Mount Vernon Chapter History
On May 10, 1977, 45 retired officers representing each of the U.S. Armed Forces met at the Fort Belvoir Officer’s Club and unanimously decided to form a new chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (then known as the Retired Officers Association or TROA). This initial group was comprised of members of the national organization (TROA) who gathered in response to invitations from LTC Chester Clark, USAF (Ret) who initiated the chapter’s organization. A 14 member organizing committee was established to undertake the preliminary tasks necessary for recruiting charter members. Some immediate requirements were writing the chapter bylaws, identifying committee chairpersons, and formulating a social program.Other startup tasks included designing a chapter logo, procuring stationery and membership cards, getting IRS approval as a non-profit organization, processing the chapter’s non-profit mailing privilege, and establishing the printing and mailing procedures for the chapter newsletter.
The Chapter’s first business meeting was held on June 9, 1977 with 100 charter members in attendance. At that meeting, the membership approved the Chapter Bylaws, elected the first officers and directors, established annual dues, designated the third Wednesday of each month for Chapter meetings, and adopted “The Mount Vernon Chapter, The Retired Officers Association” as the official Chapter name. The name is now Mount Vernon Chapter, Military Officers Association of America. This became effective January 1, 2003.
Chapter “Charter Night” was held on July 20, 1977 with 170 charter members and their spouses in attendance at the Fort Belvoir Engineer Mess. The Mount Vernon Chapter received its Charter of Affiliation with TROA (now MOAA) from General George V. Underwood, USA (Ret), a member of the TROA Board of Directors and Chairman of the TROA Legislative Committee, who installed the Chapter’s first president, LTC Chester Clark USAF (Ret). The chapter had 193 charter members then.
In June 1977, the official Chapter newsletter, “The Despatch” published its first edition. Since inception, this newsletter, published 10 times a year, has served as the principal means of communication with the membership on all Chapter activities. Through the years, under the leadership of many outstanding editors, “The Despatch” has developed into an attractive and well-written publication, which is still evident today under the editorship of COL James Isitt, USA (Ret).
The Mount Vernon Chapter became a member of the Virginia Council of Chapters (VCOC) in March 1979, and has remained a dues-paying member ever since. The Chapter President was initially designated as principal representative on the Council, which normally meets quarterly in Richmond, VA, to coordinate matters of mutual interest, especially with regard to legislation at the State level. Now our Chapter’s two appointed representatives to the VCOC ensure the flow of information between the Chapter and the Council, and their efforts have contributed significantly to Chapter goals/objectives.
In December 1979, the Chapter was extremely fortunate in being presented with a Chapter flag by the Beech Aircraft Corporation. That same month, the Chapter recognized the Fort Belvoir “Soldier of the Year” with a presentation of $200 and a plaque in recognition of this worthy honor.
On January 14, 1981, LTGEN Leroy J. Manor, USAF (Ret), newly appointed Executive Vice President of TROA, addressed the Chapter meeting and installed the new officers. At that meeting, the chapter voted to contribute $200 to the Arthur D. Simons Memorial Scholarship Fund of which LTG Manor was sponsor. The goal of the scholarship fund, at that time, was to provide a college education for the children of the U.S. Servicemen killed in the attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran.
During 1982, the chapter observed its 5th anniversary, an eventful year when the membership reached a record 610 members. This enabled the Chapter to make substantial contributions for worthy causes. Of special note was the Chapter’s participation in the National Salute to Vietnam Veterans Parade held in Washington, D.C. In addition to the National Colors, the Chapter’s TROA flag was carried the entire length of the parade route.
The September 1987 dinner meeting was devoted to celebrating the Chapter’s 10th anniversary. More than 180 members and guests attended. The dinner featured a huge birthday cake, corsages for the ladies, drawing for prizes, live music, entertainment and dancing. VADM Thomas Kilcline, USN (Ret), President of TROA, along with a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, joined in the celebration.
During 1988, a number of Chapter members and their friends joined together and arranged their own bus tour to the Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania and Delaware. The trip was a terrific success. It must have been because, through the years, the group has continued their sojourns to places like southern New England, Charleston, Savannah, Quebec City, New Orleans, and New York City. The group is not sponsored by the chapter nor by MOAA, but it has been identified ever since it was formed as the “TROA Trotters” (now MOAA Trotters).
In 1989, the Chapter started a new tradition. Sixty members and guests attended the dinner with 30 of them wearing their uniforms which impressed the guest speaker, BG Evelyn Foote, USA, Commanding General , Fort Belvoir, VA. Since then, the May dinner meeting has been dedicated to remembering those who went before us, veterans of all wars. In their honor and in observance of Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, wearing of the uniform at that dinner is encouraged.
In 1990, the chapter placed increased emphasis on working closer with the VCOC. At the request of the VCOC, Mount Vernon Chapter planned and arranged for the first annual luncheon with Virginia’s members of Congress. This event, now in its 12th year, gives members of the MOAA staff and the Virginia Chapters an opportunity to discuss issues and viewpoints with their elected representatives.
The paramount event of 1992 was the September dinner meeting at which the Chapter celebrated its 15th anniversary. More than 200 members and guests attended. Among them were 6 past Chapter Presidents led by Chester Clark, LTC USAF (Ret) from Florida, the first President, and special guests, BG Adams Ender and VADM Thomas Kilcline.
In October 1995, Charles Hymers LTC, USA (Ret), Chapter President, was elected to a 2 year term as President, VCOC and John Leffler LTC, USA (Ret) was appointed as VCOC Secretary for the same term. A noteworthy accomplishment during this period was a decision by VCOC to dispose of accumulated unexpended funds by donating them to MOAA for scholarships to be awarded to family members of Virginia veterans– a truly worthy cause. LTGEN Michael Nelson, USAF (Ret), then the recently elected President of MOAA, was the guest speaker at the November 1995 dinner meeting.
In the 1996 election at the MOAA National Convention, Chapter member and past Chapter Director, RADM Jesse Hernandez, USN (Ret) was elected and installed as a Director for a term of 6 years. Since 1996, efforts have continued by all concerned, from MOAA to individual Chapter members, to influence the Department of Defense and the Congress concerning medical care for retirees and their families and survivors, especially those who lost CHAMPUS coverage when they became Medicare eligible at age 65. COL Otto Pribram, USA (Ret) was appointed to the VCOC as Chairman, Health Services to keep members informed of then current thinking and initiatives pertaining to medical care for eligible beneficiaries.
Beginning in 1996, the Chapter presented awards to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Cadets at area high schools: 5 in 1996 and 4 in 1997. Also, a steady increase in the use of electronic mail facilitated contact between MOAA, Chapter leaders and members, and even members of Congress. The result has been a significant reduction in the response time to act on urgent initiatives of interest to military personnel and their families and survivors.
The chapter celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1997. In spite of the Chapter’s increased “age”, activities have not slackened, but continue to expand, with increased interest in the biannual Personal Affairs Seminars, additional JROTC awards, and support of semiannual Fort Belvoir events for military Retirees, widows, and widowers.
Chapter membership in 1998-1999 stabilized at about 500 members (Regular and Auxiliary) with new members gradually replacing those lost during the year. In 1999, the chapter provided a significant number of volunteers who contributed thousands of hours to the Volunteer Center of the Mount Vernon Estate. This was to support a year long commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of George Washington’s death. Additionally, articles related to George Washington’s life were written and published in the “The Despatch” during 1999.
The next year found the Chapter becoming a participating member of the 3 year long National Korean War Commemorative Program sponsored by Department of Defense. Only 2 other MOAA Chapters in the US have participated in this activity. In this effort, the chapter has provided many significant contributions to the commemoration of this “Forgotten War”. Some of these were static displays of the phases of the Korean war at major local events, presentations to various groups including high schools and service organizations, and articles on the Korean war in “The Despatch”.
Since its activation, the Chapter has tried to provide programs and activities that appeal to all members. The success of these events, in turn, has led to increased attendance and participation at Chapter dinner meetings and other special activities which support our overall goals. The Program Committee has been exceedingly successful in providing varied programs with prominent speakers covering wide-ranging subjects of interest to members. During 2002, increased emphasis was placed on the Chapter’s goals and objectives. This emphasis has not only placed continued effort on our participation in the Korean War Commemorative Program, but in the regeneration of the Ladies Luncheons, establishing a Chapter Scholarship Program, continued sponsorship of semiannual Personal Affairs Seminars, and support of Fort Belvoir military retiree family programs. Although many other Chapter activities are not as visible as the Program Committee’s efforts, they have entailed much hard work by the members involved with membership, legislation (state and national), personal affairs, and VCOC.
In December, 2002, Mount Vernon Chapter celebrated its 25th Anniversary along with its annual Christmas Party as many Past Presidents and Charter Members were in attendance. Entertainment featured the Mount Vernon Swing Band led by Owen Hammett and the “Soundsationals”, a group of young ladies from West Potomac High School who sang a medley of Christmas music. Among the group of Past Presidents was Chester Clark, the very first President and a Charter Member. His wife, Helen, accompanied him from Florida. In addition to Chester Clark, Past Presidents honored were Dick McIntosh, Charlie Hymers, Otto Pribram, Doug Borden, Arnie Porter, Mike Wardinski, and Jim Froid. More than 180 attended this event.
During 2003, the Chapter Scholarship Program became a reality with the awarding of scholarships to 3 outstanding JROTC students at local high schools. Cash awards of $750, $500, and $500 were made. In addition, the Chapter continued its program of awarding medals and certificates to outstanding students in the JROTC programs at 6 local high schools. This program has become very popular and has established itself as a fine example of community relations with the local citizenry.
The year of 2004 saw a continuation of the emphasis on the scholarship program with 4 cash awards - $750, $500, $500, and $500. A total of $2250 was awarded - a reflection of the increasing contributions to the Scholarship Fund by the membership. All members who have contributed should take great pride in the caliber of the JROTC cadets receiving the awards. Among the great accomplishments in 2004 was the beginning of a membership drive that offered a 1st year free membership to all who joined. This successful drive caused a major turnaround in the number of members. From a low of 420 at the beginning of 2004, total membership approached the 480 mark by the end of that year.
A continuation of the membership drive during 2005 resulted in total members reaching more than 500. This was the first time since 1998 that membership exceeded 500. Another first in 2005 was the awarding of 3 more scholarships - $1000, $750, and $750. This was the first $1000 scholarship - another indication of the generosity of member contributions. In addition, a 7th high school was added to the medal/certificate awards presented to outstanding JROTC cadets - Gar-Field High School. Another civic project was begun - support of the Hearts Apart group at Ft Belvoir. This is a project that supports families with deployed spouses. It receives no support from any government agency. The Chapter also began donating telephone long distance calling cards for wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed. Our Chapter was designated a 5 Star Chapter by MOAA - the third year in a row for this great honor.
During 2006, two more high schools were added to our JROTC support - T.C. Williams HS in Alexandria and Woodbridge HS in Woodbridge. This now makes a total of 9 high schools being supported by our program. The scholarship program awarded scholarships of $2000 and $1500 to 2 more outstanding JROTC students. Our newsletter, The Despatch, was awarded the top newsletter in its category by MOAA. This was the first time for this award. Chapter participation in the MOAA Give Me Pogram was outstanding. The Chapter accumulated 74 new MOAA members (4th highest nationally) and was awarded $1840 in cash from MOAA. This program will continue into 2007. Also during 2006, the Chapter began supporting the USO Care Package project by volunteering at weekly "stuffing parties" at Fort Belvoir. The Chapter was again awarded MOAA's 5 Star Levels of Excellence Award.