Veterans of Foreign Wars Motorcycle Group of Texas 
CALENDAR, Vander Clute Ride Info
VFW Riders;

Thanks so much for what you daily in support of the VFW and your local communities. I would like to challenge our group of past and presently registered riders across the country to help us knock this year’s ride out the park and show the leadership what the impact can be. I know Ed Horton the Louisiana Riders Chairman, VFW Post #3121 and Louisiana VFW are preparing to receive everyone and the hospitality will be 2nd to none at VFW Post #3121. The check presentation will be on Tuesday during business and not like years past at the end of the ride. We will be doing an Inaugural Poker run instead. Looking at some Mardi Gras swag and other surprises for those who sign up. In addition, those who get recruited to join either VFW or Auxiliary the day of will ride free along with active duty military members. This year’s ride we will start at Gretna Post #3121. Registration will start at 9 am and KSU at 10:30 am. The final stop, as it stands, will be at NOLA Brewery on Tchoupitoulas St (pending agreement of NOLA Brewery). There will be 3 stops between the beginning and ending. As we get into Conventions, I would ask you to start educating your departments on the support of the Veteran & Military Support programs this ride supports-Get your VMS Chairman involved. Even if you don’t have any riders going you can still support.  There are other VSOs that have rides every year and they gain a lot of attention and ours go under the radar. Let’s blow this year’s up with social media attention and participation and use our #VFWPostPride.

Please share this event far and wide.

Lynn W. Rolf III
Programs Director
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
406 W 34th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64111
o:816.968.1116  C: 816-730-2145

“Patriots on Wheels”
2017 Howard E. Vander Clute, Jr. Memorial Motorcycle Ride
Inaugural Poker Run: Gretna, LA – Saturday, July 22, 2017

Welcome riders, one and all, to support our nation’s men and women in uniform and honor the memory of Howard E. Vander Clute, Jr. (Commander-in-Chief 1979-80, Adjutant General 1981-1995). All net proceeds of the ride will be donated to the Veterans & Military Support Programs to benefit those in uniform and their families.
The agenda for Saturday, July 22nd is being prepared and will be forwarded as soon as possible.

Thank you to all who participated in your 2016 ride to Charlotte. You raised more than $38,000 for U.S. troops and their families through our Veterans & Military Support Programs. You did that with just slightly more than 90 riders.
This year our goal is to double both the riders and the donation to Veterans & Military Support.

I have attached entry and sponsorship forms for your use. If you’re a rider, sign up and get as many sponsors as you can.
Plan your route to New Orleans, LA and start finding your sponsors today.
Let’s show the rest of the VFW what those who ride can do for those in uniform and their families.

E-MAIL ME – Lynn Rolf, Director of VFW Programs, or call 816-968-1116. HOPE TO SEE YOU IN New Orleans!
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 Vets forgotten no more  

Five who died poor in Panhandle given final salute at cemetery.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders escort the remains of the five unclaimed veterans.
They were buried with full military honors at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

When their military service ended, they came home.

The five men had served in Korea, Vietnam and the twilight struggle of the Cold War. Over time, they drifted into obscurity in the country they’d defended.

Each of the men — Jerry Stephen Harris, Laird Earnest Orton Jr., Michael John Papinchak, Michael Wayne Topp and Ronald Stevenson — died alone in the Amarillo area in the past two years, their remains unclaimed.

On Friday 21 April 2017, scores of people who never knew them gave them a final salute at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

“My brother. I call him brother,” retired soldier and Desert Storm veteran Benito “Ace” Acevedo, 62, of San Antonio, said of all five men just before the ceremony

“These guys deserve it,” said Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner, 66, of Amarillo. “They went to war not knowing if they were coming back alive, and then, when they did come back, they came back to civilian life only to die all alone, all by themselves.”
Little is known of Harris, Orton, Papinchak, Topp and Stevenson, but they were welcomed by a crowd of about 200 at Fort Sam’s assembly area, including members of the Alamo Silver Wings Airborne Association, volunteers from Wreaths Across America, Patriot Guard Riders and the post’s Memorial Services Detachment, which provides final honors to veterans at the cemetery.
Like Acevedo, no one cared about how they lived or why they fell off the grid.

“It’s more that they served our country, and that means just everything to me,” said Bea Hoeffner, 66, of San Antonio and a Wreaths Across America volunteer.

“In my unit, we lost a lot of guys, and I couldn’t remember their names,” said Joe Rios, a 25th Infantry Division veteran of Vietnam who carried the remains of one of the men on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle from Amarillo.

“I don’t know if it was PTSD or whatever that we suffered from, some of the horrific scenes that we saw, but I just … suppressed those memories, and I kind of regret that,” added Rios, 68, of San Antonio. “And now that I’m retired, I have extra time, and it’s very gratifying to be able to do something like this.”

The final salute occurred because three people who had never served in the military lived by one of its highest core values: refusing to leave a fallen comrade behind. Joel Carver, co-owner of A to D Mortuary Service in Amarillo, which has a contract with Potter County, had a list of 92 people whose cremated remains were in a basement vault at the courthouse.

He wondered if any had served in the armed forces — his own son is a Marine helicopter pilot. Carver got in touch with Judge Tanner, the custodian of the remains, and reached out to a San Antonio Military Medical Center volunteer named Joyce Earnest, the Texas coordinator for the Missing in America Project, a group that hopes to give final honors to an estimated 25,000 veterans nationwide whose remains have not been claimed.

“I was driven to do it. I witnessed one (Missing in America Project) burial, and it touched me that there were veterans out there that could be buried but were sitting on shelves,” said Earnest, 65, a retired AT&T service executive.

Carver, 59, now the Texas Panhandle representative for the Missing in America Project, said getting their first confirmation from the Veterans Affairs Department on one of the basement urns was “like finding a lost loved one.”

The veterans are to be placed in a section of Fort Sam for those who’ve been cremated, with the inscription “You are not forgotten” on their markers. They’ll join more than 170 other homeless veterans buried here since 2003 under the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program.

Statewide, the men interred Friday joined 20 others laid to rest across Texas under the Missing in America Project, which began in 2006 and has arranged for final honors for 3,115 veterans around the nation.

At the start of a somber ceremony that ran about an hour, 10 MacArthur High School JROTC cadets brought the urns of each man before the crowd, setting them on a table next to five folded American flags. An Army, Navy and Air Force honor guard stood before them.

Fort Sam’s Memorial Services Detachment fired three volleys, and a pair of buglers played echo taps in the distance.
Patriot Guard Rider Don Williams, a Vietnam veteran who carried Papinchak’s remains on his Harley, wept throughout the ceremony.

“How is it that when you pass away, that you have no one around to claim you? I mean, that’s probably the emptiest feeling in the world,” he said.

Williams, 69, had ridden 1,236 miles, counting the journey to Amarillo from his home in Hallettsville. He was struck by the reverence motorists showed as the two-mile caravan of cars and hundreds of motorcycles rode Thursday to San Antonio, escorted by police and sheriff’s deputies.

People along the 485-mile route from Amarillo stood on overpasses, hands over their hearts. Others stopped their cars on shoulders and the median. Between Sweetwater and Menard, an elderly woman stood in a pasture with one hand over her heart and the other waiving an American flag.

“You don’t think that don’t make you proud to be a veteran, to see that?’ sobbed Williams, an airman who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969.

Harris was a Navy radioman seaman apprentice who served from 1977 to 1981. Specialist 4 Orton, a Vietnam veteran, soldiered in the Army from 1967 to 1969. Earnest said the VA told her that Papinchak, a senior airman from 1974 to 1977, was a Vietnam veteran.

Topp was an Air Force sergeant and Vietnam veteran who served from 1965 to 1969. Stevenson, the oldest of the five, was an airman third class from 1949 to 1953. He was a Korean War veteran.

Details surrounding their deaths are a mystery. Earnest, who confirmed their service records with the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, didn’t know much about their lives, but federal privacy law also prohibits disclosing personal information about them.

All died homeless or destitute, four of them in Potter County. Topp, whose remains were in a mortuary, died in Randall County, just south of Amarillo.

“Of these five, I know they passed away from illnesses. There were no traumatic deaths, but most of them were in a hospital or some sort of hospice care. There could have been some that passed that were found on the street,” said Earnest, whose husband, Tom, and three brothers served in the military.

“I don’t know.”

Earnest, a San Antonio Honor Flight volunteer who is president of the Brooke Army Medical Center Retiree Activities Group and works Mondays as an unpaid clerk in one of the hospital’s four trauma intensive care units, said this was her first homeless veteran burial.

But, she added, it will not be the last.

“I am absolutely ecstatic that I’m able to lay these veterans to rest in their final location where they deserve it, in their sacred ground,” Earnest said. “It just means so much to us to give them some peace.”

From San Antonio

Billy Calzada / San Antonio Express-News

Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner receives a flag from a sailor during the ceremony at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News
Members of the Fort Sam Houston Memorial Services Detachment take part in the ceremony for the five veterans.
  Photos by Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News

MacArthur High School JROTC members hold flags for veterans whose unclaimed remains were stored in the Amarillo area before they were interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News