Creating a Sense of Community Throughout The Appalachian Highlands

The Mountain Empire Chapter, affiliate of the Military Officers Association of America (MECMOAA)

NEVER STOP SERVING. That is the mindset behind everything MOAA does, and the members of our local chapter, MECMOAA, carry the charge forward.

MECMOAA is a 501c(19) veterans organization based in Johnson City, TN. Membership consists of approximately 80 current, former and retired military officers and warrant officers residing across the communities of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. MECMOAA members have a continuous line of service from World War II to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan; some are still uniformed Reserve officers. The Board of Directors alone have over 190 years of combined service.

MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of military officers. It is an independent, nonprofit, politically nonpartisan organization. With more than 350,000 members from every branch of service – including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired, former officers, and their families – they are a powerful force speaking for a strong national defense and representing the interests of military officers at every stage of their careers. They are the leading voice on compensation and benefit matters for all members of the military community.

While the association does advocate a strong national defense, it does not, as an association, become involved in matters pertaining to military strategy or individual weapons systems of the various services. The association’s board of directors has long believed that such decisions can be made only by those who have all of the facts available to them: today’s actively serving military leadership. The association plays an active role in military personnel matters and especially proposed legislation affecting the career force, the retired community, and veterans of the uniformed services. While MOAA is permitted by law to lobby – and does so actively – its status as a tax-exempt veterans organization precludes it from participating in political activities, which are defined as intervening directly or indirectly in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. Stated briefly, the association may advocate issues, but it may not advocate the election or defeat of particular candidates or political parties.

The Mountain Empire Chapter was chartered as an affiliate of The Retired Officers Association on September 22, 1979 (TROA later became MOAA). There were thirty-four charter members. The group’s initial meeting was held at the Johnson City Armory, where temporary officers were appointed, followed by a second meeting at Science Hill High School. In September, 1979, the charter meeting was held at the Johnson City Country Club.

MECMOAA is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, and they held a gala on September 14 at Blackthorn Club in Jonesborough. Lieutenant General Dana Atkins, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), President and CEO of MOAA, was the guest speaker, and he commented on the critical importance of the local chapters across the country; while national-level association leaders advocate for all veterans and their families on Capitol Hill, the local chapter members, as constituents, are closest to their elected representatives. Mr. Michael Hensley, Field Representative for Senator Marsha Blackburn, also stressed this important point through his dialogue with chapter members. In addition, Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock presented MECMOAA with a city proclamation.

While no MECMOAA charter members are known to be living in the local area, Surviving Spouse Jo Ann Lindstrom was recognized for her continued support of the chapter, and she spoke of the timeless bond among members and spouses. MECMOAA’s longest-serving and oldest living member, CAPTAIN Herb Ladley, U.S. Navy (Ret.), was also honored–he turned 100 this year and has directly supported various local organizations year after year.

MECMOAA’s community efforts often go without fanfare or major publicity. MECMOAA has a longstanding relationship with East Tennessee State University (ETSU) and the University of Virginia’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs. Each year, they award a $250- $500 scholarship to one upcoming Senior. The chapter also supports 14 area high schools with awards and recognition each year at their respective annual award ceremonies. Lieutenant Colonel John Champion, U.S. Army (Ret.), and Chief Warrant Officer 4 James DuBose, U.S. Army (Ret.), work with these programs and usually attend the awards banquets.

In 2018, MECMOAA held their 3rd Annual Run for the Dogs 5K race at ETSU. Through this event, they assisted in funding the training and supply of service dogs for accepting veterans to mitigate the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and/or Military Sexual Trauma. One of the chapter’s Past Presidents, Major Stephen Sharar, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), envisioned this event, but he regrettably passed away before the first run was actually held. So, then-President Captain Sarah McNany, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), led the planning and execution of these runs in his memory. Sarah also kept the chapter functioning smoothly and moving forward, a challenge for any organization after an abrupt change of leadership. For her ceaseless leadership and selfless efforts, Captain McNany received the MOAA Leadership Award, which recognizes council and chapter leaders who have made an exceptional contribution to their chapter, their council, or to MOAA. In total, MECMOAA was able to donate $8,600 to two organizations training and providing service dogs.

While the Run for the Dogs was successful for three straight years, the Board of Directors felt it was critical this year to focus all efforts on the health of the chapter and identifying and communicating with potential new members. Many long-serving chapter members are “aging out,” and not enough younger officers are stepping up to fill their shoes, a challenge faced by countless other organizations across the country. So, if you or someone you know might be eligible for MOAA membership, and therefore chapter membership, please contact the MECMOAA President, Major Mark Tipton, and discuss how you can NEVER STOP SERVING.

Phone: 276-690-4021

The first Board of Directors for the Mountain Empire Chapter of The Retired Officers Association are appointed at the Johnson City Country Club in September, 1979.

MECMOAA’s current Board of Directors (Left to Right): CAPT Gary Rabetoy, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Past President; CW4 Jim DuBose, U.S. Army (Ret.), Legislative Liaison; Ms. Betty Matthews, Surviving Spouse Liaison; LCDR Tom Shafer, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Treasurer; COL Jack Woolley, U.S. Army (Ret.), Past President; Col Paul Williamson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), Vice President; Seated: Maj Mark Tipton, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), President; Not Pictured: Maj Mary Shaw Van, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), Secretary.

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