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6:31 PM Fri, Feb. 15th
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Airborne vets on a mission; could use help

A bestseller entitled "Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul" contains "Stories to stir the Pride and Honor the Courage of Our Veterans."

The stories touch veterans and non-veterans alike and render an understanding of why a strong bond exists among veterans. That same bond flourishes locally in the Northern Arizona All Airborne Association, a Chapter of the 82d Airborne Association. The 82d Airborne formed in Europe during WWII and was the first such organization chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1999.

The local chapter formed immediately thereafter and is open to all Airborne-qualified persons. Members have served with all five Airborne Divisions, Glider Services, Special Forces, Navy Seals, Pathfinders, Delta Force, and the Force Recon. These are the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine personnel who were (and are) at the forefront of most high-risk military operations.

The Airborne Forces constitute about 3 percent of the active duty forces, yet have suffered about 20 percent of the casualties because of the nature of their missions. The 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82d Airborne, in conjunction with the tank divisions, spearheaded the assault into Iraq. The 173rd Airborne Brigade flew 1,800 miles to jump into Northern Iraq. Airborne-qualified special operations soldiers recovered the remains of Lori Piestewa when they rescued Jessica Lynch. Our brothers continue to operate as "Specialists in Warfare" in several countries in the Middle East, whether we hear about them or not. Usually, we don't.

Our Northern Arizona Chapter has 26 life members among its total membership, which guarantees us an active charter in perpetuity. It can never be disbanded. Membership has grown, as a percentage, faster than any other chapter.

We have two young Airborne-qualified women we are proud to call our comrades and members, the only chapter in the National Association to be so privileged.

The chapter and its members have agreed to undertake another special assignment: to have its own clubhouse. The chapter has asked a local landowner to donate a parcel of land for this purpose, and it appears it will happen, provided the chapter can raise the necessary capital to build such a clubhouse-a reasonable condition.

Accordingly, the chapter is soliciting donations from the public to "accomplish our mission." The chapter has a building designer who is agreed to draw preliminary plans for such a building. In addition, chapter members and platoons of other veterans as well as members of the public will do much of the physical work, including the framing, plumbing, electrical, sheetrock work, etc.,

And we believe we will receive the materials, in part, through discounts or donations. The chapter is setting a target of $25,000 cash it will raise to build the structure where we can share our "chicken soup."

Some have asked how we differentiate ourselves from the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. We have great respect and appreciate those organizations. The answer lies in the pride the members of our chapter have in the past and present accomplishments of their member units.

We ask the public's help to build our own clubhouse. Donations, in any amount, can go by mail to Vaun F. Skellenger, Chapter Treasurer, Special Clubhouse Building Fund, 3325 Lynx Lake Drive, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314.

We will permanently memorialize the names of all donors who contribute $25 or more on our prominently displayed Wall of Honor in our clubhouse to be.

(Henry Camarot is an airborne veteran of World War II, a retired attorney and former state legislastor.)


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