The state’s largest Vietnam Veterans of America chapter grew in 2020 despite the pandemic.
Chapter 1067 of Huntsville has reached 655 members. It is the largest of the 15 VVA chapters in Alabama and the ninth largest nationwide. Vietnam Veterans of America has more than 500 chapters and over 75,000 members nationally.
The chapter held its last official membership meeting in February because the pandemic struck in March. Charlie Miller, the chapter president since 2018, does a quarterly update for the members to make them aware of the group’s continuous direction and purpose. There are monthly board meetings via Zoom.
“It was sad because of the pandemic,” Miller said of this challenging year. “But it caused a desire to keep our chapter strong and to take care of our members.
“Going into 2021 our goal is to maintain and watch over the members that we have and continue to provide education and awareness to the community. We don’t want to lose contact with the community. We want the chapter to stay very active in our community and participate in any veteran or patriotic event that we can.”
The chapter’s prison ministry was postponed this year because of the pandemic; however, chaplain Jim Henderson and his team continue to pray for the well-being of all members and other veterans.
Activities in which the chapter participated this year include the following: Huntsville Boys and Girls Bicycle Tour; Gold Star families memorial monument dedication; presentation of 68 Vietnam veterans lapel pins at the Tut Fann State Veterans Home; and the Veterans Day celebration at Lakewood Baptist Church.
Miller received a YMCA award for his service to veterans. First vice president Bobby Langford was selected as state Vietnam veteran of the year. Other members recognized this year include: David Locklayer, Guardian of Freedom Award; James Harris, Service to Veterans Award; and Sammie Bone, Phillips Humanitarian Award.
Miller, 76, a retired command sergeant major, served in Vietnam in 1970-71. He is from Greenville, Florida, a small town about 35 miles east of Tallahassee. He graduated from the then Greenville Training School in May 1961 and joined the Army a month later because he was looking for work. Some of his mentors in the community told him he should enter the military because he had good discipline and good character.
He had basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. When he turned 18 in December 1961, he returned home to marry his childhood sweetheart, Ann, and they have been married 59 years. Miller came to Redstone in 1964 for training as an ammunition specialist at the Ordnance school. He did so well at the school that he was retained as an instructor. This would become the first of his three tours at Redstone: 1964-67, 1969-70 and 1987-91. He retired in 1991 as the command sergeant major of the then Ordnance Missile and Munitions Center and School after 30 years in the Army.
In June 1970 Miller went to Da Nang as a platoon sergeant with the 1st Aviation Brigade. He ran an ammunition supply point and petroleum fuel supply point and he had about 35 Soldiers under him. Their job was to rearm and refuel the utility helicopters that returned from the field. This was a 24-hours-per day, 7-days-per week mission. There were nightly mortar attacks on their compound.
Miller received a bachelor’s in marketing from the University of Maryland in 1983 and a bachelor’s in religion education from the then Athens College in 1993. The Huntsville resident and Ann have a son, a daughter, seven grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. Eric, a Florida State graduate, is a consultant for cellphone communications who resides in Loganville, Georgia; and Tara Davison, an Auburn grad and engineer for Edwards Baking Company, lives in Douglasville, Georgia.
“There is no greater honor than to serve as president of VVA Chapter 1067, the largest chapter in the state of Alabama,” he said.
Editor’s note: This is the 299th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.