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July/August 2023 -   -  

Mandatory National Service: Can VVA Do This?   


During the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration on the National Mall in May I had the privilege of interacting with many esteemed VVA members. That included Jerry Moreno from Chapter 49 in Westchester, N.Y, who approached me with a question for which I had no answer:

“Does VVA have a position, or do we know our members’ opinions, about requiring some type of mandatory National Service?” In response to the question, I acknowledged that I had not yet come across any official VVA position on mandatory National Service.

Moreno then asked me why VVA hasn’t addressed the question. He had a valid point. As Vietnam War veterans, shouldn’t we share our thoughts on mandatory National Service: requiring all American young people, upon reaching a certain age, to be obligated to serve the nation in some capacity.

In a society that emphasizes acceptance and inclusion, is there merit in preserving the perspective of our experiences with the unfair Vietnam War conscription process that led to today’s professional military force often referred to as the all-volunteer military?

Should we consider conducting a member survey to establish a definitive VVA position on National Service? While we may engage in personal debates on this issue, it is only through active participation of every VVA member that we can reach a consensus. Additionally, is it possible for supporting mandatory National Service to become a part of VVA’s legacy? And should we try to have a VVA position prepared in time for the 2025 National Convention? Your insights on this matter are greatly appreciated.

Persistence Rewarded

After an extended and determined effort spanning several years, Spanish-speaking veterans, predominantly residing in Puerto Rico, will now receive notices from the VA in a language they can understand. Joshua Jacobs, the VA Undersecretary of Benefits, has informed us that the implementation of the translation protocol is ahead of schedule. This accomplishment owes much to the advocacy and collaborative efforts of VVA chapters in Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico State Council President Jorge Pedroza, VVA Special Advisor Marc McCabe, and the dedicated VVA staff.

USAID & DOD's 'Veterans Initiative' Programs

For more than 30 years, VVA’s Veterans Initiative has collaborated with U.S veterans in an ongoing effort to identify Vietnamese individuals who went missing in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The program has yielded fate-clarifying information, which, in turn, has resulted in the recovery of some 1,200 former enemy combatants. This goodwill and dedication have also fostered an increased willingness on the part of the Vietnamese to share additional information about American MIAs.

Following a three-year interruption in travel because of the pandemic, VVA’s Veterans Initiative resumed its operations in Vietnam in May. The primary objectives were to restore faith, reconnect with veterans, and reaffirm VVA’s unwavering commitment to the recovery of those still missing.

While in Hanoi, the VI team discovered that the Department of Defense and USAID have recently launched their own “Veterans Initiative” programs. It seems we had the right idea all along. You can find a detailed report of the 21-day mission at https://vva.org/vi-in-vietnam-2023/"




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Geoffrey Clifford Mark F. Erickson Chuck Forsman