CAP Cadets Support AFA’s Vietnam 50th Anniversary Celebration at National Cathedral 

January 30, 2024

Civil Air Patrol’s Mid-Atlantic Region was proud to support AFA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of Character and Courage patriotic service at the Washington National Cathedral on January 13.  Thirty-one cadets, leaders, and family members from wings in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia participated in this memorable service of gratitude honoring the service, courage, and legacy of Vietnam War veterans, including Prisoners of War (POWs) and Missing in Action (MIAs), and Gold Star Families.  

Half of the CAP cadet volunteers served as ushers, handed out programs, assisted veterans, and scanned tickets. The other half sang in the choir at the front of the cathedral, where they joined the West Point U.S. Military Academy (USMA) Alumni Glee Club and Cadet Choir. The choirmaster was Col. Len Vernamonti, USAF (Ret.), AFA’s 50th Vietnam War Anniversary Committee Chair and a 1967 USMA graduate. 

“This event allowed our cadets to be part of something much bigger than us,” said CAP’s Lt. Col. James Zavala, the event coordinator and deputy commander for cadets for the National Capital Wing’s Mount Vernon Composite Squadron.

Thirty-one CAP cadets and adult members assisted in the program as ushers and choir members for AFA’s “Celebration of Character & Courage” at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on January 13, 2024. Courtesy photo.

After the ceremony, the assembly of over 800 Vietnam veterans, their families, and those honoring all Vietnam veterans proceeded to the Washington Hilton for a Legacy Reception which was subsidized by the event’s primary sponsor, The Gary Sinise Foundation, and several other organizations. The events served as a reminder to both adults and young people of the sacrifices made by Vietnam veterans and their families, especially those of POWs and the MIAs still unaccounted for 50 years after the war’s end. 

Of special significance to CAP cadets 1st Lt. Dakota Bitterman and A1C Julian Kovalchuk of the National Capital Wing’s Mount Vernon Composite Squadron was the opportunity to meet retired USAF Vietnam Prisoners of War, Col. Michael Brazelton and Maj. Gen. John Borling, both POWs for almost seven years. Additionally, they were honored to meet AFA former Vice Chair for Aerospace Education and Vietnam veteran, Col. Jim Hannam, and Col. Chuck DeBellevue, the leading ACE of the Vietnam War and a CAP cadet alum.