David Hamel, the State VFW POW-MIA Chairman and retired Air ForceChief Master Sergeant (E-9), recently performed his 100th Missing Man Tableceremony at American Legion Post 382 inSanford, North Carolina. He performed for an audience of over 90 people as part of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle ClubPatriot Run fund raiser for Army FisherHouse. Widely known throughout NorthCarolina and nationally, Dave has per-formed hundreds of volunteer hours forthousands of spectators and remains in very high demand. Twelve years ago,he identified a great need of veteransgroups to recognize those who have not returned from war. Although the round white table with items and empty chair were recognizable, he wanted the tableor the missing man to come alive, at least in spirit. So he developed, refined,and produced, a very unique Prisoner of War - Missing In Action table ceremony or "Missing Man" ceremony. He hasproduced several versions adaptable fora variety of audiences and ceremonies.These include background music, spot-lights, table item narration, singing of upto three songs with gloved hand gesturesand symbolism, and a final hand saluteincluding the playing of Taps.It all started in the spring of 2000, whereDave organized a POW-MIA ceremony detail with sabers and flags as part of a Senior NCO Induction ceremony. Henarrated the meaning of the various rose,candle, lemon, and salt, table items."It went very well" he said, "but some-thing seemed to be missing. Who wasthe missing man and what would he say to the audience? Could the empty chairbe an aircraft ejection seat?" Of Dave's30 active duty years in the Air Force inthe aircraft maintenance career field, hisprimary duty was as an egress or escapesystems technician. He's also credited with 3 "saves," pilots who ejected safely out of a disabled aircraft directly due tohis recent maintenance of the canopy,seat, and parachute system. One suchejection was from an F-15 Eagle fight-er jet that went down in Daun, West Germany in 1978. The other two werethe front and back-seater from an SR-71Blackbird over the South China Sea nearthe Philippine Islands in 1989 during an operational mission. He went on tosay that though he missed the Vietnam War by just over a year or so, he wastrained by Vietnam veterans throughout his maintenance career."I remember my sergeants in the egressshop talking about those who "punched-out" of F-4s, F-I05s, and B-52s. Many were shot down and killed or missing inaction but many became POWs." Thenit suddenly became clear to him after a Memorial Day ceremony in 2000 at VFW Post 4876, in Altus Oklahoma. SomeonePlayed "Some Gave All", a Billy Ray Cyrus song, on the juke box, and it (theejection seat pilot) 'spoke to him.'"It was him in the empty chair. I had tolearn that song," he said. And so he did,adding gloved hand gestures. And that's where Dave's legacy really began. He was then selected to a very special duty assignment and became the Director of the Air Force Enlisted Heritage ResearchInstitute and Enlisted Heritage HallMuseum and moved to Maxwell AirForce Base Gunter Annex, Alabama...theonly position of its kind in the Air Force, After transferring his VFW membershipto Post 1349 in Prattville, Alabama, hebecame the State POW-MIA Chairman.From 2000 through 2004, some highly notable performances have been for theDepartment of Defense National Prayerbreakfast in Washington DC; two AirForce Sergeants Association InternationalConventions in Jacksonville Florida and Columbus Ohio; the American Legion'sForty and Eight Society NationalConvention in Salt Lake City Utah, sev-eral Alabama state conventions for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the AmericanLegion, and Forty and Eight Society,as well as various posts throughout Alabama. As Alabama State Commanderof the Korea Defense Veterans in 2003,he performed at the 50th anniversary of the Korean War at the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall's Monument Park and for the Alabama Ex-Prisoners of Warand Alabama Veterans Administration.Throughout the nation, he has also per-formed for large graduations at the AirForce Senior NCO Academy, 5 Air ForceNCO Academies, 4 Airman LeadershipSchools, and the Southeast RegionalRecruiters Banquet, as well as specialperformances for the World War II Army Air Corps Enlisted Pilots Association, Vietnam Working Dog Association, and a Jolly Green Association Reunion. At theend of his tour, Dave returned to aircraft maintenance for his final assignment at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina asthe A-10 Thunderbolt II (or Warthog)Maintenance Superintendent and Chief E
nlisted Manager for the 23d Fighter
Group, home of the famous "Flying Tigers" who were very active in Iraq and Afghanistan at that time. He alsotransferred his VFW membership to Post 9103 in Spring Lake and continued tohave significant impact throughout theregion.From 2004 through 2007, some notablepresentations have been for Womack Army Hospital Medal of Honor dedica-tion, 82d Airborne Brigade Dining Out,and 1st Battalion Field Artillery Regiment Gunslinger Welcome Home eventson Fort Bragg; Georgia Air NationalGuard Career Advisors Conference inSavannah; and several Chief and SeniorNCO Induction ceremonies, annualawards, Air Force Balls, and MaintenanceProfessional of the Year awards banquetsat Pope and Seymour-Johnson Air ForceBases.
Since his retirement in 2007, Dave
remained very active in the VFW and became an All-State and All-AmericanPost Commander, the State POW-MIA Chairman, and a National-Aide-de Camp.He has performed at Hill Air Force BaseUtah for a huge Maintenance Professionalof the Year banquet of nearly 1000 air-craft maintainers and guests, as well as toa Vero Beach Florida Police Department Retiring Officer dinner. Closer to home,he has performed for Fayetteville ChapterEx-POWs, the Fayetteville Veterans Park Dedication, Memorial Day celebra-tions at Freedom Park, Harnett County Veterans Park Monuments Dedication inLillington, Western Harnett High School JROTC Military Ball, Sand Hills VeteransCemetery Wreaths Across America, and the Traveling Vietnam Wall Memorialceremonies in Kinston, as well as sev-eral VFW state conventions, and Military Order of the Cootie Grand Scratches.
Official Publication of the N.C. DepartmentVeterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
Inside:• Pg. 2 - Letters• Pg. 3 - Officers Columns• Pg. 4 - National Bylaws Changes• Pg. 5 - President's Column• Pg. 6 - College Vet Club• Pg. 11 - VFW Dept Store • Pg. 14 - Heroes Welcome• Pg. 12 - Cotties News • Pg. 15 - Car Show • Pg. 13 - VFW Ads • Pg. 16 - Motor Cycle Ride
VFW of North Carolina PO Box 25337Raleigh, NC 27611-5337
Non-Profit Org US PostagePAIDRermit No. 1838Raleigh N.C.
State POW-MIA Chairman Celebrates 100th Performance
THE VFW LEADER
The Department of North Carolina's new ini-tiative to supply service dogs to veterans withPost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), called CaninesFor Warriors is off to a huge start, already obtaining ten dogs to train for local veterans who need assistance to operate effectively inthe everyday world. The Department has part-nered with the certified dog training organiza-tion called Wags For Tags to provide dogs tothese needy veterans.The Walmart corporation, ever ready to help veterans of the Tarheel state, has stepped upthe plate and donated $4000 to help fund this vital program, which was approved by theDepartment's Council of Administration at its meeting the morning after the annual Junestate convention in Raleigh. The money waspresented at the Grand Opening of the new Cary Walmart on 3 October. Included with thecheck, the effort to obtain it being the brain-child of VFW State Secretary Lynn Edwards, was an additional $1000 to the Ladies Auxiliary to be used to give to the volunteer efforts at thefour Veterans Administration Medical Centers(VAMCs) in the state and to assist the Ladies'continuing program to assist women veteransin North Carolina.Other entities contributing to the Canines For Warriors are: Waynesville Post 5202 donated $450 for a 10 x 10 portable pen, training leads,five bales of cedar chips, water bowls, and theuse of a 10 x 10 easy-up shelter; HayesvillePost 6812 gave $250 which purchased an 8sided pop-out play area to be used indoors fortravel and show along with a mat; WhittierPost 8013 gave $400 used to buy wire and posts to build outdoor runs, to be built at theirpost. Whittier has volunteered the use of theirgrounds for kennels and training this year, as well. They have a comrade who will pull hiscamper to the post and stay there this winteras caretaker for the K-9's.The training program, which is due to thehard work and persistence of District 17Commander William "Skip" Hall, will beginin the 3rd week of October and proceed to theend of March. There will be a "graduation" at that time, and the canines will be tested and certified as service dogs. Present at the AutumnConference and Council meeting were five of the subject dogs and two of the veterans slated to receive a service animal. Commander Hallhas enlisted the help of five volunteers in theDistrict 17 area to help with the training.The ten dogs have been received from the fol-lowing areas: three donated by Yanceyville Post 7316, four from Wags For Tags, two from thePaws Shelter in Bryson City, and one donated by Bryson City Post 9281. Although the pro-gram has plenty of animals at this time for itsfirst certified training sessions, donations of funds are always welcome, and can be sent tothe Department Headquarters and specified tobe for the Canines For Warriors program.Department Adjutant/Quartermaster BruceEdwards attended the Wags For Tags Grand Opening on September 11 in Durham to empha-size the VFW's partnership with this non-profit organization. It was a high profile event withover fifty attendees at the Lap It Up canine facil-ity, to include the Mayor of Cary, a representa-tive from Governor Perdue's office, a representa-tive from Senator Burr's office, and CSM (Ret) Andrew Jackson of the National Guards' soldiersto civilians transition program. Wags For Tags'President Ronnie Sadowski, a disabled veteran,emphasized that North Carolina has the 3rd largest military population in the United States,has over 800,000 veterans, and that Fort Bragg has the highest suicide rate of any Army instal-lation in the country. It is accepted that many of these suicides might be prevented if the veteranor soldier had the companionship of a trained service dog.The Department has also partnered with a groupcalled Warrior Dogs, which is linked with theCharles George VAMC in Asheville. They aretraining five dogs for five veterans with PTSDbut have no certified trainer. The VFW will certi-fy these dogs, and the Warrior Dogs will help ustrain other dogs. Additionally, Commander Hallis scheduled to meet with the Cherokee: ChiefsCouncil in November, as they have expressed an interest in supporting the program for braveCherokee warriors with PTSD.Other businesses have stepped up to assist inthis effort. The Department is partnered with a veterinarian in Charlotte who will spay/neuterour canines for $25 per dog, and the PetCo com-pany is giving us 10% off on their treatment fees.Tractor Supply has agreed to sell us portableshelters at a much reduced rate.Canines For Warriors will soon be setting up an internet website that will link to theDepartment's website at www.vfwnc.org.
Canines For Warriors
Program In Full Swing
National Color Guard
In the 2012 State Color Guard Competition for the first time in many years at the2012 National Convention in July in Reno, Nevada. Despite being newcomers tothe competition, they placed second in their category! They plan to better that scorein July 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky. The Color Guard consists of Captain Kurbie"Sonny" Whitehead, David Holm, James Cacoulidis, Alex Vanderheide, and BillHertline.
Chilly Mountain Recruiting
Even when its chilly in the mountains, the 17th District knows how to hold a recruiting event, wheremany of the district's posts participate together, an action to be emulated by more districts. Here,the fair is enhanced by use of the Department's Recruiting Trailer (which any post or district may borrow from Headquarters) and the welcome presence of District Commander Skip Hall's servicedogs, which always attract many viewers.