|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Directors’ Reports, May/June 2022|
With the long winter over, the troops across New England have been getting active.
Alternate Region 1 Director Justin Latini attended the April BOD meeting as I recovered from a hip replacement. After reading the 628-page report from the Board of Inquiry I had a couple of questions I hoped to get answered regarding the last-man-standing situation and Veterans’ Voice of America. At this writing I am still processing those answers. I expect to know soon enough.
One comment I would have made had I been able to attend was to commend whoever said the transition to Veterans’ Voice of America as originally written read more like a hostile takeover than a merger. That was the way I read it also. While I endorse Veterans’ Voice of America as a logical solution to continuing VVA’s mission, I did not like the wording of the draft. But it was just a draft.
Twenty-five graves were discovered in the Binh Dinh battlefield area thanks to information provided by an unidentified American veteran. With a reported 60-80 KIA at the site, the excavation is continuing with the expectation that more remains will be found. As vice chair of the POW/MIA Committee, I found the news extraordinary and hope that it will also result in the discovery of remains of our brothers.
Massachusetts State Council President Gumersindo Gomez reports that State Rep. Orlando Ramos and Sen. Adam Gomez came to his outreach center in Springfield to present a check for $100,000 for the veterans benefits program. This will allow him to pay the VSOs throughout the state through FY24.
In FY21 the VSOs brought in $45 million in claims money to the state. Gomez reports that nearly all his VSOs have completed the advanced training in what he believes is a pilot program in Massachusetts and Michigan. This is the highest accreditation from VA, without working directly for the VA. All VA claims will be paperless, and VSOs must be capable of handling the claims properly. Outstanding work by all involved in Massachusetts.
On April 3 a ceremony was held in Springfield, Mass., honoring Vietnam veterans and those from the city who fell in battle. Gumersindo Gomez, Mayor Dominic Sarno, and Rep. Richard Neal placed a wreath at the memorial across from City Hall. Dozens of Vietnam vets and their families turned out for the annual event.
Rhode Island reports they are in the process of submitting nominees for VVA’s JROTC medal.
The Vermont State Council will be cooking hot dogs and hamburgers for the residents of the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington in June, prior to their meeting there. The state council has not held a meeting in person at the Home in more than six months due to COVID-19.
New Hampshire Chapter 992 released its latest newsletter. The chapter lost a key member and one of the main contributors to its newsletter, Carl Floyd. RIP, brother. Peter Prunier will take over as editor.
Chapter president Melvin Murrel reminds members to be sure their affairs are in order. Does a family member know where your DD-214, will, life insurance, and other paperwork are located? Don’t leave loved ones the extra burden of trying to chase down what they need to take care of arrangements while going through an already difficult time.
The chapter will host an Agent Orange workshop in August.
Murrel will continue to serve as New Hampshire State Council president until December when it is likely that the state council will dissolve. I will work with the chapters to see if it is possible to avoid losing another state council, but it seems to be a trend nationwide as we age.
Please send me any information you would like to see in the next issue of The Veteran at firstname.lastname@example.org Until then, stay safe and enjoy spring.
Going back to Greenville, South Carolina, is going to be wonderful: Beautiful city, veteran loving, nice atmosphere, and great weather. I’m looking forward to seeing you there. You do not have to be in a leadership position to attend the National Leadership & Education Conference.
Delaware Chapter 1105 held a meeting on March 15 that was well attended and included members from chapters across the state. President Jack McManus and I awarded VVA Achievement medals to thirteen members. We were presented with quilts of honor by the Delaware Quilts of Honor president.
On April 8-9 I attended the New York State Council meeting, along with representatives from sixteen chapters. It was another informative meeting as I learned about chapter activities. Thanks to everyone for your never-ending advocacy for veterans’ rights.
I observed Easter at Trinity Episcopal Church in Warsaw, New York—the old church that Nyla and I attended for many years. Next on my agenda was the April 22-23 VVA Board of Directors meeting in Silver Spring.
STATE COUNCIL ELECTIONS
Three states in Region 2 will hold elections in June. Good luck to all those who are running.
Pennsylvania State Council: June 11 at the Ramada Inn & Conference Center in State College; 814-238-3001
New York State Council: June 18 at Tioga Downs Casino Resort
New Jersey State Council: June 26 at VFW Post 4303 in Hazlet
Region 3, as always, continues group conversations and idea sharing. This process keeps everyone well informed as we share thoughts and plans among the state councils.
I was unable to attend the March 29 National Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremony at The Wall. Instead, I was volunteered that day for another event that involved Vietnam Veterans of America.
In Cherokee, N.C., the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians was dedicating the new Burgess-Oocumma Veterans Memorial Cemetery. VVA was asked to speak about two Vietnam veterans buried there. It was a cold, windy day. This was another opportunity for VVA to support the Eastern Band of the Cherokees.
The Tennessee State Council took part in the May 6 Valley Fest in Dunlop. It was a well-attended veterans event with so many activities it would be hard to mention them all. It’s a relaxing and heartwarming association with veterans of all wars.
North Carolina has entered into an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs unique to the state. The partnership is working with homeless veterans through the VA Medical Centers. The funding for this program comes from a court order and the holographic will of a woman whose husband and son served in Vietnam.
All Region 3 states are managing their state meetings and continuing to return to normal.
On March 29 Vietnam Veterans of America commemorated Vietnam War Veterans Day with a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., followed by a reception at the National Press Club. All Officers, Board of Directors, and State Presidents were invited. The morning of the event was sunny yet cold, and the attendees were seated in chairs on the grassy hill with a striking view of The Wall.
After the dedications and speeches, a woman and her teenaged daughter came up to me and thanked me for my service. The woman told me that her father had served for ten years and was a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam. He was killed March 10, 1967, when his C-47 plane crashed in Ninh Thuan. Back home, his daughter had just turned three.
As the three of us walked and talked, she pointed out her father’s name etched in The Wall: John C. Crawford.
His daughter, now a 58-year-old woman, decided to join us at the reception. The pair weren’t sure how to get to the Press Club, so we invited this Gold Star family to ride with us on the bus. During the ride, the woman revealed that her mother had recently died, and it became clear that she had come to the March 29 event hoping to find a connection to her father once again.
I couldn’t help but think about how hard it must have been for a little girl to lose her father so young—to miss an entire lifetime of memories. It must have been equally devastating for her mother to lose her husband, her provider, and her co-parent all at once. The woman seemed so proud to be able to be a part of our event, hear our stories, and share the experience with her own daughter.
The ceremony itself was beautiful and the reception afterward exceptional, but seeing this woman and her teenaged daughter enjoying the fellowship of Vietnam veterans made it particularly special. As much as we appreciate opportunities to come together to celebrate the living and remember the lost, it was wonderful to be a source of connection for a family left behind.
Thanks to each of you for all that you do to promote VVA. May God bless each of us and keep us safe.
I can be reached at 912-387-6551 or email@example.com
Region 5 will have new state officers in three states. Cliff Riley, president of the Buckeye State Council, has resigned due to health issues. Jim Oakes has stepped up from vice president to become president. Treasurer Larry Frazee also has resigned because of health issues. Both have been instrumental in helping me with Region 5 preconvention conferences. Indiana and Illinois have indicated that they also will have new presidents.
The Buckeye State Council and the Illinois State Council will meet and hold elections on June 11. The Indiana State Council and the Michigan State Council will hold their meetings and elections on May 21.
I attended the VVA-hosted Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremonies at The Wall in D.C. on March 29. Gary Estermyer attended the ceremonies with me. It was a sobering event filled with memories of those friends I have lost since becoming a member of VVA. Many of our brothers and sisters are not here today to celebrate our day with us.
This was my sixth trip to The Wall; the first was in 1988 with Chapter 267.
In 2017 the Board of Directors authorized two working groups to delve into the future of VVA. Working Group 1 was to deal with the eventual closing of VVA and Working Group 2 would explore the possibility of merging with or creating a new organization. Working group 1 finished its report, presented it at the 2018 Leadership Conference, and submitted it to the National Board in 2019. Working Group 1 attempted to present its report at the 2019 National Convention, but no discussion was allowed.
The Working Group 1 report is now available for all to read. Go to www.vva.org , click on “Info for Members, Organizational Document and Policies,” then scroll down to “Strategic Plan for Dissolution.” It is 72 pages. While never adopted, I feel many of the report’s recommendations were implemented during the pandemic to minimize activities during the worst of COVID.
The Wisconsin State Council had its first in-person meetings the third weekend in March. We had one of the best meeting attendance-wise in many years. Lots of new faces from our chapters and lots of information shared. I missed the Kansas State Council meeting, which was on ZOOM, due to activities with my grandchildren.
If other state councils have ZOOM meetings, let me know and I will try to attend.
The Texas State Council held its elections for state officers April 1-3 in Baytown. The only change was that Jim Boyd was elected treasurer. I congratulate the current and past officers for the service they have rendered to Texas’ veterans community.
The Oklahoma State Council held its elections on April 30 at the Saddleback Inn & Conference Center in Oklahoma City. The Louisiana State Council will be holding its Convention and elections in Kinder on June 24-26. The Arkansas State Council elections and meeting will be June 11 at Ft. Smith.
A few chapters in Region 7 still have not sent in their financial reports or elections reports. This has put them on National’s suspension list. If you have any problems with this, contact your state council and ask for help to complete the paperwork. They are there to help you.
As time passes, we are experiencing the loss of fellow VVA members at an alarming rate—men and women whom we have all come to know and love. We don’t know if we will live to see them at our next encounter, so when we meet in person we should celebrate life to the fullest. When we part, we should part as brothers because we never know what the future has in store for us.
The Grim Reaper is working overtime when it comes to our members. Even though we cheated him once before, we will not be able to cheat him again.
We are finally beginning to see some positive changes related to the pandemic; unfortunately, we are still under some restrictions and that continues to have an impact on our efforts to successfully hold meetings and events that benefit VVA and the veterans community.
The Washington State Council meeting was held April 9 at the Yakama Warriors Veterans Building in Toppenish. Our March 29 Vietnam War Veterans Day event was hosted by Alfie Alvarado, the director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, at the Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Olympia.
Oregon held its state council meeting April 16. Unfortunately, President Jim Fleming was under the weather, so they had a virtual meeting on Zoom.
President Craig Wade held the Alaska State Council meeting April 26 at the Vet Center in Anchorage. The state council’s VSO program continues to effectively serve Alaska’s veterans.
The Montana State Council meeting was held April 30 at the American Legion in Bozeman. President Chuck Renevier had a full agenda that included veteran community events.
Idaho has scheduled its state council meeting for June 25 at Sandpoint. President Vern Peterson is preparing the agenda.
We have not given up on our brothers in Wyoming. We have made contact with two Vietnam veterans who are interested in re-establishing chapters in their state. We remain optimistic that we will be able to help.
All states in Region 8 have major events planned for the summer, but we will have to wait on what restrictions will be in place due to the pandemic. We will do our part and continue serving veterans and their families. And I will attend all state council meetings.
On the VVA Front: Between Board meetings and Committee meetings the work is never ending. With the change in VVA leadership, there are learning curves on both ends. With the VVA staff, simply knowing the person in the past does not equate to knowing the person in a new role.
Transitions seem easy when we are on the outside looking in, but it takes two years to learn a new role, two years to practice the new role, and two more years to perfect the role. An example of a path I am undertaking is the switch from being a Finance Committee member to being the Finance Committee Chair. Through my lens, the roles are vastly different. Those before me, hands down, I do not know how they kept up.
I often look back and remember the days when I thought I had it easy and look at the days ahead and think I have a lot to master. With the help of our impressive Finance Committee members, we will all master our roles and continue to keep our eyes and ears open.
The Finance Committee works often in between on-site meetings. The Finance Committee’s Budget-to-Actual Subcommittee reviews the annual budget each month against the actual funds spent and produces a high-level BOD report.
The Finance Committee is also reviewing all BOD financial policies for clarity, punctuation, content, and purpose. In addition to those tasks, we also will be retiring Board motions that have been executed, expired, or replaced.
On the Veteran Front: Part of my mission includes helping veterans file claims and navigate the VA Medical Center. The importance of both seems to be common conversations among veterans. The pandemic has caused many backlogs. But as we move away from the pandemic, we need to push back on excuses and hold everyone accountable. It is a daunting journey, but well worth it.
On the Home Front: The Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial held a groundbreaking event on Vietnam War Veterans Day, March 29, at the SumTur Amphitheater near where the memorial will be constructed. The projected dedication is spring 2023.
I continue to lead the Memorial’s Education History Committee and have added several new components to our platform: Project Share Your Story and Project Teach the Children. Share Your Story’s task is to videorecord Vietnam veterans from across Nebraska. Currently we have about 38,000 Vietnam-era veterans living in our state. Teach the Children is a partnership with Papillion La Vista School District to begin teaching grades 3-7 the history of the Vietnam War by using our lesson plans, which are on our website, www.nvvmf.org
Mission Statement: My highest priority and commitment is to ensure that the veterans who served for us will be served by us.
I would like to thank the VVA Board of Directors for choosing me to fill Kerwin Stone’s position on the Board. I wish Kerwin the best.
For those who may not know me, I am one of a few who has remained with VVA for over forty years. After not-so-nice experiences with the traditional veterans service organizations, someone from VVA came knocking and asked me to attend a meeting of what was then a new group. Reluctantly I went. When asked if anyone had never been to a meeting before, I stood up. Eighty or so veterans in the room started clapping and saying “Welcome Home!” Tears ran down my face.
I joined and quickly began to learn who we are. I started Chapter 79 and served as president for five years. Eventually, I became involved with the New York State Council and held many positions. In 2005 I was elected NYSC president, replacing John Rowan who became National President. I still hold that position.
I became involved on the national level when I was appointed to the Finance Committee in 2004. I became the chair of that committee in 2009; last year I stepped down to allow some new blood and to take a much-needed break.
When Kerwin Stone became ill and could no longer serve—and me being around forever—I thought I could lend my experience to the BOD. I have attended BOD and CSCP meetings since 1998, not missing any more than you can count on one hand. Also, I have attended every VVA National Convention. I believe I have the knowledge and know our history. Sometimes we need to take a step back before we move forward, and we need to know where we came from and how we got to where we are.
I played a role in VVA’s formation and development over the years, and I want to be part of moving toward that light switch as we age out. So again, thanks to all of you. I will do my best as always.
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