Every day brings a new first to all of us with this pandemic. Who would have ever believed that we would not be able to enjoy Easter services inside our churches and places of worship on Easter Sunday? As a grandparent, one of the highlights of Easter is family dinners and watching the little ones hunt for Easter eggs. This year, everything is done with the social distancing in mind, which I do not find appealing. I feel like my home is becoming smaller, with the walls seeming to close in a little more each day.

When we can reopen our foundation, I know that there will be an increased number of veterans and their families who will need our assistance with VA claims and questions. With our economy in such a mess, I believe the need for our services is going to increase many times over. I'm sure that there will be changes in the way we serve veterans and their families. On Monday, we had a meeting on Zoom to discuss what kind of precautions we may need to take to protect our veterans and volunteers when we reopen.

Today, we would like to recognize board of directors member Colonel "Chuck" DeBellevue. DeBellevue earned a Bachelor of Science in physics from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the USAF in January 1968. He attended Undergraduate Navigator Training and, after F-4 upgrade training, was assigned to the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

He was assigned to the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand in October 1971. While there, he flew 220 combat missions -- 96 of which were over North Vietnam -- and is credited with the destruction of six North Vietnamese jet fighters in aerial combat, four MiG-21s and two MiG-19s. He is the leading "ace" from the war in Southeast Asia.

Following his combat tour, he attended undergraduate pilot training and upgraded into the F-4. He served in a number of squadron, staff and command positions. He was the commander of the 432nd Combat Support Group at Misawa Air Base, Japan, and the 95th Air Base Wing at Edwards AFB, California. His final assignment was as the commander of AFROTC Detachment 440 at the University of Missouri-Columbia. We are happy to have him on our board.

The VA continues to do their part by approving many veterans' claims from the last few months. They should have a lot of their backlog worked out soon if we are not able to reopen by the end of April. Before this pandemic, we were assisting an average of 300 veterans each week.

Last week, 43 veterans received a disability rating of 100% for their service-connected disabilities. This group will receive a combined annual $1,636,196. They will also be eligible for the state benefits of sales tax exemptions, property tax exemptions and other benefits. Fifty-one veterans were awarded disability ratings from 10% to 90% and will receive a combined annual $937,629. One surviving spouse was awarded benefits totaling $19,497 a year.

We welcome your support. We spend over $30,000 each month in direct support of the veterans and family members we serve. We transport many homeless veterans to our Norman location. We are a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and are wholly dependent on donations from the people we serve and local grants. All the funds it takes to operate our facility and to assist veterans with medical testing and other expenses come in the form of grants from local companies or other veterans.

For those of you who would like to support the program, your gifts are always appreciated and may be tax-exempt. You can shop items from our Amazon charity list to stock our food pantry and shop AmazonSmile with us as the charity; we will receive 0.5% of eligible purchases. If you are interested in including us in a gift, contact Lora at 550-8806, Ext. 101. Monetary donations can be made online or mailed to P.O. Box 592, Washington, OK, 73093.

For the latest updates, visit our Facebook page OR dalekgrahamveteransfoundation.org. Stay healthy. Our prayers are with all of you and your families during this time of trial. Semper fi.

Dale K. Graham Veterans Foundation is not affiliated with any other organization. Dale K. Graham is a VA accredited claims agent.

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