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

Park visitors enjoy a day in the crystal clear waters at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Guests can enjoy tubing from the north entrance beginning Memorial Day Weekend.

Ichetucknee Springs Reopens Entrance for Memorial Day

Ichetucknee Springs is reopening the northern entrance of the park for Memorial Day weekend. 4,000 are expected to be in attendance during the three-day weekend.


Deputy County Manager Betty Baker speaks to the Gainesville City Commission on the need for regulations at the homeless camp Dignity Village. Thursday, commissioners approved to spend up to $50,000 to secure an emergency contract with a non-profit provider.

City Commission Grants Gainesville Management Of Dignity Village

Gainesville City Commission passes a motion for the management of Dignity Village. The motion begins the process of addressing safety issues and concerns regarding the logistics of the community.


Gina Eaton (left), a 34-year-old graduate student at UF, and Heather Petroccia, a 26-year-old Ph.D. student at UF, clean out buckets to prepare them to mix grout for the tiles.

Habitat For Humanity Build Programs Empower Women

National Women Build Week was May 2-10. Alachua Habitat for Humanity Women Build participated in the weeklong event.


GPD

Gainesville Police Department Recruiting Video Raises Concern

A Gainesville Police Department recruitment video has raised concerns over how it portrays how the police interact with the community. The video included scenes of police officers making arrests, chasing suspects and weapons training.


Lisa Lee Savage has experienced substance abuse and served time in prison. With help from local homeless shelter GRACE Marketplace, though, she overcame those challenges to make a new life for herself. Photo courtesy of Lisa Lee Savage

Saving Grace: One Woman’s Story Of Overcoming Adversity

Lisa Lee Savage was a substance abuser and she broke the rules, but she also overcame adversity. Now, she works as an administrative assistant and receptionist at the GRACE Welcome Center.


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
Underwriting Payments