Vietnam Veterans of America
Capital District, Chapter 8
"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another"
By John A. REITANO
In the beginning, there was the Watervliet Arsenal Ex-Servicemen’s Club. Then the time came to change the... organization’s name to the Vietnam Veterans Council. With members from Downstate New York, Capital District Chapter 8 was formed in 1981. Vietnam Veterans of America Capital District Chapter 8 received its charter in 1982. It represented Vietnam veterans in the Troy, Schenectady, and Albany, New York, areas.
Immediately, there were problems. Some members were unhappy with a policy that only included in-country veterans. A group broke off to form the Tri-County Council of Vietnam Era Vets. But Chapter 8 saw its membership balloon to over two hundred members when Vietnam-era veterans were included. In 2007, Chapter 8 celebrated 25 years serving the Vietnam veterans of the Capital District.
The chapter has participated in activities associated with two moving walls: The Wall That Heals in 2003 at Cohoes, N.Y., and The Moving Wall in 2006 in Saratoga County. The Moving Wall in Saratoga brought together three groups of Vietnam veterans: VVA Chapter 8, VVA Chapter 79, and the Tri-County Council of Vietnam Era Vets. Albany County Executive Mike Breslin stated the obvious: We are all brothers and sisters when it comes to honoring those whose names are inscribed on that Black Granite Wall.
Chapter 8 has participated in many memorable occasions. At the 12th National Convention in Reno in 2005, chapter members watched New York State Council President John Rowan take the oath of office as national president. They also met Rachel Welch. In May 2007, the chapter was invited to the 50th Anniversary of the Colonie Babe Ruth League. The League honored all veterans, but in particular it honored U.S. Marine PFC John Gulliver, Jr., who was killed in action in 1967 in South Vietnam. John was a member of the 1962 championship team from Colonie, N.Y. He was also a friend from the neighborhood who taught many chapter members how to play baseball.
Over the years, Chapter 8 has provided veterans from the Capital District with monetary donations and it’s filled food pantries. Chapter members have helped out at the VA hospital in Albany, adopted families of less-fortunate Vietnam veterans at Thanksgiving time, and participated in the Capital Region Stand-down. In November, Chapter 8 donated money and toys to The Rock for Tots, which is the largest Upstate New York toy drive. It benefits the USMC Reserve Toys for Tots. It’s held at a local restaurant with all-day music and food.
Sticking to our founding principle, “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another,” Chapter 8 has welcomed home local service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our own Sgt. Austin Wilcox, who served 25 years in the Army, including a tour in Vietnam, returned to duty with a tour in Afghanistan. We truly welcomed him home—again.
Our membership has dwindled to fifty, with more than twenty-eight life members. We are working to enroll more veterans and associates. Our current officers—President Ray Sestak, Vice President Gerry Linen, Secretary/Treasurer John Reitano—work to keep Chapter 8 vital in the Capital District. We honor our founding members Ed Murphy and Pete Sutton. We also thank past officers: President Ed Zalucki, Vice President Bill Clancy, Secretary Don Parres, and Treasurer Ann Patrick.
Chapter 8 is proud to be one of the founding chapters of Vietnam Veterans of America. We wish the national organization a happy 30th Anniversary. We will celebrate this accomplishment with a recommitment to service for our fellow Vietnam veterans.
John A. Reitano is the Secretary/Treasurer of VVA Capital District Chapter 8. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1971-75. In 1972, he served in Vietnam aboard the U.S.S. Warrington (DD-842) and the U.S.S. Joseph Hewes (DE-1078) with DESRON 20 Yankee Station, Haiphong Harbor, Quang Tri. He’s married with two adult children.
Board of Directors
Bob Santa Lucia
Chapter meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month, except July and August, 5:00 PM at:
The Veterans of Lansingburgh Club
777 1st Avenue
Troy, NY 12182