by Tari Hampe-Deneen
Morgan County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has come a long way since the official committee was formed in May of 2016. Over 430 individuals, businesses and organizations have contributed time, money and talent. Almost every venue in the county has hosted special events for us.
March 29 is the official Vietnam Veterans Holiday and the community is rolling out the red carpet to give our Vietnam Veterans the welcome home they deserve.
The program on begins at noon with a chance for folks to meet, greet, and also view the vast array of raffle items. Winning tickets will be drawn at the end of the program.
Hunters Hardware donated a limited edition, 1 of 10 made, Henry rifle honoring Veterans; glass artist Jeremy Colley created a mirror rimmed in 22k gold honoring Vietnam Veterans; Vietnam Veteran David Foulds donated a .30 caliber U.S. WWll M-1 Carbine; Larry and Terry Shelton of Paw Paw donated a Savage 22 long rifle; Almost heaven Antiques and Uniques gave an oak Larkins desk, and James Carter- “The Clock Doc”, gave a German made circa 1890 Cuckoo clock. In addition, Douglas Auto Sales in Berkeley Springs has pledged a donation of $50 per car for every car sold from November 1 through March 29.
After the blessing at 1 p.m., luncheon buffets will be presented by our volunteers, with food prepared and donated by The Country Inn, Berkeley Springs Center, Lot 12 Public House, The American Legion Family, and Tari’s, A Premiere Café. Our ready team of volunteer bakers will have plenty of sweets for dessert.
Bibi and Dr. Matt Hahn of River Bend Family Medicine have sponsored the action-packed event, which is hosted by Alderton-Dawson American Legion Post 60.
The event is open to the public for a minimum donation of $10 per guest or $5 for children under 10 years of age.
Morgan County Vietnam Veterans eat free. All who plan to attend must RSVP by next Friday, March 15, by calling Chuck or Linda Hampe at 304-258-1722. Seating is limited. Last year, 265 guests registered to attend. Seating capacity is 275.
Vietnam Veterans or next of kin who would like to sign up to be included on the monument that day are asked to come at 11 a.m. and bring a DD214 with the social security number cut out and a photo in uniform or any photo. Lynn Hutchinson will be there to assist, and the photo will be returned that day.
We are hoping this event will encourage more veterans and families to come forward.
After lunch, guests will stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, then board member and speaker Crystal Chapman will introduce our volunteers and supporters. Quilts of Valor will be presented by Mountain Mamma’s Quilters. The Tri-State Honor Guard will salute our Veterans.
One by one, either a family member or our speaker will stand and speak on behalf of our seven Morgan County Vietnam veterans who never made it home.
Commemorative pins and widows’ pins will be awarded. The Morgan County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was approved for the 50th commemorative partnership program and were given commemorative pins to honor and pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans.
We will then open the floor to our Veterans or next of kin who would like to talk about their experience or to introduce themselves.
So far, over 400 Vietnam veterans have met the criteria to have their names on the monument. Plaques will be separated into those who served in theatre or in the era. There will also be a plaque for Vietnam Veterans who made Morgan County their home. Our volunteers are still researching.
Many veterans left Morgan County upon returning from the service to seek jobs elsewhere while others made the military their career. We have veterans in Maine, Nevada, Florida, Hawaii, Alaska and all over the country. Sadly, many of the veterans were found by our volunteers searching old cemeteries throughout the county. The little marker that says Vietnam has become all too familiar. We search for next of kin to get permission to add their loved one’s name and help them find the form DD214 – the release document that proves their dates of service. Consent forms are available at the American Legions in Berkeley Springs and Paw Paw, the Chamber of Commerce, the VFW, Douglas Auto Sales, and on our website at mcvvmf.org.
Veterans or next of kin can also call Chuck Hampe at 304-258-1722 or sign up in person the first Saturday of every month from 8-10 a.m. at the American Legion Post 60 monthly breakfast, or at any of our many events.
On Memorial Day in 2012, President Barack Obama signed a congressionally authorized Presidential proclamation declaring March 29 a Vietnam War Veterans holiday. President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, encouraging the display of the U.S. flag on this holiday.
For more information about our cause, this event, or future events please visit www.mcvvmf.org or follow us on Facebook at Morgan County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution, both sites accept PayPal or you can mail a check to: MCVVMF 1337 Pious Ridge Road, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411.
Time is of the essence to finish the monument before losing more Morgan County Vietnam Veterans.