Russ Whitener

Chapter 1028 Newsletter

And in response...

Remembering Christmases Past

The following Organizations donated prizes for the Trivia Night Fundraiser.  Please support them whenever possible.

At the November 4th monthly meeting representatives from the Lutheran Senior Services spoke about the opportunities and services provided by the Christian organization for senior Veterans.

John Stillman

The panoramic views of Big Sky Montana with Haystack Butte in the background

Oct - Dec 2017 

Last month, two members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Post 1028, were the guests of Greg Grass at his part-time residence in Augusta. Greg, like the two guests lives in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Enjoying the Augusta hospitality – and Montana’s scenery and wildlife – were Steve Mills, who served in Vietnam from January 1968 until April of that year; and Jerry Wack, who served with the U.S. Army from October 5, 1969 until November 5, 1970.
The pair spoke of the “breathtaking scenery” Montana offered, but when asked how they faired in their big game and angling attempts, they agreed the days they had spent in Augusta were “great for hunting, but not so good for killing!” Both veterans bore the scars of their time in Vietnam. Some of those scars were obvious; others took a little time to notice. Steve Mills looks like he could still fit in his USMC uniform. Funny, easygoing; but Steve’s right arm is missing. And, when Steve walks, if you pay close attention, you will see that he has lost the leg on that side as well. A high-tech prosthesis lets him get around. Jerry Wack is a little quieter, but still funny and outgoing. Jerry still has a full head of hair, which he allows to grow long. He donates his hair to Locks of Love. Jerry’s wounds are not evident with a quick glance. When the Sun Times met with Steve and Jerry, we were joined by Greg Grass, who served with the U.S. Army (56th Transportation Co.) in Vietnam from 1968-69. We were also joined by two Augusta residents. Both had served during Vietnam, one as a sniper. I suppose it would have been easier – and would have made for a longer story – if I had interviewed Steve and Jerry by themselves. But this was a rare opportunity to see these veterans interact, and I knew that all of them would be much more open talking as a group that during one-on-one interviews. During the conversations, that lasted about two hours, it was hard to remember you’re a reporter. It felt more natural to just listen and learn more about Vietnam from those who had lived it. During their chat, these veterans spoke of experiences that are hard for those of us who never served to imagine. And during a couple of those conversations, I could see Jerry’s scars. Jerry has PTSD. About the deepest he would go as to what happened was when he told the Sun what he had seen over there. No details; you didn’t need to hear those to know the mention caused him pain. 

Bill De Armond

The Chapter held its first Trivia Night event at VFW Post 4223 on Saturday October 28th.  Approximately 160 guests attended the fun-filled affair. The venue was jampacked with members, family and friends. A special thanks to those members who showed up early and stayed late to set up, tear down, and clean up the room. 

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On November 10th the Chapter Honor Guard joined with other members along with the staff and guests of Delmar Gardens to celebrate Veterans Day with the residents of the facility.

...with Stan Nelms

VVA Chapter 1028 Christmas Party

"I think we're ready." Larry Eckhoff and Tom Brophy.

 Grass told me after the visit that a common problem is that when people who have never served meet someone with PTSD, they have doubts about the injury – because the scars are not obvious. “That’s why we often pair a vet with PTSD with one who has obvious physical injuries.”
As this roomful of warriors gets lost in their conversation, there are a few times when the subject becomes tough for Jerry. There was no anger from him, and he did not become withdrawn from the conversation. But, everyone in the room could see it in Jerry’s body movements. He kept his smile, but he would shuffle his body on the couch, maybe turn his head. At one point, Jerry seems particularly upset with the conversation. You might think that, just being around other veterans would trigger PTSD. For Jerry, his solace is his band of brothers. “I love you all,” he tells the other vets. Someone in the room asks Steve Mills how he copes with his injuries. The Marine just refuses to let those dark memories take control. Steve spoke about the problems with the medical treatment he received, not with the doctors and nurses. But, just like today’s veterans, he has no use for hospital management. Steve describes his time in a Navy hospital, how the Marines were relegated to the back of the hospital and were forced to walk long distances to enter the main part of the facility. He became a thorn in the side of the Navy brass that managed the hospital. He ended up before a Captains Mast. Apparently, the military recognized defeat and allowed Steve an early retirement. Steve joined the Marines for the college benefits. When he retired, he took advantage of that and went to college, studying organic chemistry. He discovered that there was not much opportunity in organic chemistry “unless you found a job in a lab.” So, he went to school again to learn how to work on electronics. Steve says that the metal hook that replaced his hand was ideal for electronics work: “I could hold things with my hook and solder them, since I could not feel the heat.” Asked if he was careful to “ground” the electronics before grabbing  them with his hook, Steve said, “Yes, I made sure they were turned off.” Both men talked about the way they were treated back then, when they returned from Vietnam. They appreciate that now, people come up and thank them; some even pick up the tab for their dinner. Steve and Jerry had spent the morning before we met at an assembly at the school in Augusta. They agreed that, when it comes to how students interact with veterans, it’s the younger kids that seem to ask the most questions.
After the conversation comes to an end, Greg, Jerry and Steve are joined by fellow Vietnam Vet and Augusta rancher John Krause. They want their photo taken with Haystack Butte in the background. Krause has shown them that, from a particular angle, you can see the profile of a face in the butte. We head out toward Haystack, taking a gravel road just past one of the Minuteman Missile silos. Perfect spot for a photo. But this is the Rocky Mountain Front. There are 360 degrees of stunning views, and we cover every one, except a photo with the missile silo in the background. We return to Augusta, and Greg and I head to the Western Bar to have a beer with another veteran, Gus Wolfe. Greg talks about how Augusta welcomes veterans into their community. He begins to name the people (that he can recall) who have made sure this was a memorable visit for Steve and Jerry. There is Frank Dellwo of the Buckhorn Bar, who donated the big game hunting tag. Chase and Ali Krone welcomed the vets to their ranch for the hunt; John and Barbara Krause hosted the vets for a hunt, too, and made sure they did not return to Missouri empty-handed – the couple sent the vets back home with some Montana elk meat. 
John Anderson took Jerry and Steve fishing; Gus Wolfe took them fishing, too. And anyone who knows Gus knows that he provided plenty of entertainment as well. Greg said that he wanted to thank Camp Valor Outdoors of Kingsville, Missouri for their rehabilitation program and the St. Louis Chapter (#1028) of the Vietnam Veterans of America for their support and the Augusta American Legion for providing a meal for Jerry and Steve.

The early set up team: Norm Franklin, Tom Brophy, Steve Fonod, Phil Williams

Honor Guard members: Dave Bierman, Dan Wilson, Dan Crowe

Greeting from Hill 37 in Vietnam 1969, from member Gregg Follmer 

Chapter Treasurer Tom Brophy recites the "Missing Man" narrative.

Our esteemed judges Larry Eckhoff and Jim Ryan

At the Meetings

Greg "Cowboy" Grass, Jerry Wack, Steve Mills and John Krause

Vietnam Veterans of America

Member Carl Gordon (R.) celebrating Christmas in Danang 1969

The following articles were published in the South County Times  

The Chapter held its third annual Christmas party on December 19th.  The event was held at the Genesis Banquet Center on Telegraph Road in South County.  Thanks to Gregg and Kathy Follmer and everyone else who helped organize the party.  The venue was comfortable, the food great.   A good time was had by  all.

Texas Roadhouse

Great Clips

IHOP Restaurants

Grand Slam Restaurant

VFW Post 4223

American Legion Post 400

A Soldiers Wish List

Quilts of Valor

Augusta

Members in the News

Greg "Cowboy" Grass

END OF PAGE

Gary Hutchison Memorial Chapter 1028

Chapter 1028 Newsletter

At the Meetings

Members and friends donated items for the very successful Silent Auction

Steve Fonod called the game and kept things moving.

Chapter 1028 Gazette