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November/December 2020 -   -  
   

Era of the Coronavirus

John Rowan, ©Michael KeatingTo VVA Members, their Families, Friends, and Supporters

I hope you are safe and healthy. We are living in the era of the coronavirus. It has changed our lives, and veterans must take extra precautions. When I hear that older people with pre-existing conditions are the most vulnerable, all I hear is “Vietnam veterans.”

The virus killed many people living in veterans’ homes before it was understood what precautions should be taken. Unfortunately, the cancellation of VVA meetings has made it difficult to keep tabs on our members, but I am aware that several members have succumbed to this disease. Board Member Kerwin Stone, who is recovering from the coronavirus, informed me that three members of his Chapter 292 in Beaumont, Texas, also were victims of COVID-19. If you are aware of others, please let me know at jrowan@vv.org

Please adhere to the recommended safeguards: Wear a mask, keep your distance, and avoid crowds. I hope a vaccine soon will enable us to return to normal.

VIRTUAL VETERAN

Because of fiscal restraints, we were forced to go to an online-only version of The Veteran. We have been producing an online version of the magazine for quite a while, so the transition was not difficult. Unfortunately, though, many members do not have access to the Internet and have, therefore, lost touch with VVA. That’s why, right after Thanksgiving, you will receive in the mail a special-issue Veteran Digest to let you know what is going on.

If you are aware of members in your chapter without the Internet, please reach out to them to keep them up to date. We are urging chapters to help members get the Internet and to print copies of the online Veteran for those without Internet access.

We are aware that this is a difficult time for everyone. While we hope that things will get better soon, it looks like that may not happen at least until the middle of 2021.

VETERANS DAY

We hope that everyone had a happy Veterans Day. While the pandemic limited our ability to gather to honor our colleagues, I am heartened to know that some chapters and communities still managed to arrange Veterans Day ceremonies.

I read about drive-bys and socially distanced events that tried to carry on ceremonies. I hope next year we can return to normal. Meanwhile, keep everyone in your prayers.

GOOD NEWS

In late October I was informed that VVA was to receive a $26,000 donation from Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Carl’s had raised $625,000 for its “Shank the Virus” campaign through the sale of T-shirts and donations from the Rose family. I want to thank Carl Rose, president of Carl’s Golfland, and his family for thinking of Vietnam veterans.

BAD INTERNET

During this time, when we are told to stay home as much as possible, many of us have turned to the Internet to occupy our time. This can be an interesting use of our time, in which we search our family histories, look up old friends, or take up new hobbies. But there can be a downside. Recently, you may have seen a series of public awareness Internet ads that VVA did in collaboration with the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Working with CISA, we hope to educate veterans and other citizens on how to identify Internet misinformation and prevent its spread.

CISA Director Christopher Krebs noted: “The strongest defense against misinformation is an informed public, and by working with VVA, we will be able to reach more Americans and arm them with what they need to spot misinformation and stop disinformation.”

You may have seen Director Krebs on news reports talking about foreign interference during the election. This collaboration resulted from the report by former VVA staff member Kris Goldsmith that we issued last year on foreign entities targeting veterans on the Internet. The ads and the original report can be found at https://vva.org/trollreport

BAD DRUGS?

Recently, I wrote to President Trump, the HHS Secretary, and the head of the FDA to express our concerns about a recent rule allowing the importation of certain prescription drugs from Canada. We have always stood in opposition to the importation of medicines because they are not certified by the FDA.

THE ELECTION RESULTS

Mariann and I were among the first to vote. It went well and quickly. However, I did write to the NYC Council Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee to suggest that they set aside hours for senior citizens and the disabled.

As you read this, the election of former Vice President Joseph Biden should be certified. The Senate leadership has been delayed until January when two Senate races in Georgia are finalized. The House is still controlled by the Democrats, although their numbers shrank.

Meanwhile, we await any actions taken by the lame-duck Congress. We are hoping that they will pass legislation that will add three more diseases to the AO presumption list: bladder cancer, Parkinsonism, and hyperthyroidism.

As the new year begins, the Biden administration will name a new VA team. One issue we are particularly interested in is the effect of toxic exposures abroad and at home. We are heartened by the fact that President-elect Biden is interested in determining whether his son Beau’s death from brain cancer was related to his military service.

VVA’S FUTURE

We are continuing our reflections on the future of VVA. Next year we hope to have a clearer picture of where we are going so we can make some decisions at the Convention, presuming we are allowed to have one.

Meanwhile, we have been informed that the Minnesota State Council has voted to disband in January. This is the second state council to do so. The Maine State Council disbanded a few years ago. I also know that other chapters and state councils are having trouble finding leaders.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Mariann and I, the VVA Officers and Directors, and all the staff wish everyone a healthy and happy Holiday Season and a better New Year.

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