Vietnam vets working for community

ELKINS – A local veterans organization is doing its part to help the community today, in addition to the sacrifices they made for the nation decades ago.

The Tygarts Valley Chapter 812 Vietnam Veterans of America members stay busy throughout the year raising funds for their charitable works.

Doug Ashby, the organization’s president, said the group has been very busy with charity work in recent years.

The group has been involved with sending money to tornado victims, making holiday food baskets for less fortunate community members and raising money after the Chamberlain family Elkins fire disaster last year.

“One thing we did is, when the tornados hit Oklahoma last year, we sent $2,000 to their State Council for the Vietnam Veterans in America to disperse as they saw fit,” Ashby said. “We raised the money by distributing our Vietnam remembrance poppies – paper flowers in remembrance of Vietnam veterans.”

The organization also supplies Thanksgiving baskets to different food pantries across the region, including Tyrand Ministries in Randolph County, Catholic Charities in Webster County and Point Man International Ministries in Upshur County, as well as to individuals in need.

“Our big thing during the year is food baskets at Thanksgiving. We give away a whole complete meal, ‘from soup to nuts,’ for a whole family. We include at least a 15-pound turkey or bigger,” Ashby said. “Last year we did 185 baskets. They all stay in the area.

“What we do, basically, is in October, we start dealing with the ministers in the local churches and if they have people in need, we ask them to give us a number and we will give them however many baskets they need, no questions asked.”

Ashby said, while the focus is on helping veterans, the group does not ignore anyone that needs their assistance.

“We don’t turn anyone away. Basically, if someone wants financial help, we try to limit it to veterans, but with things like the Thanksgiving baskets, we are more than glad to help anyone we can,” Ashby added.

The chapter raises money by taking its product sales trailer with them to fairs and festivals around the state, including the Mountain State Forest Festival, Coalton Days, Leaf Peepers Festival and numerous others.

“We sell memorabilia, hats, patches, pins and all kinds of veteran stuff,” Ashby said. “Things that veterans or children of veterans buy to honor their ancestors.”

The group also sells a three-volume cookbook series, called “Mountain Recipes.” It consists of recipes submitted from across the tri-state area.

Ashby said the organization will only continue until the last Vietnam veteran has passed on, so it tries to help as much as possible now.

“Well, our motto is ‘one veteran will never leave behind another one,’ and we feel that way about most everything. If people are in bad need of help, we try to do whatever we can,” he said. “This is a ‘last man standing’ organization. When the last Vietnam veteran bites the bullet, our organization is gone.”