Business and Professional WomenVT

Women Joining Forces Committee

2018 Veterans Summit

Donna Rae Heath, Chair

We attended the Veterans Summit at the Northern Vermont University at Lyndon on Saturday March 10.  We shared the exhibit table with Ann Traverso Moore of Springfield College.  We handed out Franklin County’s BPW brochure and information sheets on St. Johnsbury BPW; membership forms; our Educational Incentive Grant applications; and the Joining Forces for Women Mentoring Plus program from BPW Foundation.

Ann is good at corralling passersby and talked up Springfield College and BPW as well.  BPW members attending to the exhibit and making contacts were Alice Kitchel, Elaine Noyes, Donna Heath from St. Johnsbury BPW and Danielle Martel, Vermont BPW President.  We have four possible new members for BPW.

The opening ceremonies always are very moving and start with the Color Guard. This year, the Guard was the Orleans County Military Honors Detail.  Speakers included Thom Anderson, Advisor to the Veterans Club at NVU at Lyndon; Jeb Spaulding, Chancellor, Vermont State Colleges; Peter Welch, U.S. Congressman; and Phil Scott, Governor of Vermont.

The keynote address was given by Lt. Mark Fountain of Honor Flight New England.  Honor Flight is privately funded and provides free trips for World War II and Korean War Veterans to Washington, D.C.  The six annual trips in New England are one day trips and occur between April and November.  As of January 2018, all the scheduled trips were full.  Each Veteran is accompanied by a volunteer Guardian who pays for his or her own trip costs.  A five- member medical team is on board every flight.

It costs $600 to send a Veteran on the trip and includes a shirt, hat, I.D. badge, air fare, transportation, transport to Washington D.C., all sights, breakfast, box lunch and a dinner at a restaurant.  The Veterans in the buses on their way to and from the airports receive Dignitary Escorts and volunteers and family members greet the Veterans at the airports.  The average age of a World War II Veteran is 97 years old.

A special guest of Lt. Fountain was Edward (Pete) Racine, a 93-year-old Marine who stills belongs to the Marine Corps League.  He stole the show with his stories of overseas duties during World II in Quam where he was when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  He worked in the Amphibian unit that transported troops including the wounded and dead.  He described the Battle of Okinawa as very bad, loss of life.  Racine joined the military on September 2, 1942. He earned $12 a week and gave his folks $6 of it.

Racine told of his Honor Flight experience.  He said he must have shook 150 hands that day.  The Guardian who accompanied him had volunteered on 37 trips.  The bus was accompanied by a massive motorcade ahead of the bus.  “My mind is blurry, like my eyesight” he said when describing his trip as he stood at the podium on the stage.   Racine is a local St. Johnsbury area former race car driver.  He was married for 69 ½ years.  Last year, he flipped a race car over on purpose at the Caledonia County Fair as a celebration of his racing years at the Northeastern Speedway in Waterford, Vermont.

Other speakers were Acting Director Matthew Mulcahy, WRJ VA Medical Center and Melissa Jackson, CEO/Administrator, Vermont Veterans’ Home.  The Veterans Home not only takes care of Veterans, it cares for Gold Star parents of which there were two families in the audience.  They also do short term rehab.  Jackson said the facility was the second oldest Vet homes in the country, and one of the best with 200 employees.  Volunteers can read a book to a Vet or write cards or letters for them.  They serve 400 meals a day.  There are 130 dietary requirements.  The public can donate money to the Friends of Veterans Homes.  They have iPods and music of all kinds for the Vets.  The Elizabeth Dole Foundation was formed to help caregivers.

Governor Phil Scott spoke about his father, Howard Roy Scott, a World War II Vet and amputee.  He asked that tax payers consider donating to the Vermont Veterans Fund via the check off box on their tax form.

I attended the workshop for Women Veterans which was facilitated by Heather Morris, Brianna Haley, and Morgan Langlois, three Veterans who offered time and private space for women to talk about their experiences during their service or after transitioning to civilian life.  Excellent candidates for BPW membership.

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