By Michael Isam
A thought shared between two friends helps students further their education.
When Greg White and Septimus Connor of the Alton Green Memorial American Legion Post 194 have a similar dream, it means their Muses are working overtime and the dream WILL be a reality. Such was the case of the original Leo C. Chase, Jr. scholarships.
“We couldn’t just sit on our backsides and complain how we Vietnam veterans were so mistreated and nobody loved us” says White. “We looked deep within ourselves to find that spark of light and life. The spark that gave meaning to what we went through for our country. We had find something to light the way for future generations.”
“It was in the 2002 – 2003 timeframe when we first talked about a way to honor a local Vietnam veteran,” said Connor. “It sat on the back burner and just kind of simmered. It was not until David Shoar, then Chief of the St. Augustine Police Department and now St. Johns County Sheriff, bought a boat the police would use to patrol the shoreline that things began to gel. Shoar had named the boat “The Chase” after Leo C. Chase, Jr., the first resident of St. Johns County to lose his life in the Vietnam war. He was 5 days from rotation home when he was killed during the battle in the Ia Drang Valley. When White and Connor told Shoar of their dream, he made the first contribution and the Leo C. Chase, Jr. Scholarship Award took its first breath of life.
In 2005, Vietnam veteran Michael Pullium had just received his copy of “Heart of a Soldier” from Dan Hill, another Vietnam veteran. Hill had delivered a presentation about his good friend Rick Rescorla, a Vietnam veteran who survived the battle in the Ia Drang Valley, only to lose it in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center twin towers.
Rescorla was the VP of Security for Morgan-Stanley/Dean-Witter, a tenant in the World Trade Center. His actions on the day of the attack, along with his foresight and preparation, saved the lives of 2,700 people.
“When an idea rings in your soul with such clarity as this one, you best act on it,” said Pullium.
He contacted Sheriff Shoar about starting a scholarship fund to acknowledge Rescorla and learned there was already a scholarship fund honoring a Vietnam veteran and that Pullium might want to speak with the organization about joining forces. When Pullium met with Connor and White and they discovered that both honorees were in the same place at the same time. It was a natural match.
“We applied for and received our 501c3 designation in 2006 and in 2007, the first annual scholarship dinner was held,” said White. “We have not looked back. Since our first award dinner, we have awarded $40,000.00 to more than 40 students.” Our motto, “Heroes Building Heroes Through Education” stands tall, just like our students.
For more information on the dinner or to make a donation, contact Cheryl Jefferson at (904) 642-2929 or visit www.ChaseRescorlaFund.org.