The ladies of the Alafia River Chapter DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) recently welcomed home local Vietnam veterans at two meetings. Pictured from left to right: Jennifer Marks, Alafia River Chapter regent; 1st Lt. Vince Gallagher, U.S. Army; Col. Kathleen Morrissey, U.S. Army; Maj. Jack Morrissey, U.S. Army; Captain Joseph R. Ponds Jr., U.S. Army; Darlene McFarland (in honor of her father, Maj. Bobby L. Thomas, U.S. Air Force); Jane Gammon, commemorative events chairman; and (seated) Capt. John M. Benenati, U.S. Air Force.

The ladies of the Alafia River Chapter DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) are dedicated to promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism. Recently, the group welcomed home local Vietnam veterans at two meetings.

“We so enjoyed meeting these amazing Vietnam veterans and hearing about their service,” said member Kim Ruiz. “We were honored to hear Captain (ret.) Dr. Joseph Ponds Jr., author of The 600 m.o.l.: Black Helicopter Pilots in Vietnam, speak about his service.”

The members of the Alafia River Chapter DAR have multiple service projects in progress throughout the year. At the group’s February meeting, ladies brought donation items to assemble into 40 kits for The Spring, a local battered women’s shelter led by Women’s Issues Chair Angela Rumore.

According to Ruiz, the chapter shows commitment to military members with handwritten thank-you notes for a special forces unit in Iraq.

“Jen Gerken, chair of our Patriot Project, collects and sends shipments of goodies—with the help of chapter volunteers—containing the thank-you notes, beef jerky, gum, snacks such as breakfast bars and cheese and crackers and a few personal items they can use like chapstick, hand sanitizer and baby wipes,” explained Ruiz.

DAR was founded in 1890 and is a nonprofit, nonpolitical volunteer women’s service organization with over 185,000 members in 3,000 chapters across the world.

The Alafia River Chapter meets monthly from September to May in Valrico and supports many charities and historical preservation projects. There are guest speakers each month and refreshments are served to all visitors and members.

“If you are a woman over the age of 18 years old who believes you have an ancestor from the Revolutionary War and can prove blood lineal descent, you can become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution,” said Ruiz.

If you would like to learn more about the Alafia River Chapter, need help researching your genealogy to find your patriot or you’re a woman 18 years or older who would like to attend a meeting, email or visit

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