Local Vietnam Veterans organize to help other veterans - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Local Vietnam Veterans organize to help other veterans

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

At one time Lake Charles had the largest membership of the Vietnam Veterans of America of any chapter in Louisiana. After more than 30 years, the Lake Charles chapter dissolved around 2001. With renewed interest, local Vietnam vets are once again coming together to form a new chapter.

"We currently have one in Kinder, Jennings and in Ville Platte for Southwest Louisiana... So why not Lake Charles? It's a big community and they have a lot of Vietnam veterans. So we would like to see them all join up," said Terry Courville, VVA State President.

"We're all getting older now. VVA is actually growing now and a lot of us are retiring so it feels real good to start up a chapter in a local community again where one used to be," said Richard Carman, VVA Veterans Affairs Officer.

Courville and Carman are among the state officers, whom travel to help establish new chapters. They explained in order to start a new chapter there must be a minimum of 25 members, who served in Vietnam or the Vietnam era from 1961-1975.

For many of the local veterans, it's a chance to see old friends and make new ones.

"You say it's not a reunion, but you get more than two veterans together -- it's a reunion," said Wes Guidry, Vietnam veteran.

"I said I was going to join because this will give me an opportunity to meet other Vietnam veterans, whom I have never met because we didn't serve together," said Herbert Jones, Vietnam veteran.

As they share stories, they realize even if they're just meeting for the first time, there are no strangers here.

"We all served together in one form or fashion. And it's to bring that back to a brotherhood that maybe I've been through something that someone else hasn't," said Pat Stanley, Vietnam veteran.

They'll tell you they all have a lot in common and even after all these years have some of the same needs when it comes to benefits and healthcare.

"They don't have it at their fingertips in a lot of these cases," said Stanley.

"This way they can find out the latest information... What they need to do to get the healthcare they need and there's other issues that are important to veterans. This way they can keep up with the latest," said Guidry.

As they do get older in age, many of these veterans are still waiting on Washington to make good on its word to build a VA clinic in Lake Charles. It's something they say is long overdue.

"You passed it to give us the money... Let's build it. Build it! They will come. We will come," said Stanley.

At Tuesday night's meeting, the group nominated officers and plan to get their charter approved in time for the Vietnam Veterans of America State Council Meeting in June.

The organization is open to any Vietnam veteran. If interested in joining, you can contact Terry Courville at 529-7473.

Copyright 2014 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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