Niagara Gazette — In 1980, Chapter 77 was born when a group of Vietnam veterans decided to help each other.
“We had to lobby in Washington to get a charter,” Greg Cain explained. “Finally by 1982 we were chartered.”
“Our chapter has 550 members, the second largest in the country and largest in the state,” Joe Pasek, a chapter member said.
“We’ve had great community support and at our fundraisers we give out orange poppies as well as information on veterans’ benefits," Pasek said. "We need to get the word out so that families who may have been affected can learn how to register with the VA and get some answers to ongoing health issues.”
Cain explained that one of the chapter's projects is a food pantry for needy veterans and their families. Food is stored in the basement of the museum.
“I am surprised and dismayed to find three to five families a week coming for help,” Cain said. “It’s a disgrace. This chapter is an energetic force for vets, now for their kids and grand kids.”
Jack Michel said in 2006 at a national Vietnam Veterans convention, delegates talked about how many of their grandchildren had health problems.
“Congress refused to help the children and have them be eligible for help,” Michel commented.
A former vice president of Chapter 77, he said chapters are still being former across the country, a number now in the thousands. The goals are five-fold: comradeship, education, benefits, health care and employment.
“We have to help take care of future generations,” Michel said.
With this in mind, a Town Hall meeting will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 14 in Room K-100 in the Kittinger Building at Erie Community College, North Campus, Main Street and Youngs Road, Williamsville.
The theme will be the “Legacy of Exposure to Agent Orange on Vietnam Veterans and Our Offspring.”