarily veterans who are in need of skilled nursing care. The inside of the expansive facility is complete, but Harries has plans for the outside. There are already trees and some landscaping in place. He would like to see the courtyard areas between the buildings further developed.
“Every window should be a picture,” Harries said. “When our residents look out from the rooms there should be something of interest outside each window. If they have to, or want to spend a lot of time in their room, they should have a view, something interesting to look at. Our veterans have earned that.”
AMVETS Department of Tennessee State Commander Deric Everett shares Harries opinion that Tennessee’s senior veterans deserve every opportunity.
“We are putting a cart in each of these facilities,” Everett said. “Our motto is ‘veterans serving veterans.’ We help veterans, their families and their communities at large. We could think of no better way to help, but to donate these special carts to the homes where our senior veterans are living.”
Everett says the carts are special. They have been extended to allow plenty of leg room for the elderly and handicapped. There is also a place on the back to hold a wheelchair. AMVETS previously donated a full size, 10-seat van to the Clarksville veterans home.
Everett says the van helps residents get to the store, doctor’s appointments, or even out for social activities. “This is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “We appreciate the chance to be able to do this for our veterans.”
Harries describes the facility as nine “houses,” each with 12 bedrooms. Each house has everything its residents need, but there are common areas, with a bistro, a great room and an activity center that encourage social interaction.
“Skilled nursing is a component in the care continuum,” Harries said. “There are things we can’t do here. We don’t offer acute care, nor is this a behavioral unit. We don’t deal with violent individuals, and we don’t heavily medicate people. Our residents are people who need rehabilitation, or just can’t function at home because of their limitations.”
The facility has already been CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) certified. The next step is Veterans Administration certification.
BUFFALO, NY (wgrz.com) – The AMVETS Post in Riverside has been transformed, and an Army veteran is responsible for the military mural.
While some only see graffiti as vandalism, others consider it to be art.
Vinny Alejandro of Buffalo was approached by the River Rock Community Coalition with a blank canvas – the 2000 sq. ft. side of the AMVETS Medallion Post 13 in Riverside. He was asked to transform it.
“I did a sketch automatically. Being a vet it was an easy kind of thing to think about.”
Alejandro is a former Army specialist who served in Germany from 1993 to 1997 and for the mural he wanted to depict America’s military through the years.
He spent nearly 50 man-hours and used 100 spraycans to paint the original 13 star American flag, a desert colored hummer representing the desert conflicts, paratroopers representing WWII, an F-16, Cobra helicopter from Vietnam, M-1 tank, F-22 Raptor and a Coast Guard helicopter, and the seals of all five military branches.
Just a few weeks ago, Alejandro returned to Joplin, Missouri, to touch up another one of his murals. He originally painted it 5 years ago when he was living there and a devastating EF-5 tornado ripped through, killing 160 people.
“We just found a building that we thought was going to be torn down and we did a mural on it and it became a symbol of hope for the city,” Alejandro said.
And now that he’s living in Buffalo again, his works can be found all over, from University Heights to the Old First Ward. And he serves as a mentor to others who might use the spray can wrong way.
“There’s not just the criminal element to it. I like to teach younger kids the history of it. The artform of it. ”
“It’s meant a lot already. Just for the veterans the post the neighborhood in general, just the sense of pride that it brings back to the community,” said George Fitzpatrick, founder of the River Rock Community Coalition.
There is an officially unveiling of the mural and fundraiser planned for Friday, June 17th from 5:30 to 9:30 pm at the Amvets Medallion Post 13 on Review Place in Riverside. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door.
To find out more about the fundraiser, click here.
To find out more about the River Rock Community Coalition click here.
To find out more about Vinny Alejandro and his artwork, click here.
Charles Kettles will be awarded the Medal of Honor
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — The details of the heroism that will see Charles Kettles awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House come back clearly and quickly even five decades later.
The White House announced Tuesday afternoon that Kettles would receive the award from President Obama on July 18.
Kettles, 86, recalls the events of May 15, 1967: flying his UH-1 helicopter time after time after time into dizzying, withering fire to save the lives of dozens of soldiers ambushed by North Vietnamese troops in the Song Tau Cau river valley; nursing the shot-up, overloaded bird out of harm’s way with the final eight soldiers who’d been mistakenly left behind.
“With complete disregard for his own safety …” the official narrative of that day reads. “Without gunship, artillery, or tactical aircraft support, the enemy concentrated all firepower on his lone aircraft … Without his courageous actions and superior flying skills, the last group of soldiers and his crew would never have made it off the battlefield.”
Kettles, born and bred and retired in Ypsilanti, Michigan, remembers how he felt after he touched down nearly 50 years ago for the last time, finally safe. Unrattled and hungry.
“I just walked away from the helicopter believing that’s what war is,” Kettles told USA TODAY. “It probably matched some of the movies I’d seen as a youngster. So be it. Let’s go have dinner.”
Kettles’ actions were documented and saluted long ago. He was awarded the second-highest award for bravery, the Distinguished Service Cross. And that, he thought, was that. Kettles completed another tour in Vietnam, retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and opened an auto dealership with his brother.
That’s where the story would end, if not for William Vollano, an amateur historian who was interviewing veterans for the Veterans History Project. Vollano’s prodding led the Army to reopen Kettles’ case and determine that his actions merited the Medal of Honor. Coincidentally, the military is also reviewing the actions of hundreds more troops in the post-9/11 era to see if they, too, should receive upgrades of their service crosses and Silver Stars.
May 15, 1967
On that May morning in Vietnam, Maj. Kettles’ and several other helicopter pilots ferried about 80 soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division to a landing zone near the Song Tra Cau River. The river, just eight or 10 feet above sea level, drifted past a 1,500-foot hill.
“Very steep, which set them up for an ambush,” Kettles recalls. “Which did happen.”
Hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers, dug into tunnels and bunkers, attacked the Americans with machine guns, mortars and recoilless rifles.
“Two or three hours after they were inserted, they had been mauled over and the battalion commander called for reinforcements,” Kettles says.
Kettles volunteered to fly in reinforcements and to retrieve the wounded and dead. As they swooped in to land, the North Vietnamese focused their fire on the helicopters. Soldiers were killed before they could leap from the aircraft, according to the official account of the fight.
Air Force jets dropped napalm on the machine gun positions overlooking the landing zone, but it had little effect. The attack continued, riddling the helicopters with bullets. Kettles refused to leave, however, until the fresh troops and supplies had been dropped off and the dead and wounded crowded aboard to be flown out.
Kettles ran the gantlet again, bringing more reinforcements amid mortar and machine gun fire that seriously wounded his gunner and tore into his helicopter. The crew from another helicopter reported to Kettles that fuel was pouring from his aircraft. Kettles wobbled back to the base.
“Kettles, by himself, without any guns and any crew, went back by himself,” said Roland Scheck, a crew member who had been injured on Kettles’ first trip to the landing zone that day. “Immediately, all the pilots and copilots in the company decided, ‘This is Medal of Honor material right there.'”
“I don’t know if there’s anyone who’s gotten an Medal of Honor who deserved it more,” he said. “There’s no better candidate as far as I’m concerned.”
The final run
At about 6 p.m., the infantry commander radioed for an immediate, emergency evacuation of 44 soldiers, including four from Kettles’ unit whose helicopter was destroyed at the river. Kettles volunteered to lead the flight of six evacuation helicopters, cobbled together from his and another unit.
“Chaotic,” Kettles says. “The troops simply went to the first helicopter available.”
Just one soldier scrambled into his helicopter. Told that all were safe and accounted for, Kettles signaled it was time to return to base.
“The artillery shut down, the gunships went back,” Kettles said. “No reason for them to stay anymore. The Air Force shut down. We climbed out to about 1,400 feet, a 180-degree turn back toward base camp and the hospital.”
That’s when word reached Kettles that eight soldiers had been left behind.
“They had been down in the river bed in a last ditch defensive effort before the helicopters loaded,” Kettles said. “I assured the commander I would go back in and pick them up.”
Kettles took control of the helicopter from the co-pilot and plummeted toward the stranded soldiers.
The North Vietnamese trained all their fire on Kettles. As he landed, a mortar round shattered the windshields and damaged the tail and main rotor blade. The eight soldiers piled on board, raked by rifle and machine-gun fire. Jammed beyond capacity, the helicopter “fishtailed” several times before Kettles took the controls again from his co-pilot. The only way out, Kettles recalls, was to skip along the ground, gaining enough speed to get the helicopter in the air.
“If not we were going to go down the road like a two-and-a-half ton truck with a rotor blade on it,” Kettles says.
After five or six tries, Kettles got off the ground. Just then, a second mortar round slammed into the tail.
“That caused the thing to lurch forward,” he says. “I don’t know if that helped much. I still had a clean panel, that is, the emergency panel. There weren’t any lights.
The helicopter was still doing what it was supposed to do even though it was, I guess, pretty badly (damaged). We got out of there.”
The Medal of Honor
Kettles acknowledges it was an extraordinary day, one that he thinks about but doesn’t dwell on. He and the other helicopter pilots and crew performed as they were trained, followed orders, completed their mission. Simple as that.
The Medal of Honor, he says, “belongs to them certainly as much as myself. I just happened to be the lead position where the decisions were mine, properly so.
“For them, unfortunately all they could do was follow. And they did. They did their jobs. They’re as deserving as I am certainly. That’s what it means to me.”
For dozens of soldiers, especially the last eight, Kettles’ decision kept their names from being etched on the black granite wall of the Vietnam War memorial here in Washington with the 58,000 others who died in the war.
“The eight who got out of there who aren’t on that wall,” Kettles says. “That’s what matters.”
OGDENSBURG (watertowndailytimes.com) — One of the city’s most active veteran’s organizations in recent decades is asking the community to join hands in helping celebrate a quarter of a century of civic involvement in the greater Ogdensburg region.
AMVETS (American Veterans), Post 19 will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on Saturday at the AMVETS building on State Street in Ogdensburg.
The Ogdensburg AMVETS Post 19 is a charter member of the American Veterans, Inc. organization. At the national level the group was formed by World War II veterans as a way to help local communities and to help safeguard the interests of those who have served the country in uniform.
At the state and national level the organization advocates for causes that it deems helpful to the nation as a whole, as well as to safeguard the interests of those who have served in uniform.
The only requirement for membership is to have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military, according to AMVETS officials.
According to the organization’s website, the veteran group’s long-term goal is to enhance and safeguard the entitlements for all American veterans who have served honorably, and to improve the quality of life for them, their families, and the communities where they live.
The group advocates civic involvement through leadership, advocacy and community service.
The Ogdensburg AMVETS Post has been active for 25 years, helping sponsor a number of events and organizations over the years. The group is self-sufficient from it’s own fund raising activities and donations.
In Ogdensburg, AMVETS Post 19 will celebrate 25 years of civic involvement with a Saturday dinner that will consist of potato salad, baked beans and desert from 4 to 6:30 p.m. In addition there will be a dance and live music from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who is currently serving, or who has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to the present, to include the National Guard and Reserves.
The Saturday celebration in Ogdensburg will include a 50/50 raffle. Cost of the dinner is $5, the dance is $5 and those who want to attend both the dinner and the dance will be charged just $8.
For more information on how to help celebrate 25 years of public service at the AMVETS Post 19 in Ogdensburg, call 315-393-6140.
AMVETS announced the 2016 recipients of its National Scholarship Program today
“The influx in applications this year was extremely impressive.” said National Programs Director, Karla Lathroum at today’s announcement. “It is an honor for AMVETS to help veterans and members of the military continue their families’ legacies by providing additional support through the AMVETS Scholarship Program.”
Graduating high school seniors selected to receive four-year undergraduate scholarships of $4,000 are: Holloway Testerman of Chichester, New Hampshire
Mariah Cummings of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania
Felice Watson of Villa Rica, Georgia
Jacob Higginson of Springfield, Illinois
Micaela Mersch of Troy, Texas
Adriana Tapia of Mesa, Arizona
Graduating high school senior Jordan Fox of Lewisville, Texas was selected as the $1,000.00 scholarship recipient of the JROTC scholarship.
Veterans selected to receive four-year scholarships of $4,000.00 are: Anita Ingram of Darby, Pennsylvania
Benjamin Kimball of Wichita, Kansas
Brad Swanson of Durham, North Carolina
Veterans Ashley Gorbulja of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and Jared Wymer of Seattle, Washington were selected to receive the Dr. Aurelio M. Caccomo Family Foundation Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $3,000.00.
Veteran Andrew Bates of Fenton, Michigan was selected to receive The Henry G. Huestis Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,000.00
The winners were selected on the basis of academic excellence and financial need. Since its inception in the 1950s, the AMVETS National Scholarship Program has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to veterans and graduating high school students who are sons and daughters or grandchildren of American veterans.
As one of America’s leading veterans service organizations with over 250,000 members, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who is currently serving, or who has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to the present, to include the National Guard and Reserves. Visit www.amvets.org for more information on who we are and how to join.
The Silver Helmet Awards are coming soon, and we need your submissions! The deadline is June 24, 2016. Please submit your nominations for the following categories:
Civil Servant of the Year: Recognition of a career employee, at any level of government, for outstanding public service.
Rehabilitation Award: Recognition of a person who has, within the past year, made exceptional contributions in the field of rehabilitation of disabled persons.
Defense Award: Recognition of a person who has made exceptional contributions to the defense of the United States and the Free World.
Peace Award: Recognition of a person who has, within the past year, made exceptional contributions to the cause of world peace.
Americanism Award: Recognition of an American who has made the most outstanding contributions to strengthen Americanism.
Congressional Service Award: Awarded as warranted in recognition of a member of Congress for exceptional service to the American people, principally veterans.
AMVET of the Year: Recognition of the AMVET who has contributed most to the welfare of the organization nationwide.
Nominations for the Silver Helmet Awards originate with individual AMVETS members and AMVETS posts. All properly completed Silver Helmet nominations will be submitted to the AMVETS National Honors & Awards Committee for their deliberation at the annual convention. The Honors and Awards Committee‚ composed of all past national commanders and the last five “AMVET-of-the-Year” awardees‚ reviews the nominations, selects the winners and announces them to the convention delegates. By vote, the convention delegates ratify the H&A committee’s recommendations.