Their black cap, black vest, gold shirt and black pants have become recognizable throughout the community.
They are the members of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1067 in Huntsville. And this has been a banner year for the 650-member chapter.
“The year has gone fantastic,” Charlie Miller, president since May 2018, said. “We have gotten more guys involved in not only helping themselves but helping the community as well.”
The group has added about 100 members under his tenure. Miller attributes this growth to a program called “Each Man Get a Man.” The chapter’s members share their personal experiences through “Tell Our Story.”
“We create pride in one another through our stories,” Miller, a retired command sergeant major, said. “So some guys used to be leery of wearing Vietnam attire. Everybody in our chapter wears a gold shirt, a black vest, a black cap with black trousers. And each guy in our chapter takes pride in our service in Vietnam.”
The chapter’s chosen attire started about three years ago and the entire membership bought into it. Miller said he is proud that people requesting the chapter’s support for a funeral or church event or veterans celebration will ask specifically for the members to wear their usual outfit.
Highlights from the group’s year have included the March 30 event formerly called Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans. “We’re home now, we served our tour, we did our combat duties. Now we want to celebrate,” Miller said. “We changed that (event’s name) to annual Vietnam Veterans Celebration Day.”
The next Vietnam Veterans Celebration Day, at the Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial, will be March 28.
Upcoming events include a veterans celebration, Nov. 2 in Cullman. The chapter will do a prison ministry at the Limestone Correctional Facility, Nov. 3. It is among the sponsors of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Lecture Series, Nov. 4 at the Jackson Center. The chapter will do a veterans recognition service Nov. 10 at the Lakewood Baptist Church on Mastin Lake Road in Huntsville. Photos of veterans from the Lakewood community will adorn a wall of honor in the church. The chapter’s year concludes with its annual Christmas party.
Chapter 1067 started in May 2012 under the leadership of Warren Harmon, a retired chief warrant officer 4. Current members include Medal of Honor recipient Mike Rose. Medal of Honor recipient Leo Thorsness, who died in 2017, was a member.
Nationally, the Vietnam Veterans of America has 85,000 members and more than 670 chapters. With 650 members, Chapter 1067 ranks eighth in the nation.
“I could not have made this happen or been successful without the leadership of this chapter,” Miller said. These leaders include first vice president Bobby Langford, second vice president John Mays, secretary Jim Carter, treasurer Neal Nayman, membership chairman Richard Knight and nine other board members.
The chapter meets the second Thursday of each month from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the American Legion Post 237 on Drake Avenue.
“The future of our chapter is to continue to take care of the Vietnam veterans and their families,” Miller said, “and as well as to provide an awareness of our Vietnam veterans and the things they fought for over 50 years ago.”
Editor’s note: This is the 243rd in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.