The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Vietnam Veterans of America sponsor Santa event for kids


December 11, 2017

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

HAPPILY VISITING with Santa at a Sunday event held by local Vietnam Vets at the Iron County Memorial Building in Hurley is Aidynn Tesch. Aidynn attended the event with his mom, Jessica Lakvold, and stepdad, James Tauer, of Bessemer.


Hurley — A long line of children, along with their parents, stood patiently to visit with Santa Claus on Sunday at the Iron County Memorial Building in Hurley.

The good-natured Mr. Claus had able assistance from Serena Tauer of Hurley, who served as a cheerful elf.

Sponsoring the event were members of the Gogebic-Iron Range Chapter 529 Vietnam Veterans of America.

Every child who attended the event not only got to chat with Santa, but also received a toy and a bag of candy. The toys included, among many other articles, a flying saucer, cool trucks, a stuffed horse, and various items specifically geared for babies.

“We’ve been lucky we’ve never run out,” said Don Zanutto, chapter president. “We’ve always had enough.”

“This is our way of giving back to the community,” said Arvid Sivula, chapter treasurer.

The guys said that the chapter has hosted the event for more than 15 years. “We’ve always done it here at the memorial building,” said Zanutto.

Funds for the event come from the chapter’s annual steak feed at the end of each April. In addition, said Zanutto, “We cook for the loon party in Mercer in August.”

Robert Morzenti, who started the chapter in 1990 and now serves as secretary, said that it is the nation’s only chartered Vietnam Veterans organization.

Sivula, who also was part of the genesis, said, “The VFW was probably part of the reason why the Vietnam Veterans of America started because the VFW didn’t want anything to do with us.”

Fortunately, that rift has long healed, and members of Chapter 529, along with the VFW and the American Legion, all now work cooperatively. “We do the Honor Guard together at funerals and parades,” said Sivula, who was in Vietnam in 1968 as an Army paratrooper.

Zanutto was in Vietnam in 1975 in the Navy, and Morzenti was in Vietnam twice, once in the Marine Corps in 1965 and then in the Air Force in 1967.

The guys said that members of Chapter 529 get together once a month for meetings.

“Usually, we hover right around 50 in our members,” said Sivula of overall membership.

Any local Vietnam veterans who are interested in joining Chapter 529 should call 715-561-2892 or 715-561-3006 or 715-561-2271.


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