Local Veterans of Foreign Wars quartermaster Chris Robison gets emotional when he tells the story of a Vietnam veteran who was turned away from health benefits the veteran said he was entitled to because of paperwork problems.
“He’s had a heart attack, he lost toes in Vietnam over there,” Robison said. “If I’m sick and I need help, I don’t need it a year from now. I need it now.”
That’s where organizations like VFW Post 4985 and American Legion Post 112, both in Dalton, come in. Both have programs to help veterans in need with expenses ranging from gas money to utility bills to food to advocacy when dealing with state and federal agencies. This year, those organizations and the Vietnam Veterans of America are getting an extra boost from a New Year’s Eve party planned for the trade center.
City Entertainment, an event services business in Dalton, is organizing the Dec. 31 bash at the trade center to benefit those organizations. Co-owner Dawn Johnson said the idea for the fundraiser came partly because her husband and recently deceased father are veterans and partly because City Entertainment’s owners had encountered several veterans in need and wanted to help.
Johnson said her father, Master Sgt. Frederick Pankey, served about 27 years in the Air Force, while her husband, Ricky, one of City Entertainment’s co-owners, was in the Navy for four years. Pankey passed away earlier this year. Johnson described him as a jokester who was also habitually well-dressed enough to be “like the original GQ.”
To honor veterans at the New Year’s Eve festivities, there will be a movable wooden memorial wall with names of veterans — including those currently in the military — stenciled on display. It costs $5 to list a name. Several organizations, including Dalton High School’s JROTC, are slated for patriotic performances, including the displaying of colors and patriotic music.
Two big screen TVs will be at the gala for participants to ring in the new year by watching the big peach drop in Atlanta or the big ball in New York. Several businesses around Dalton are in competition to collect the most donations to win a free VIP spot at the event.
“Next year I’m hoping we’re going to make it so huge that every store wants to compete with each other,” Johnson said.
City Entertainment co-owner P.J. Poston said the business enjoys supporting local charities and worthy causes, but this one is close to his heart, too. His grandfather, J.H. “Sam” Dempsey, was drafted into the military during World War II and flew 42 combat missions in B-24 planes, according to a pamphlet Poston provided.
Johnson said the money raised from the event will stay with the local VFW and American Legion posts and a portion will go to the national Vietnam Veterans of America. Organizers from the veterans organizations said they don’t yet have the money earmarked for specific programs, but there are plenty of good causes they can put it toward.
American Legion Commander Dewey Moss said those include taking breakfast to the VA clinic in Chattanooga several times a month so veterans who sometimes have long periods of time in the waiting room will have something there to eat. The post also provides full military honors at more than 100 funerals each year and sends several children to Boys State and Girls State — week-long civic programs offered annually.
That’s on top of requests for all kinds of financial assistance.
Johnson said the trade center is being provided at a deeply discounted rate so more of the proceeds from the event can go to the veterans organizations. Several local businesses have pitched in with sponsorships, and Johnson said there are numerous opportunities to support the cause.
“We knew that the city of Dalton needed something (to honor and support veterans),” Johnson said. “It’s past time that somebody does something for them.”
“Celebrate Your Freedom” event information
Dinner tickets: $30 per person or $220 for a VIP table
Time: 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Gala tickets: $50 per person or $350 for a VIP table
Time: 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a champagne toast at midnight
Music: Buckner Brothers Band followed by music by DJ artists Brent BledzO and Dub Floyd
For questions about sponsorships: (706) 463-7327 or (706) 581-3913