VICENZA, Italy – The past year has been pretty rough for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8862, with meetings and events cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Then, on March 19, they lost one of their own, Michael “Mike” Ushko, a Vietnam veteran, and Vicenza Military community employee, who died from health problems complicated by the coronavirus.
On March 29, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service honored Vietnam veterans with a special gift and recognition. The event was a special afternoon, as about 20 members of Post 8862, also known as the Mediterranean Post, welcomed a chance to see old friends and remember Ushko, said Ron Reynolds, a longtime post officer.
“If Mike were here, he would have been at this event,” Reynold said. “He was a hard-working man who believed in this community.”
In 2012, President Barack Obama identified March 29 as the official day to recognize Vietnam War Veterans. Reynolds, who served in the 35th Engineer Battalion during Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, was later posted to Vicenza. He served with the 62nd Engineer Company. Like many, Reynolds met an Italian and married in 1970.
“Almost all of our VFW members are expats. We were all Soldiers at one point and met a local national, got out of the service and stayed here for them. I have been here 40 years,” said Reynolds, who retired as a master sergeant and then served as an Army civilian at Caserma Ederle.
The event exemplifies the Army’s “Soldier for Life” commitment to honor those who served, even after they take off the uniform. The Vicenza Exchange is actively involved with the veterans’ community, to include hosting an annual Retiree Appreciation Day and other VFW events. Since 2013, it has been part of the Vietnam War Commemoration committee.
VFW Post 8862 is the largest European standalone organization, said Reynolds, who in 2012 was nominated as National Recruiter of the Year for having 600 new members.
“During a redeployment and reintegration events, Soldiers were lined up to become new members,” Reynolds said. “It is important that we continue to have events in the community to showcase what VFW Post 8862 can do for our veterans.”