Vietnam Veterans Of America

Thomas P Coughlin Memorial Chapter 72 Brooklyn, New York


Chapter 72 was founded in 1982, when Brooklyn members of the Queens Chapter, with the assistance of John Rowan and John Catterson, got our own charter. Thomas P. Coughlin, who was disabled, and often very ill, made the formation of Chapter 72 his full time job. He became our first Secretary, and probably ignored his own health issues for the chapter, which eventually took his life, leaving a wife and two small boys. Robert (Bob) Patchik was our first president. Other original members were Carlos Rivera, Wayne Provato, Mike Gold, John Breeden, and of course Joe Reiter who became our second president. We met for the first year or two at the Veterans Outreach Center in the Red Cross Building in Cadman Plaza. For a long time afterwards, we met at the Republican Club on 7th Avenue.

One of our earliest big events was a bus trip to Washington, DC, for the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial. After Bob, Joe was president for 2 years, then Tony Bianco, Dave Woodrow, Danny Friedman, Joe Reiter again, John Rinaldi, Judy McCombs, Artie Cohen, Harry Kessler, Duane R. Paulson, and Luigi Masu. Some of our biggest projects included the research for and publication of the Homeless Veterans Handbook, and our financing of the short movie "MIA-Missing in America", starring Ann Meara (Stiller and Meara). We ran several very successful dances/fund raisers, and adopted 15 West at the Brooklyn VAMC. We purchased a new Color TV for them. We also ran bingo's every month donating 6-foot heroes and canteen books. We had 3 Christmas parties every year, one for 15 West (in addition to the 6-foot heroes, and canteen books, we brought in a band) one for the kid's of chapter 72 (at the Republican Club) and one for a Battered Woman's Shelter on 4th Avenue.

More recently we have supported the Wounded Warrior Project, Fisher House, and the soldiers in Walter Reed Medical Center.  We are running a bed-side movie project at Brooklyn VAMC, and helping vets from Iraq and Afghanistan form their own veterans' organization. There have been many more projects. Chapter 72 was always more than a sum of its parts. It was, and is a significant force in our community. At our annual dinner/dances in the past, we have honored such distinguished individuals as Doctor Grace Frank and James Farsetta (VA VISN 3 Director). NY State Senator Vincent J. Gentile (presently NYC Councilman) was our Guest of Honor for our Twentieth Anniversary October 18, 2002. We have always fought for improved health care, veterans' benefits, and a full accounting of our MIA's. Through the first ten years of our existence, one person stands out among all else, as the glue who held this chapter together. That person of course was Joe Reiter. In spite of his holding down two full time jobs and several part-time ones too, he always gave his all to Chapter 72. He pushed us forward until we became recognized as a leading force among other veterans' organizations, and in our community. He led by example, always giving 100%. And of course, there was the way he could defuse the tensest of situations with that wonderful infectious laugh. 

In addition to Joe Reiter and Tom Coughlin, we have lost a few other brothers along the way, including Artie Cohen, Tony Bianco, Dennis Braunfeld, Jack Green, Sal Cammallere, Mike Guerin and Hank Burke.  We will always miss them very much, and continue to honor them with our commitment to helping our fellow veterans.

Danny Friedman