Vietnam veterans hit the streets on motorcycles, cars, trucks and trikes, taking part in a poker run in hopes of raising funds for the traveling Vietnam War Memorial Wall.
Don Belle, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1021, said his chapter is the second largest in the state. It trails only a chapter in Fayetteville, home to the world’s largest military installation and many veterans who chose to retire near Fort Bragg.
He also said it’s the only chapter between Lexington and Wytheville, Virginia. Chapter 1021 has 102 active members and 75 associates.
The chapter is like any other veteran service organization, said Belle. The members try to put the national motto of “service to America” to work in the local community through charitable programs which aid residents and services offered to veterans, such as help with Veterans Affairs disability claims.
Belle highlighted an annual $1,500 scholarship his chapter sponsors for high school graduates who were members of Junior ROTC.
Saturday’s poker run, which started at the corner of Willow Street and Independence Boulevard., included about 100 miles on the road, stops at Cooper’s in Pilot Mountain, Scotty B’s in Rural Hall, and Smurff’s Tavern for hot dogs and hamburgers and ended with raffles at Vanishing Point in Mount Airy.
Funds raised at the event will be donated to the traveling wall program, which made its last stop in Surry County in 2010. The wall offers a place where veterans can find solace in the engraved names of battle-buddies, friends and comrades who perished in the conflict.
Sue Wilson, who alongside three other ladies put the event together, said she is hoping to eventually raise $8,000 for the traveling wall. Saturday’s “We the People Poker Run” is the first of its kind, though the chapter hopes it will become an annual event.
Those proceeds should help bring the wall back to Surry County for another stop, according to Belle.
Wilson said without the help of her three comrades and many sponsors who donated items to be raffled, the event would not be possible. Items donated included a recliner, helmets, pool sticks and much more.
“I just want to thank the many local businesses and people who participated in this event,” said Wilson. “They made it possible.”
While Wilson has set the poker run’s goal at $8,000, Belle said the organization is working toward a much larger goal.
“We have a plot of land here,” explained Belle. “We want to build our own wall right here in Surry County.”
The venture will be costly. Belle said it will cost about $300,000. However, his chapter will rise to the occasion, just as its members did decades ago when they answered the call of duty.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.