|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Director’s Reports, November/December 2020|
Not a whole lot to report from the region as we’re still basically locked down from COVID-19. Several chapters have been active in their communities as much as possible.
On September 12 the Massachusetts State Council managed to hold elections, staying within CDC and state guidelines. The Elks Lodge in Worcester was generous in allowing us once again to use its beautiful banquet hall, so there was plenty of room to social distance.
Gumersindo Gomez was re-elected State Council President with Bruce Dobson elected Vice President East; Gary Luhiter, Vice President Central; and Dave Kelleher, Vice President West. Also re-elected was Justin Latini, Secretary, and Jerry LaValle, Treasurer. Thanks to them for stepping up to continue the work of the state council.
As winter approaches, I remind everyone to do wellness checks on your brothers and sisters. Even with the small increase in mobility allowed by state guidelines, many of us have been confined too long as we wait to finally defeat this plague, and it can have an effect on the psyche. A short phone call to say “hello” can help.
BY TED WILKINSON
The VVA Board of Directors met virtually on October 10 and probably will conduct the January meeting the same way. The system is working quite well during the pandemic. Planning for VVA’s 20th National Convention in Greensboro, N.C., is moving forward.
As of October 14th, 179 chapters and 15 state councils are on the pre-suspension list. That includes 20 Region 2 chapters: New Jersey Chapters 510, 779, and 825; New York Chapters 20, 32, 49, 72, 82, 103, 126, 140, 421, 803, and 827; and Pennsylvania Chapters 131, 435, 466, 468, 542, and 565.
Chapters have a few options when it comes to elections. A chapter may hold a meeting and conduct elections as long as there is a quorum and local, state, and federal laws allow such a meeting during this public health emergency. Make sure you have a sign-in sheet and can verify attendance and voter eligibility.
If a meeting is canceled due to the pandemic, elections can be held at the next meeting. The current officers will continue to hold office until the election is completed. If a current officer does not want to continue in that office until an election can be held, he or she may resign. If the president resigns, the vice president will take over. The other offices can remain vacant until the election.
For further clarification of chapter election options, contact VVA Constitution Committee Chair Leslie DeLong at firstname.lastname@example.org
STATE COUNCIL ELECTIONS
State councils may hold meetings and elections as long as there is a quorum and laws allow such meetings. Make sure you have a sign-in sheet and can verify attendance and voter eligibility.
A meeting can be canceled and elections held at the next meeting as long as it is within three months of the canceled meeting. A state council that holds a meeting before the end of June 2021 will not be in conflict with the VVA Constitution.
If a state council has only two or three meetings per year, a special meeting will have to be called. This will require written notice at least 10 days prior to the meeting and notice of exactly what business will be conducted at the meeting, including elections of officers and any other business. No other business will be permitted to be conducted.
Chapters and state councils that did not hold elections by July 15 should submit an election report listing current officers and noting at the top of the form the date of the rescheduled elections. When the elections are completed, chapters and state councils should submit a VVA Election Report Change of Information Form, which can be found on the VVA website under “Chapter information, handbooks, policies, and forms”
Direct any questions to Leslie DeLong at email@example.com
We continue to ponder the future endeavors of VVA National, the regions, the states, and the chapters. Although meetings happen, they are few and with little face-to-face interactions. What the short and long term are we can only guess. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
With the new year rapidly approaching and plans needing to be made for 2021, it is time to act for the short term. Region 3 has always planned its annual conference for March. Because of the pandemic, though, the region’s seven states have voted to cancel the 2021 conference. This is unfortunate, but the safety and health of our members and their families are of utmost importance.
I would like to thank South Carolina State Council President Sam Brick for his willingness to accept the temporary position of Secretary of the Conference of State Council Presidents. Often, as members get older, they give more to VVA.
GoToMeeting has been a workhorse for information flow and sharing the seven states’ accomplishments during the pandemic. Plans for VVA’s National Convention next year in Greensboro, N.C., are still being discussed in the region. We stand ready to support VVA in 2021.
A coronavirus quiet has settled over Region 5.
I attended the virtual meeting of the National Board of Directors on October 10.
Indiana had its Kokomo reunion, which was attended by VVA members. I have not received any bad news concerning the reunion and COVID-19.
That’s all I have.
I hope all is well and safe with you and your loved ones. Never would I have believed that COVID-19 would still be around this long. VVA operations have been severely hindered. Many state councils and chapters have not been able to hold meetings or conduct elections. Most of my contact with other VVA members is through Zoom and RingCentral. It looks like things in the region are starting to settle.
REPORTS FROM THE REGION
Kansas: Chapter 912 reports that Veterans Day events in Ottawa, Kansas, will be different this year due to COVID-19. There will not be any re-enactments in Forest Park. Instead, there will be a Field of Flags Display at the City Park November 1-15 with displays from World War I, World War II, and the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars. The chapter will put up a small replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, plus a bamboo cage and crosses with the names of those from Franklin County who lost their lives during the war.
Minnesota: The Minnesota State Council will be shutting down. Last year all chapters in the state voted to end it. The process has begun.
Missouri: With the current restrictions on physical meetings, chapters have been forced to learn new ways of communicating. Zoom may not be the best way to conduct business, but in these times, it is all we have.
South Dakota: All plans for fundraising are on hold due to COVID-19. One member came down with the virus, but he has recovered and is doing well.
North Dakota: All state and chapter elections have been completed. The state council is helping the state Commissioner of Veterans Affairs get a Fisher House. It would be the first one in the state. Because of North Dakota’s high COVID rate, most are hunkered down for the duration.
Wisconsin: No state council meetings have been held since January. With luck, there will be a SC meeting with elections in December. SC President Richard Lindbeck attended the dedication of the new National Veterans Cemetery near Tomahawk in northern Wisconsin. The VA Deputy Secretary and Wisconsin Veterans Affairs Secretary also were there. In October Lindbeck attended a function in Prairie du Chien for veterans.
Thanks for all you do for veterans and VVA.
BY DENNIS J ANDRAS
The hurricane season in Region 7, especially in Louisiana, was not a good one. We were hit by two major storms within weeks of each other. To make matters worse, these storms had similar tracks, hitting almost the same parishes and towns in southwest Louisiana.
After the first storm hit, we contacted National President John Rowan about our situation. With the help of the National Office, the call went out to our brothers and sisters in VVA. The response was overwhelming. We received more than $31,000 for the Louisiana Hurricane Relief Fund. Also, a state council from up north sent a truckload of supplies to be distributed to veterans in need.
To our Texas State Council brothers and sisters: As usual, you were there to cover our backs within a matter of hours. We are most thankful. You have shown how a Region is supposed to care for its own and others.
To our National brothers and sisters: You have lived up to our Founding Principle, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” We, the members of the Louisiana State Council, thank you. It makes all of us proud to be members of this great organization.
BY FRANCISCO F. IVARRA
COVID-19 has seriously affected our meetings, events, and activities, but has not kept us from providing effective outreach and VSO services to veterans and their families. A few chapters have met, while others have held Zoom meetings.
Alaska: President Craig Wade continues to conduct effective outreach to veterans and their families, especially those living in remote areas of the state. The VSO program is doing excellent work processing claims.
Idaho: Newly elected State Council President Vern Peterson and his members will keep Idaho VVA visible and viable. They are working hard to increase membership, especially after establishing a new chapter.
Montana: President Chuck Renevier and his chapters are working on ways to bring further exposure to VVA. Despite the pandemic, outstanding work is being done in service to veterans and their families.
Oregon: I want to thank State Council President Jim Fleming for keeping Oregon VVA moving forward and Jaycee Newman for coordinating the State Council Zoom meeting. Dick Tobiason and Steve Carr reported on the POW/MIA Highway Dedication project: Eight more signs were dedicated in six ceremonies in the state on September 18: Seaside (2), Madras (1), Prineville (1), John Day (2), and Vale (2), with all ceremonies led by Vietnam veterans. Twenty-five veterans organizations including OSC, Chapter 392, the John Day Elks Lodge, and individuals donated $20,000 to the Bend Heroes Foundation to pay Oregon DOT to fabricate and install ten highway signs. Idaho will soon designate its 401-mile US Hwy 26 as the POW/MIA Memorial Highway.
The Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association is planning its second annual ride across the new POW/MIA Memorial Highway to honor POWs, MIAs, and their families in 2021. The riders plan to visit MIA families. Congratulations to Chapter 392 for its fine website.
Washington: Chapter 102 President Joel Ware has been holding Zoom meetings, and the chapter has decided not to participate in the 2020 Auburn Veterans Day Parade due to the coronavirus spike. VVA has been a part of this event for many years. Odis Warren reported that Chapter 512, in conjunction with Elks Lodge 2581, had a very successful stand-down in which they provided much-needed assistance to veterans, especially the homeless. This stand-down took place in four different cities working out of box trucks. Chapter 165 President David Loomis and chapter members are planning next year’s events, including the VVA Chapter 165 Car Show, which is its major fundraiser. Chapter 1109 President Ande Mitchell has been effectively recruiting new members. He is planning next year’s “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” event.
A final note: As a member of the VA Secretary’s Veterans Rural Health Committee, I participated in a three-day, nine-hour Webinar on Health and Rural Women Veterans. At the end, the committee made seven recommendations to the Secretary.
Peace to everyone and have a great Thanksgiving.
BY DICK SOUTHERN
I hope you are enjoying the holiday season. I want to wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year for 2021. 2020 was a test of our spirit and resolve, but we survived and continue to work in our communities.
Region 9, like most of the United States, is still under a stay-in-place order, and most people are wearing masks and being mindful of social distancing as this Great Interruption continues. It has been a challenge to hold chapter and state council meetings, as well as state council conventions. Some committees have held digital meetings and are taking care of business that way, but going digital is no substitute for live meetings.
Budget restrictions stopped all VVA travel in 2020. We are looking forward to resuming live National Board meetings in April 2021. I look forward to resuming visits to the state councils and chapters in Region 9 to answer questions and give advice to members and their families.
I urge you all to stay safe and stay well and check on your buddies. In the meantime, I am available by email and telephone. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
I am calling 2020 the year that never was. Who would have thought that a pandemic would take our country down to its knees? Shelter in place, social distancing, sanitizer, and masks have replaced our freedom to navigate around and interact with family and friends. Many lives have been lost and many people are still suffering. Losses of jobs and revenue and push backs on education are frightening and make the horizon look bleak and confusing.
Will we learn from this? Yes, and we will be prepared to never assume that life will be easy. I learned many years ago that we were never promised an easy life; we were promised a good life.
Even while riding on the shark’s back of a pandemic, Vietnam veterans in Nebraska never stopped. Early on we worried about the health of our aging veterans, elections, and financial reports, but quickly just did what we could. We stumbled through virtual meetings and had a few laughs, then became masters of a technology that some of us ran from in the past.
One by one we retired most virtual meetings and braced ourselves to return to live meetings and people. We like to drive to meetings and we like to hang out after meetings. We like to fundraise, and we like to eat box lunches and sit six feet apart. We like to recruit new members, volunteers, and community partners to join our projects, and we never looked back. We like to not talk about what we cannot do but what we can do, and then do it.
We learned the difference between elective health care and necessary health care and did not complain that a routine dental or vision appointment was canceled. VA compensation and benefit claims cases were slowed, but we never asked why moving from a brick-and-mortar office to a home office would interrupt anything. VA and private hospitals did a stellar job of comforting and helping patients. That is what mattered. Private businesses that were fortunate to stay open never missed a hiccup, but lost revenue with few customers. The great economy must return.
The 2021 VVA National Convention has been carefully considered during virtual BOD and CSCP meetings. We cannot vote electronically based on the current VVA Constitution. So we are planning the Convention and looking for positive reactions and a record number of delegates. If successful, this will be a great launch to a brighter future for VVA.
A group of Vietnam veterans has formed a foundation to build the first Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial will “Remember the Past, and Educate the Future” by honoring and reflecting on the 395 Nebraskans who lost their lives in Vietnam and by teaching current and future generations about the impact of the war and how it touched the lives of all of us.
There will be 11 granite obelisks to commemorate the 11 years of the Vietnam War with groupings by years honoring those killed in action and the historical events of those years. Please take a moment to view our early-stage website and sign up for the newsletter.
Thank you for your continued service to America’s veterans. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, contact me at email@example.com or 712-314-1808.
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