WUFT News

New Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter Could Form In Gainesville

By on September 20th, 2013

The Vietnam War may have ended 38 years ago, but local veteran Bob Barnas is rallying the troops – this time for a new chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America in Gainesville.

Florida currently has 22 chapters of the non-profit organization dedicated to getting benefits to veterans and changing the public perception of the war. Six months ago, after Barnas asked questions about tax benefits and organizations for fellow Vietnam veterans,  decided Gainesville’s veteran community could benefit from a local chapter.

“While I could get information from our local veterans organizations, I wasn’t getting what I wanted specifically from several Vietnam veterans,” said Barnas, who is also a High Springs city commissioner.

The first meeting is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at American Legion Post 16, 4701 NW 6th St. in Gainesville.

The chapter will meet monthly and provide veterans with opportunities to find tax and health care benefits and connect with people they served with.

The Gainesville chapter is one of Florida’s five emerging chapters. While there are more than 70,000 members nationwide, Barnas needs 25 North Florida veterans to show their discharge papers at the first meeting to certify their service, or else the chapter will not become official.

For the past two months, Barnas has set up a tent with memorabilia, uniforms and flyers at veteran associations meetings like the American Legion around the area to draw interest. He’s gained one to two new members a week and hopes to see anywhere from 25 to 50 veterans at the first meeting – a dinner with hot dogs, hamburgers and soft drinks.

President of Vietnam Veterans of America Florida State Council Ben Humphries said more people want to join the VVA as they approach the retirement age. He also sees more veterans willing to join as the war that once divided the country is generally more tolerated.

“My philosophy is every member that we gain, that means another veteran is going to be able to get help, and of course that veteran knows other veterans, so we have that reach out to the veteran community,” Humphries said.

VVA isn’t just about influencing veterans – it’s also about informing the community about the war. If asked, veterans from the new chapter will go into schools around the Gainesville area and into the University to talk about Vietnam.

“The books today that they’re teaching… have very little in them about the Vietnam era,” Humphries said. “And it’s sad…I feel like it’s one of the most divisive conflicts that we’ve ever been involved with that pretty much made the nation more aware of what war truly was.”

Jim Lynch, former veterans service advisor of Alachua County, will be one of the new members. After hearing about the new chapter from Barnas at an American Legion meeting, Lynch was excited to bond with other veterans.

“When we came home back in the ‘60s from Vietnam, we didn’t get a very welcome reception, so I kind of put all my military service thoughts away in the back of my mind and put all my stuff that I brought home from Vietnam and shoved it up in the attic and forgot about it,” Lynch said.

For many years, he didn’t tell anyone he was a veteran.

“So now, it’s much more acceptable,” Lynch said. “And it’s nice to have a bunch of guys who have similar experiences and share those.”


This entry was posted in Local and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Local

12 Residents Seek Shelter After Explosion At Southwest Villas Apartment

An explosion at Southwest Villas on Thursday night displaced 12 residents. The cause of the explosion is unknown.


For three months, 35-year-old Sisco Black and his wife have been homeless. When they first came to Grace Marketplace, they relied heavily on the amenities, but now they have become self-sufficient.

Grace Marketplace Completes Homeless Census

The usual sound of birds wasn’t what woke the residents of Grace Marketplace Thursday morning. Grace Marketplace, 2845 NE 39th Ave., held their annual homeless census count on Thursday that lasted from 5:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Alachua County Coalition for the […]


Director of Kofi Adu-Brempong Documentary Talks Racism, Police Militarization

“In His Own Home” is a documentary about the police shooting of University of Florida graduate student Kofi Adu-Brempong. The film’s director spoke with WUFT about how the 2010 incident relates to current national issues.


B7ue4wNIAAA5twE

MLK Day Celebration Presents Scholarship, Honors Gainesville Community Leader

Monday morning, people gathered around Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial statue downtown to see Vivian Haynes inducted into the MLK Commission of Florida’s Hall of Fame.


The Natural History Museum puts the head on T. rex Sue as the final step in installation for the traveling exhibit.

A T. rex Named Sue

A look at the setup of the most-complete cast of a T. rex, now showing at the Florida Museum of Natural History.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments