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Helping military veterans and their families is a passion for Radcliff resident Leon Faulk.
“I kind of wear two hats,” Faulk said, explaining he is the president of Vietnam Veterans of America, Gold Vault Patriots Chapter 1051, and commander of the Disabled American Veterans, Radcliff No. 156.
In those capacities, Faulk helps provide assistance to veterans and their family members seeking benefits or government services, dispenses information about other resources and offers transportation to medical appointments, among other things. Faulk believes the government owes a lot to veterans.
The roles seem to be good fits for someone with his background.
Faulk, who did three tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star, remembers returning to the United States and getting eggs thrown at him.
“I try to put it behind me,” Faulk said.
Prior to getting drafted in 1962, Faulk had a custom cabinet shop in Portsmouth, Va., where he made $3,000 a month. His military pay was $78 a month.
“I had been in business five years when I got that ‘Uncle Sam needs you,’” he said.
Retiring from military service in 1984, Faulk drove a truck for the next 21 years.
“I knew I didn’t want to be in an office,” he said.
Eventually he had enough of the road.
“I just got tired of being gone all the time,” Faulk said.
Then he retired and noticed after about two weeks it wasn’t what he expected.
“I just got bored stiff,” he said.
He has been involved with DAV for eight years. He became more active with the organization, realizing the need.
“A lot of people don’t realize the amount of vets that live between here and E’town,” he said from his office in Radcliff.
Current membership of the Radcliff chapter of DAV is at 682.
But Faulk always wanted to start an organization for Vietnam veterans. He and a few other guys tried for years to begin a chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, but a chapter had to have 25 members.
They began an aggressive campaign in the media asking for interested members and got 31.
On April 15, 2011, Gold Vault Patriots Chapter 1051 was chartered.
Since then the chapter has more than doubled its membership to 64.
“It keeps you going seven days a week,” he said of his role as president.
Though Falk does not plan to continue as president when his term expires in April, he does plan to continue his membership.
Faulk believes it is important to be there for veterans and their families, providing resources and help with death benefit claims, among other things. Vietnam-era veterans and family members are dying off quickly, so the Gold Vault Patriots might have a limited existence, he said.
There’s no shortage of disabled veterans, however, and the DAV will just shift demographically.
“It will be a younger organization,” he said.
In July, Faulk received the Chapter President of the Year award from the VVA Kentucky State Council president for his role with Gold Vault Patriots. He had replaced the former president who had to leave the position because of illness.
“It really surprised me,” Faulk said. “I just picked up the ball from where the other guy could not carry the ball.
The recognition was not the only one for the relatively new group.
The chapter also received the Chapter of the Year award, and member George Dille received the Humanitarian award.
Faulk’s work with DAV has not gone unnoticed either.
“I had his job for 10 years, so I know what he does,” said Robert Bilz, DAV state service officer. “He’s a good commander.”
Maurice McArthur, DAV member coordinator, said Faulk works toward making every aspect of the organization better.
“He’s been doing an outstanding job,” McArthur said. “He knows how to talk to people.”
Bilz credited Faulk’s personality with being an advantage.
“He gets things done,” Bilz said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at email@example.com or (270) 505-1743.
ABOUT LEON FAULK:
City of birth: Portsmouth, Va.
City of residence: Radcliff.
Family: Wife, Erika; son, Leon Jr.
Favorite music: Blues and jazz.
Favorite TV channels: Investigation Discovery channel (I.D.) and HBO2 (boxing).