January is traditionally a time to reflect on the past year and set goals for the year to come. A number of our American Veterans Heritage Center members were invited to send in their thoughts and we thank them for their submissions…

Dennis Samic, AVHC, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer 

AVHC continues to benefit from the momentum we gained when the Dayton VAMC was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012. In 2015 we made progress in each of our Mission Areas – preservation, inspiration and education. The campus Grotto and Garden restoration was nearly completed and is already gaining recognition from State and Federal historic preservation organizations. Our two-day Patriot’s Freedom Festival was hugely successful with attendance up yet again. This festival allows AVHC and all our supporting participants to inspire and educate citizens about Veterans’ contributions to our nation. Finally, we initiated planning for a Veteran’s Walk of Honor to be started in 2016. We look for further success this year by: (1) obtaining SEC/VA designation of the Dayton VAMC as the site for the National VA Archives, (2) finalizing the Grotto and Gardens and its supporting sustainment plan, (3) beginning sales of commemorative pavers and construction of the Walk of Honor, and (4) updating the AVHC Strategic Plan. These are ambitious goals, but we have a great group of dedicated volunteers to achieve them.

Tara Browne, AVHC Assistant Events Coordinator

The end of 2015 saw the completion of my first year volunteering as Assistant Events Coordinator at the American Veterans Heritage Center. The more I get to know the AVHC members, the more I love their hearts for the work they do for our center and our veterans. My goal for 2016 is to create a better local and social media presence for the AVHC. I want to find new opportunities to network and collaborate with like-minded veteran organizations both in the Dayton area and at the national level.

Charles W. Dickerson, VA Grotto and Gardens Master Gardener

The Lewis B. Gunckel Memorial Fountain was funded, installed and dedicated this year along with the addition of four new gardens. A grant provided a handicap ramp and it was built by staff and 25 Home Depot volunteers. The walkway from the ramp to the boulder stairway was replaced and electrical outlets installed. The 2016 plans include replacing remaining lower grotto walkways and repairing the WWI wall. New planting includes the boulder wall, ramp area, boathouse area and the lake shore adjacent to the ramp landing. Obtaining designation as an arboretum is also a 2016 goal.

Margaret I. Kruckemeyer, Lt Col (ret) USAR/ANC RN, MSN, ARNP-C, AVHC President Emeritus

I have had the honor in serving soldiers, veterans and their family members for the past forty years, but putting words into action is best witnessed by the dedicated, passionate, caring volunteers working for the American Veterans Heritage Center. During AVHC’s fifteen year history, I have seen our Dayton VA Medical Center campus, (a National Landmark), being restored to its past glory where Civil War Soldiers proudly shared their campus to over a half million visitors a year back in the 1880’s. My wish is to have more youth and caring compassionate citizens rediscover their patriotic roots where honor, duty, country have helped to preserve Americans’ freedom for all.

Michael Turner, Events Committee Secretary and Meeting Facilitator

AVHC and the Events Committee had many things to be proud of in 2015. Several of our Trustees were recognized for all they have done for the community and their military service. Judge Walter Rice, (AVHC Board of Trustees President), was honored by the legal profession for all his hard work. We also lost one of our Honorary Trustees, Dale Huffman, who was one of the forces behind restoring the Protestant Chapel. The AVHC Events Committee had a busy year planning for the Patriot Freedom Festival at which we were able to increase our attendance to 10,000 for the first time. We also changed our May 5K Run/Walk/Roll to the weekend prior to the Festival, on Armed Forces Day.

The theme for our 2016 Patriot Freedom Festival is special recognition of our Women Veterans at our Opening Ceremony. We also hope to expand our events this year with a garden party in the Grotto.

AVHC will kick off another project called the “Walk of Honor.” Sales of engraved pavers lining both sides of the sidewalk to the flag pole by building 320 are planned with the goal of raising funds to restore the historical electric pipe organ located in the old Protestant Chapel on the VA Campus. Again this year, we will support our local PBS Station, ThinkTV, with our contribution of a set of 20 Louis L’Amour books and 10 lighted ceramic replicas of the Historic Protestant Chapel for their annual GreatTV Auction in April