“In a show of Christmas spirit and solidarity, Defiance AMVETS Post 1991 has embarked on a fundraising mission to assist the besieged VFW Post 4419 in Clay County.

During the Vietnam War, the state of West Virginia had one of the highest casualty rates (per capita) in the country. Now, Clay County residents are trying to recover from the June 2016 flood devastation that cost losses in the millions of dollars. Clay County VFW Post 4419 lost its post facility and its 15-passenger van in the flood. The 1993 Econoline van was used to take veterans for medical care, including mental health counseling, and for the post’s honor guard to take part in funeral details. When the Defiance AMVETS Post 1991 Commander Don Hall learned about the situation in Clay County and spoke to post members, it was decided that the Defiance post would raise funds to help replace the van.

Tom Wiseman, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and former mayor of Defiance, volunteered to ride his bicycle next year from Florida to California to help raise the funds. Wiseman said, “Clay County is one of the poorest counties in West Virginia. It is our goal to raise about $10,000 for the cost of a replacement vehicle for the West Virginia post. Some funds have already been pledged and raised, but we are not near the goal yet.” He said funds have been pledged by the AMVETS Post 1991, the Defiance chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Defiance VFW Post 3360 and Defiance DAV Chapter 36.
“I will be taking the Southern Tier Route, a bicycle route designated by the Adventure Cycling Association,” Wiseman said. “That is a distance of about 3,100 miles. I will be traveling through southern states such as Louisiana. The highest place I will have to travel is through Emory Pass in New Mexico, which is between 8,000-8,500 feet high.” He hopes to be in California by May.
“I will be taking my bike and packing a tent and a sleeping bag,” he said.
Wiseman said that Don Kraber and his wife, Kay, have given Wiseman a discount on having his bicycle tuned up and readied for the trip. Don is fellow veteran and co-owner of Defiance’s “R” Bike Shop. Kraber told Wiseman, “This fundraiser is a great cause.”

“Also, Bill Steffan, formerly from Defiance and one of the four guys with whom I went into the Marine Corps on the “buddy plan,” has asked to ride the last 50 miles (with me) into San Diego,” Wiseman said. “What makes Bill’s request so special is that he has been afflicted with a serious heart condition resulting from his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.”

Persons who would like to contribute to the fundraiser can mail their donations to: Dave Lulfs, administrator, AMVETS Post 1991, 1795 Spruce St., Defiance 43512. Wiseman added, “People can pledge by the mile or just make a donation. We will take anything to help the veterans.”
Wiseman can be contacted at his email address at wisemantom@hotmail.com.”

Clay WV VFW Post 4419 meets the 2nd and 4th Mondays each month at 7 PM at the Senior Citizen Center.  All veterans of a foreign war are invited to join the post. Their next meeting is Monday, March 27.