By Mike Fletcher Kokomo Tribune
---- — The Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization was established in 1981 with a group of Vietnam veterans getting together to raise funds for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Howard County. With the support of the citizens of Kokomo and Howard County, the funds were raised and the memorial was built in the Courthouse in downtown Kokomo.
From there, they decided to have a cookout in the parking lot of the American Legion on South Lafountain Street.
After that, the get-together grew and grew. From there, they got permission to have the now-formed reunion in a lot behind the then Ramada Inn near U.S. 31 and Lincoln Road.
After a few years, they needed more space and was allowed to move the event to the Kokomo Speedway. Two years later, the organization purchased the former Howard County airport on Ind. 26, where it remains today.
Over the years, members have come and gone.
Longtime volunteer Jackie Myers got involved in that first year at the Ind. 26 property after a request from her then-boss Ed Shields, a Vietnam veteran. Shields, along with Mark Cutriss, who has since passed, talked Myers into becoming a volunteer and to help the veterans.
“He told me ‘I can’t do it. Can you do it for me?’” Myers said of helping raise awareness of veterans issues.
“And once I started, I got hooked and have been out here ever since,” she said. “I’m proud to be part of this.”
Myers has helped organize a number of fund-raisers that benefit veterans of all wars. Whether its getting them in contact with a VA representative, provide transportation or help financially, the HCCVO is there, she said.
“We’re looking at putting in a permanent memorial for the eight nurses who died in Vietnam and we have a 9/11 memorial with the names of those who perished.
“I want people to know what we do,” she said.
Throughout this weekend, Myers said there are several ways to help from a silent auction to a golf cart poker run to a Santa Claus walk, which raised $2,268.
Myers said they raised $300 for the poker run, which went to the Asphalt Templars, a motorcycle group that raises money for veterans their families.
Last year, she said the reunion’s silent auction raised $4,000, which along with the Santa Claus walk, goes to the Marion VA hospital to help the veterans.
“We do a lot of neat things. We’re really looking at giving back to the community.”