Kelsie Rhea Nash with her 108th Division Association scholarship check.
The 108th Griffon Association had another successful year. However, I can’t help but repeat, as I have said previously, that as our membership ages, in order for us to continue our good works over the long term, the association needs more help from both retirees and current Soldiers in the form of active memberships. To get back up in the 300 plus members we had six and seven years ago, we have initiated some plans to positively affect that, which have brought some small results but still not at the level we need.
We are hopeful that the new 108th Training Command Commander and CSM will continue in their predecessors footsteps by providing us help in our efforts to the extent permitted by regulations. Currently, we have 130 life members and 46 yearly members, plus one honorary member for a total of 177 as of the end of December 2015. Each of you has friends who are eligible for membership. Contact them and encourage them to join. Send them a copy of the membership application, which CSM Joe Winchester will send out to you with the picnic letter or they can join on the website, www.108thgriffonassoc.com. Annual membership is only $10, which is a small sum for anyone, and the organization needs the support to keep up its good works. You can also become a life member for only $108. Thanks for the help in this vital area.
In 2015, our motto of “Be a Patriot, Help a Soldier” was certainly lived, as you will see later in this summary with the donations we made and scholarships we gave. Helping Soldiers and Families in need and Veterans who have served in the past is really just an ongoing service that started when we all first swore our oath. Membership and participation in the association is an easy and good way to give back even if you live a long way from Charlotte.
In 2014, as a result of our Fourth Annual Soldiers and Families golf tournament, we raised $15,450.47 benefiting Soldiers and families, which was not our best year ever but certainly respectable. During 2015, your board distributed much of that money, plus some left over from our best year of 2013 for what they determined were worthy causes and to benefit soldiers and families.
We received 11 scholarship applications. That was not as many as 2014 but the overall quality was the best ever. It was so good in fact that the scholarship committee (Lin Ingram, Chaplain Brian Donley and Bob Gwaltney) could not decide among them on an order of merit list but recommended we try to give something to all. At their suggestion, we divided the applicants into three groups or tritiles with the top group receiving $1,000.00 each, and the other two receiving $750 and $500 each for a total of $8500. Again, we were very pleased that we received applications and picked winners from all subordinate units (95th, 98th and 104th) of the Training Command as well as retiree family members from the 108th.
In addition to our scholarships process, we received and approved an application from a soldier in the Headquarters who had been injured in the line of duty. Because of delays in paperwork processing she was not receiving line of duty payments. Since she had difficulty working, she had bills going unpaid, which put financial strains on her family. We distributed $1,279.81 to this soldier at her request, which was successful in tiding her over, until her financial situation stabilized and she began receiving line of duty payments.
In addition to these individual payments, we also recommitted to several groups and added some more, which we felt were carrying on great work on behalf of soldiers and veterans and whom we wanted to support. We gave $500 to Purple Heart Homes, which is a Statesville, North Carolina. based non-profit, which helps disabled soldiers acquire new homes or remodel existing homes to accommodate their individual needs for handicapped accessible housing. We also provided $500 to Veterans Restoration Quarters, a Asheville, North Carolina based non-profit, which working through ABC Christian Ministry provides job training, housing and counseling and drug/alcohol treatment (as necessary) for homeless veterans from across North Carolina. We contributed $1,000 to Operation Restoration, the fourth Veterans’ Stand Down for upstate South Carolina jointly sponsored by the VA and the American Legion as well as other veterans’ organizations. We also gave $700 to the Iredell County American Legion for Veterans Services and $500 to the Charlotte USO location at the Charlotte airport, which serves thousands of service members each year. Lastly, we contributed the amount of $2,500 to the Freedom and Hope Foundation, a South Carolina non-profit, which provides free overnight hunting trips to wounded warriors.
In May 2015, between 40 and 50 Griffon Association members and guests attended the annual picnic held at Latta Plantation, just North of Charlotte, North Carolina. Attendees enjoyed a World War II reenactment of Operation Market Garden, many allied and axis weapons and equipment exhibits manned by soldiers in period uniforms and musical and comedy entertainment provided by the group “Letters from Home,” two lovely ladies reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters. We also had a briefing by the 108th Training Command G-3 and a barbecue dinner with all the trimmings.
On September 28, 2015, the 108th Griffon Association held its Fifth Annual Soldiers and Families Golf Tournament at Pine Island Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. With the help of solicitations by employees of Knight Communications, publisher of The Griffon, and after months of work by members of the Board and other Association members, who obtained sponsors, donors and golfers, volunteers from the Association joined together to host 92 golfers on a less than perfect but certainly fun, cloudy, misty and sometimes with the threat of rain day of golf. The 208th Army Band provided military music during registration and played the National Anthem and the Army Song as the Colors were presented by the 108th Training Command Color Guard.
From left to right: Wallace Holston presents scholarship check to grandson Chad O’Donnell. Vicki O’Donnell and Curt O’Connell look on.
As happens every year of the tournament, golfers were treated to a box lunch, dinner after the round and numerous opportunities on the course to win prizes provided by sponsors to include closest to the pin on par threes, longest drive for men and women, winning a car and a golf cart for a hole in one on two of the par threes as well as prizes at the end for two net flights for first, second and last place. Golfers opened their wallets again to buy mulligans and red tees, participated in a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction, which contributed not only to the fun but the fund for Soldiers and Families.
All of this hard work, fun and generosity resulted in almost $13,000 net being raised by the Association for support of Soldiers and Families from across the 108th Training Command spectrum, including Soldiers and Families from the 95th, 98th and 104th subordinate Divisions. The Association is very pleased to be able to provide needed resources for Soldiers and Families trying to take advantage of educational opportunities, funds for Families under financial stress as a result of a Soldier’s deployment, funds for financial assistance to Soldiers who have been wounded or injured in the line of duty, support for Family Support activities such as funds for Care Packages and phone cards to deployed Soldiers and support for other charitable organizations who support Soldiers and Veterans.
Looking forward to the coming year, Griffon Association Scholarship applications are due by April 1, 2016. A copy of the application is included with this article. A copy of the application along with the address to mail it and accompanying documents is also on our website, www.108thgriffonassoc.com. We hope to continue the level of scholarship giving as in the past.
We are also looking forward to another Reconnect event at Ft. Jackson sometime in the spring and/or fall, which is sponsored by the South Carolina American Legion. We will not know the exact date until a few weeks in advance but will let everyone know as soon as we know. For those who have attended in the past, this is a great opportunity to re-visit the 108th’s second home.
Our Sixth Annual Golf Tournament will take place on the 26th of September, 2016. For you golfers who have not been able to attend in the past, please plan to bring a team this year and we always need some help from non-golfers for registration etc. For those of you who participated in 2015, we look forward to seeing you again in 2016.
Freedom Foundation Breakfast
Lastly, we added a couple of events to the schedule in 2013. In 2015, members of the Association attended as guests at the Carolinas Freedom Foundation’s Freedom Breakfast the Friday before Veterans’ Day. We did not march in the Charlotte Veterans’ Day parade this past year, but hope to have a contingent involved this year – let me know if you are interested. As an extra benefit, you will get to see Tom Phlegar lead the parade with his leggings and tri-corner hat, while playing his drums with the Revolutionary War color guard. Those two events take place in 2016, on Nov. 7 (Breakfast) and Nov. 5 (Parade) and we hope to have increased participation among our members in the Charlotte area.
As I started this summary, I will also again end on an appeal for your help in getting more members signed up among your friends and acquaintances. Thanks for everyone’s continuing support.