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Local

Sounding taps for local Rock River Valley VietNow

Dixon chapter will close; VFW may be enlisted to take on extra duties

Bill Kessling, POW chapter chairman of Rock River Valley VietNow, lights the bulb of hope during VietNow's annual POW/MIA Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at Veteran's Memorial Park in Dixon in 2016. The chapter, which has a little more than a dozen active members, will disband June 20, unable to overcome the loss of the national headquarters in November. The fate of the Christmas tree lighting and vigil is up in the air, but may continue through the VFW.
Bill Kessling, POW chapter chairman of Rock River Valley VietNow, lights the bulb of hope during VietNow's annual POW/MIA Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at Veteran's Memorial Park in Dixon in 2016. The chapter, which has a little more than a dozen active members, will disband June 20, unable to overcome the loss of the national headquarters in November. The fate of the Christmas tree lighting and vigil is up in the air, but may continue through the VFW.

DIXON – Rock River Valley VietNow will disband June 20 after years of charity efforts and assisting veterans.

The closure is a direct result of the VietNow National Headquarters in Rockford shutting down in November, the local group’s POW Chapter Chairman Bill Kessling said Wednesday. The remaining chapters are in Freeport and Rockford.

Telemarketing companies were pocketing large sums of the donations they received, and so the national headquarters in Rockford shut down in a settlement with state Attorney General Lisa Madigan last year.

Of the local chapter’s 100 members, only 14 to 16 were active, and they likely will shift activities to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Most of us belong to the VFW, too,” Kessling said.

Had the Rock River Valley VietNow remained, it would have had to change its name to conduct business.

There were other factors in the decision to close up shop.

“Age has got a lot to do with it, too,” he said of the members. “A lot of them can no longer do some of the things,” such as stand outside for hours holding flags on Flag Day.

Donations that remained in the chapter’s coffers were given to other veterans’ organizations, such as the American Legion and Honor Flight.

The fate of the annual POW/MIA Christmas tree lighting and vigil is up in the air, but may continue through the VFW, as will the food baskets the organization supplies veterans in December.

“I’ve been a member for 28 years, so I hate to see it go,” Kessling said.

“We just wanted to let the public know and thank them. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do the things.”

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