|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Directors’ Reports, March/April 2021|
Snow and more snow here in the northeast, but hey, at least we’re not North Dakota. Chapters have been busy. Spring is coming and, we hope, so are face-to-face meetings.
Connecticut Chapter 270 reports that the Norwich Area Veterans Council met at the Sacred Heart School in Taftville to present Mother Christina Van Beck, its principal, and the 8th grade class a Patriotism Certificate in honor of their respect for the American flag. A chapter member had observed the students folding a flag in high winds at the Taftville Post Office. Their proper handling of Old Glory was an inspiration.
The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Mass., received confirmation on February 9 from Alda Rego, the state’s Assistant Secretary for Administration and Finance, that the state has agreed to add an extra floor to the design of the new Soldiers’ Home in addition to the 40-space Veteran Adult Day Health Care facility. This expansion should add about 230 beds. Chapter 111 President Delfo Barabani took the lead on this project last year after the Soldiers’ Home suffered 75 deaths from COVID-19.
Massachusetts Chapter 908’s Bruce Dobson met twice via Zoom with the VVA National Agent Orange Committee. Topics included the new VA secretary, Agent Orange, and pending legislative action.
Massachusetts Chapter 907 donated $2,000 to the Mount Wachusett Community College Veterans Scholarship program. The chapter has done this for the past 10 years and was able to continue the tradition despite fundraising issues due to COVID-19. Chapter 907 also participated in the City of Gardner Veterans Day program at City Hall.
During the pandemic Chapter 207 in Westport, Massachusetts, has continued to provide military honors for veterans in the South Coast region of Massachusetts. The chapter recently purchased a newer bus to continue its services to area veterans. Two members have died from COVID-19.
In Fall River, Massachusetts, the dedication of an 80-percent scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is set for May 15. The dedication was scheduled for fall 2020, but construction delays and restrictions on gatherings prevented it from happening. Today, with construction nearly completed and walkways and final landscaping to be completed by early April, the dedication should proceed as scheduled. The New England Region will be home to only the fourth 80 percent scale of The Wall in the country. To view videos of The Wall and read updates, go to Vietnammemorialwall.org
The Vermont State Council has received a VVA VSO Benefits Committee grant for 2021. The SC continues to use Zoom for quarterly meetings to keep in touch with its chapters and the membership.
New Hampshire Chapter 992 continues to publish its award-winning newsletter. If you would like to subscribe or learn how it is produced, contact Vice President Carl Floyd at 18 Gorham Dr., Dunbarton, NH 03046 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe and keep your news coming in.
Winter is finally behind us. It’s best to leave the woodchucks alone and let them sleep.
I’d like to thank the VVA Officers for all the hours of work they have put in and the tough decisions they have had to make to bring us through this horrific pandemic. I believe the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.
Many chapters are having virtual meetings and I have joined some of them. They are working, and I really enjoy seeing some members for the first time.
Versions of the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial will journey through Region 2 this year. Hope to see you there.
The future of VVA and its membership was the overriding concern of a recent Region 3 meeting. We first discussed VVA’s 2021 National Convention planned for Greensboro, North Carolina. The option of a virtual meeting was beaten to death by members from our seven states mainly because the logistics seem impossible and undeveloped, to say the least.
Is a virtual meeting a possibility? The membership continues to look forward to a face-to-face meeting along with its social agenda: the discussion of each other’s health, personal endeavors, family updates, and above all the handshakes and hugs. These have always been important parts of our conferences and conventions.
The effect of COVID-19 on VVA meetings also is still in question. We understand our options and understand a national committee is examining the possibility of a virtual Convention. One suggestion: Perhaps VVA should wait until late November and reassess the option of an actual in-person assembly.
One of the major complaints I receive is about the suspension of The VVA Veteran print edition. Many members do not use the Internet. The print magazine has kept members connected by providing a sense of belonging and a great way to stay in touch with the rest of the organization throughout the nation. The Vet Centers also have asked why they no longer receive copies of the magazine.
The uncertainty of VVA’s finances had forced the organization to discontinue mailing the magazine to members and to make it available online only. It is with great pleasure I learned that VVA members will begin receiving a printed copy of the magazine beginning with this March/April issue. Thanks for the return of The VVA Veteran.
Region 3 continues to meet on a limited basis. Personal travel is beginning to resume. This year lots of decisions will be made. We move forward slowly, but we are not at a standstill.
Little has changed in the region, and most communication is virtual. I can’t wait until we can meet again in person. Whether the National Convention is virtual or live, you need to get your delegates ready and updated on the issues. For those who postponed elections due to the virus, make sure you get the election results to national as soon as possible.
IN THE REGION
Iowa: VVA chapters have been hit by the pandemic just like everyone else, reports SC President Greg Paulline. It has been hard to have in-person meetings and most chapters do not meet. Chapters 798 and 947 are again meeting in person and Chapter 490 is giving Zoom meetings a try.
Fundraising has been slow. Chapter 798 is planning gun shows and raffles. Chapters 947, 776, and 490 hope to have clover sales again soon. Chapters 776 and 490 are participating in the new HyVee reusable red grocery bag program. Chapter 776 secured a grant to provide holiday food baskets.
Chapter 798 donated to the county food pantry. Chapter 490 is preparing its scholarship program. Chapter 776 member Lyle Peterson helped install an Americal Monument at the Rock Island National Cemetery. With the financial support of its chapters, the Iowa VSO program is going strong.
North Dakota. According to SC President Dan Stenvold, “We’ve been pretty much shut down due to COVID-19, except for an in-person state council meeting in July, but now we have an occasional Zoom meeting.”
South Dakota: SC President R. Jack Dean plans to have an in-person state council meeting on May 15. Chapter 463 will start its annual fundraising raffle on May 1. The VAMCs in Fort Meade and Hot Springs are doing a fantastic job of getting veterans vaccinated.
Wisconsin: A Zoom state council meeting was held in November. Members from several chapters attended. Chapters were brought up to date on what is going on at National and around the state. SC President Richard Lindbeck’s name was used in a scam that targets veterans. An email he received said that VVA was helping veterans and gave a number to call. “The email was from a bogus account that used my name and signature as well as the state council,” Lindbeck said.
Be safe and take care of each other.
Whoever said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Well, VVA members had better get ready to learn a new type of National Convention. It is looking more likely that we will be holding a virtual Convention this summer. Our National Officers are looking into how to accomplish this.
I’m asking the members of Region 7 to be patient and to keep an open mind as the Officers put this together. Will there be problems with this format? Of course there will. We will have delegates attending this virtual Convention with little or no computer skills and some whose computers or programs are incompatible with the host format. We all must have patience and understanding and work together as a team to accomplish the mission at hand. This mission is to carry out the corporation’s business and to determine the future of Vietnam Veterans of America.
It is important that all Region 7 chapters and state councils have their Financial and Election Reports turned in on time in order to be able to vote and attend the 2021 Convention.
In closing, remember to get your vaccination for the virus and keep in touch with your fellow Vietnam veterans. You have no idea what this may mean to your brother and sister veterans.
I am extremely proud of the leadership of the Region 8 state and chapter officers, employed staff, volunteers, and membership. Prior to and during the past pandemic year this has been repeatedly and keenly demonstrated. The end result has been successful meetings, events, and programs that serve veterans and their families.
Regrettably, during the past several months the pandemic has greatly affected our ability to maintain a high level of hands-on activities. Aside from Zoom meetings, we have not been able to hold any in-person events or state council meetings. This does not mean that we are inactive; it means that we have been severely restricted by the pandemic, and we have made adjustments to meet the needs of veterans and their families.
Regardless of COVID-19 restrictions, Region 8 VVA VSOs continue to provide effective services to veterans by working remotely. Their commitment and dedication to helping veterans during these challenging times is commendable and invaluable. We proudly stand with them and salute them for a job well done.
I have written hundreds of recommendation letters for students, character references for administration positions, and support for political appointments. I am proud to say that I recently joined Bob Seal, the president of VVA Chapter 1025, and wrote a letter to Joe A. Palmer, the chair on the Idaho House of Representatives’ Transportation and Defense Committee. We asked for his support in designating Idaho U.S. Route 26 the POW/MIA Memorial Highway. It was an honor to help my brothers and sisters in Idaho, and I hope that others will submit letters of support for this noble cause.
We will not be deterred by this pandemic. Take care of yourselves and pray that someday we will again be able to visit each other again.
BY DICK SOUTHERN
Here is what Region 9 chapters and state councils have been doing during the Great Interruption.
Philippines: Meetings resumed in person with face masks and social distancing. Porac Children’s Home, which Chapter 887 sponsors, received gift bags and other items for Christmas, but the party was canceled due to COVID restrictions. Social events have been suspended until members decide it is safe for them to resume.
Arizona: 2020 was not necessarily a great year, but it was a good one for some. Gene Crego and I presented National Achievement Medals to staff members at the Phoenix VA, the Prescott VA, and the Tucson VA, along with medals to two members of the Phoenix VA Regional Office and two members of TriCare. Even with the state COVID-19 restrictions, we were able to hold a state council meeting and elections last October.
Utah: The Vietnam Combat War Dog Memorial was dedicated in December. The state council and several Utah chapters participated in Wreaths Across America programs, a Fallen Law Enforcement Memorial program, and are preparing to be involved in Honor 365 (a 20th anniversary commemoration of 9/11), Utah K9 Veterans Day, and National Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremonies.
Colorado: Chapter 1071 donated a new flag pole and flags for a local high school and continued its Honors Burial Program for unclaimed veterans’ cremains to be interred at Ft. Logan National Cemetery. The chapter held a ceremony for a UH-HM Huey helicopter, which Retired Col. Bill McPherson donated to the Wings Over the Rockies air museum in Denver.
Nevada: Chapters have been staying in contact via phone and email. Smaller chapters still meet while maintaining the state requirements for gatherings. Some chapters are using Zoom and similar formats to stay in touch. Other chapters are using Facebook pages. The state council is looking into alternate fundraising activities such as Go Fund Me.
Hawaii: Chapter 858 last met in February 2020. In September members participated in VJ Day ceremonies; the chapter president flew over the battleship Missouri in a World War II PBY2 flying boat patrol bomber. Donations of Halloween party items were made to the Oahu VA Convalescent Hospital. The chapter also donated food for Thanksgiving and Christmas to the VA for needy veterans, participated in the “I Am Not Invisible” project, and donated to Wreaths Across America.
New Mexico: The state council distributed its Household Goods income, $7,700, among its chapters. The funds will underwrite chapter efforts such as supporting local food banks and kitchens, scholarships, direct veteran assistance and transportation, and the expansion of Vietnam War education efforts at Angel Fire. Las Cruces Chapter 431 resumed its monthly food drives and collected more than $4,000 worth of food and cash. Former State Council President Frank Ramirez died.
California: The state council continues to adapt to COVID restrictions. The state convention, which has been rescheduled four times, is set for May 6-8. The SC Board continues to have virtual forums and is in the process of including chapters in virtual meetings via Zoom.
I urge you all to stay safe and well and check on your buddies. Wear a mask, keep a social distance, wash your hands often, and get vaccinated. You can contact me at email@example.com with questions or concerns.
BY DOTTIE BARICKMAN
The average age of Vietnam veterans is 72. This takes me down the path of explaining where all the people have gone. I never really wanted to stop at this age—or any age—but have wanted to keep looking ahead as there is much left to do for veterans. I have always pushed ahead and kept my passion for service to veterans in the forefront.
However, aging citizens and aging veterans at some point cross the path of no return as their health declines. Their eyes can no longer see as well and their joints hurt. Their memory is vivid of past events (maybe not always accurate), but they cannot seem to grasp a person’s name quickly or they misuse words.
Feeling afraid is a normal emotion and I have heard this more and more lately: Afraid for family, friends, and quietly for themselves. As VVA chapters continue to work with their communities and with other veterans, the one phrase that stands out is, “I’m too old.”
A small group of Vietnam veterans decided late in life to build a veterans memorial plaza here in Nebraska. Veterans and volunteers of all ages are always welcome to help with this project to carry on the legacy of Vietnam veterans. I am amazed at how many younger citizens and younger veterans are stepping up. Just to hear a veteran say, “I am now retired and looking for something to do,” then to learn that the retired veteran is from another generation, is surreal.
With so much work ahead of us on the plaza and other veterans’ issues, it’s refreshing that younger veterans want to stand with us to honor an older generation of veterans. VVA’s founding principle, “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another,” resonates across all generations and has been adopted by many others. This respect warms the heart.
The VVA Board met virtually with representatives of Veterans Voice of America in February. The presentation by this group of young veteran advocates was eye-opening. The passion they demonstrated to help all veterans stood out. Part of their mission is “to take a veteran’s claim from to start to finish, assigning a team of advocates to the claimant.”
Navigating through the VA is daunting. A group willing to start a nonprofit to handle veterans compensation and benefit claims is courageous and needed. This is an organization that we should keep an eye on over the next few years.
Thank you for your support. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 712-314-1808.
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