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Directorsí Reports, November/December 2023 -   -  
   

During my initial quarter as Region 1 Director, Iíve had the pleasure of engaging with members and participating in noteworthy events throughout the region. One such privilege was meeting with VVA Connecticut State Council President Patricia Dumin to present a Chapel of Four Chaplains award to Peter Galgano, Jr., who was unable to attend the Convention in Orlando to receive it.

I also went to Rutland, Vermont, at the invitation of Bill Ellwood, the newly appointed president of Chapter One, and the chapterís Board of Directors. I delivered a speech at a ceremony the chapter held to honor its past presidents.

Embracing its role as a pioneering group, the chapter proudly calls itself ďFirst in the Nation.Ē In light of the recent Convention resolution to put off VVAís dissolution until a time to be determined, the chapter has aptly supplemented their motto with ďFirst In, Last Out,Ē a sentiment proposed by a Chapter One board member.

Iím thrilled to report that Massachusetts and Rhode Island chapters are experiencing surges in membership. The vitality in these chapters is palpable, signaling a promising future for our organization in Region 1.


In 2013, Region 2ís membership stood at 12,997. Fast forward to 2023. Our latest membership total is 15,078. This represents an average increase of 208 members a year. Remarkably, during the past year alone, Region 2 has gained 268 members. This achievement is especially noteworthy, considering that Region 2 is composed of only four states.

In VVAís early years, Region 2 adopted the motto, ďBringing the Best Together,Ē and this sentiment continues to hold true today.

Vietnam Veterans of America has consistently been a stellar organization, and we have further improved with the recent hiring of Phillip Waite as Managing Director. I've had the opportunity to collaborate with him twice, and I am more than satisfied with the outcomes.

We recently concluded our October Board of Directors meeting. The committee chairs have returned, and the Board has approved the committee members.

Carlton Rhodes will again serve as the alternate director for Region 2 for the next two years.

The Region 2 Disciplinary Committee will include the following members: Grant Coates, Chair; Ned Foote, New York; Phil Pesano, New Jersey; Larry Googins, Pennsylvania; Paul Davis, Delaware; Carlton Rhodes, New Jersey: Sam Hall, New York; Sandy Miller, Pennsylvania; Terry Baker, Delaware; and Dennis Beauregard, New Jersey.


The October VVA Board meeting in Silver Spring was meticulously organized and proved to be highly beneficial for all participants. Following the National Convention in Orlando, most of VVAís national committee chairs were reappointed. New chairs were appointed to other committees in October, ensuring that VVA continues to make informed decisions in its day-to-day operations.

Iíd like to reacquaint you with Region 3, which encompasses Kentucky, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Itís challenging to cover everything that transpires in each state. I receive updates about state council meetings, daily outreach programs, and events in all the states.

We have found a hotel in an affordable and suitable location for the Region 3 Conference in February. It will take place in the last days of the month in the scenic mountain town of Asheville, N.C., near the famed Biltmore Estate. There is plenty to explore and enjoy in Asheville, even in February.

I would like to express my gratitude to all seven Region 3 states for their invaluable input and financial support. It is a pleasure to collaborate with Region 3 members and visit chapters and state councils, which consistently demonstrate active support for veterans.


I had the privilege of attending the Indiana State Council meeting on October 14 at the Grissom Air Museum in Peru, Indiana. Mike Goodpaster, the president of Chapter 259, accompanied me on the drive from Michigan. The gathering proved to be enlightening, with lunch served and substantive discussions about the Orlando Convention and the VSO program.

On October 17, I was honored to address the Kiwanis in Dearborn, Michigan. During the meeting, I presented 50th Anniversary pins to Vietnam War veterans in recognition of their service.

The National Board meeting later that week was also on my agenda. I was pleased to see Region 5 well- represented, with Fred Barks, Mike Dolan, Richard Arthur, and myself in attendance. Barks, who serves as the Assistant Region 5 Director, was particularly noteworthy.

President Jack McManus gave an insightful report on VVAís Household Goods Donation Program. Unfortunately, due to a family commitment, I had to depart a day earlier, with Fred Barks graciously stepping in to represent the Region.


VVA membership has now surpassed 90,000, with Region 6 boasting 9,990 VVA members and 1,000 AVVA members. Letís continue to recruit new members. One untapped source is the group of veterans who served during the Vietnam War who might not feel they are Vietnam War veterans because they did not serve in-country. In a similar vein, VVA members should consider dual membership in AVVA.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the convention in Orlando due to illness. I extend my gratitude to Region 6 for re-electing me as their director. I did stream the convention and saw clearly that the membership has chosen not to set a date for VVAís dissolution.

Updates to the VVA Constitution and the Resolutions adopted at the convention are available on the VVA website. Please note that a corrected version of the Constitution dated 10-26-23 will soon be posted. Be sure to shred any copies dated 9-8-23.

If your state is interested in hosting a Town Hall next spring, please reach out to me early so we can start planning. We must continue to help Region 6 veterans with updated information, claims procedures through VVA service officers, and life planning.

Please be aware that the new PO Box for National is PO Box 49030, as the old PO Box is now closed.


Greetings to all. Itís an honor to serve as Region 7 Director. Since my appointment in August, Iíve attended meetings in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas and am gearing up to visit Oklahoma in the near future. I firmly believe that collaboration is the key to our success, and to this end, Iím exploring the possibility of convening a Region 7 meeting to foster stronger ties.

Promoting our membership sits at the top of my agenda. Itís imperative that we raise awareness about our organization. Surprisingly, many Vietnam War veterans remain unaware of our existence. Leveraging media coverage can greatly aid in spreading our message. A case in point is the recent honor bestowed upon Vietnam veterans: serving as the Grand Marshals of the Beauregard Parish Fair the first week of October in De Ridder, Louisiana. Taking part in the parade was exhilarating and was also an excellent opportunity to garner visibility. Events of this nature can significantly boost our membership and support base.

Iím acutely aware of the legacy left behind by my predecessor, Dennis Andras. He executed his role as regional director with unmatched dedication, and while the shoes I have to fill are large, I am wholeheartedly committed to the task. In this vein, Iím in search of a deputy director. I kindly request state council presidents to send recommendations for my consideration.

Your support and trust mean the world to me. Iím eager to serve the veterans community and drive our objectives forward. Thank you for your unwavering commitment.


Iíd like to begin by reflecting on the National Convention in Orlando and express my gratitude to all the Region 8 delegates. These individuals joined our brothers and sisters in participating in, and making decisions on, many issues discussed at the Convention. I am pleased and proud of the large number of delegates who attended from each state in Region 8. A special mention goes to Alaska, which had a full complement of delegates in attendance who traveled a great distance to be there.

After the convention, I had the honor of attending the 26th anniversary commemoration of Bozeman, Montana, Chapter 788 with VVA Vice President Tom Burke. The event was well-organized and well-attended. The next day, I joined Montana State Council President Chuck Renevier on a visit with the members of Chapter 334 in Billings.

Alaska SC President Craig Wade persists in his efforts to provide effective VSO services to the stateís veterans. Despite challenges, attendance at chapter and state council meetings is on the rise. Alaska was the only state to send a full delegation to the National Convention. I plan to attend their state council meeting in January.

I wish to thank Idaho SC President Vern Peterson for his leadership and commitment to veterans. While he will continue to serve as an officer, his successor will be Paul Sherman.

I attended the Oregon State Council meeting on November 18 at the Oregon Veteransí Home in Lebanon. Umpqua Valley, Chapter 805 President Bill Duncan and his members have been notably active. They awarded $9,000 in scholarships to Douglas County high school students this year. In September, nine chapter members traveled to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight. Their ongoing efforts to reestablish the Roseburg VA Medical Center continue; VVA is firmly committed to supporting their endeavors.

I would like to thank Dick Tobiason, chair of the Bend Heroes Foundation, for his exceptional work in getting legislation passed to honor veterans and their families. The legislation honors Oregon Gold Star Families with a Memorial Highway across the state on Highway 30. Six years ago, he played a role in enacting legislation that designates Highway 20, from coast to coast, as the Medal of Honor Highway.

Washington is progressing quite well. Our VSO program, led by CSO Jeannie Ebert, is expanding, and we continue to lead the state in processing claims. Our membership continues to grow, and all of our chapters are actively involved in events, including stand-downs, car shows, dinners, awards, and the construction of ramps and remodeled homes for disabled veterans and their families.

A special thanks to the Hammer Heads of Chapter 423 and Ron Wilson and Larry Montgomery from Chapter 165 for their construction work. Peace.


VVA now has an all-time high of more than 91,000 members. Next year, we are eagerly anticipating the National Leadership & Education Conference in August at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, Nevada. I am optimistic about seeing a strong turnout from Region 9 members at this event. Itíll be a wonderful opportunity to host a national event in the western U.S.

One of my objectives moving forward is to encourage each state council in Region 9 to expand by increasing the number of chapters in their states. Several Chapter Start-Up kits have been distributed, and we are keenly awaiting their return.

I am committed to continuing my advocacy for veterans and their families in Region 9. This includes attending state council and chapter meetings across the region, as well as participating in National meetings and events.

I hope and pray for everyoneís safety and well-being. Please remember to check on your comrades. Letís also revive the practice of attending meetings regularly and redoubling our efforts to recruit new members.

If you have any questions or concerns, please donít hesitate to contact me at dick.southern@gmail.com


AT-LARGE

In October, we held the first Board of Directors and Conference of State Council Presidents meetings since the National Convention in Orlando. During these meetings, members expressed their interest in joining specific committees and appointments were made.

I am pleased to announce that I will continue to serve as the Credentials Committee chair for the next convention in New Orleans in 2025. Additionally, I have been appointed as secretary of the Membership Affairs Committee.

The CSCP meeting took place on Thursday, October 20. I represented Wisconsin in the absence of the SC president who was unable to travel. We were delighted to see a substantial turnout of state presidents, with all but four attending the meeting.

The BOD meeting followed on the morning of October 21, during which we discussed the future of VVA. We acknowledged that there is work ahead of us, particularly concerning the Strategic Plan for Dissolution. It is crucial that we keep our state councils and chapters updated on our progress. Importantly, we must clarify to the membership that while we are working on the dissolution of the corporation, VVA as an organization is not dissolving.

We also received information that the Leadership Conference is set to take place in Reno from August 20-24 next year. I encourage everyone to attend and consider assuming a leadership role in VVA. The Conference Planning Committee is diligently assembling sessions and events for the conference.


AT-LARGE

I trust that everyone is doing well. I recently attended my first regular Board of Directors meeting on October 20 and 21. I was impressed with the proceedings and gained a deeper understanding of the processes.

I took part in three committee meetings: POW/MIA, Economic Opportunities (which I chair), and the 2024 National Leadership & Education Planning Committee. There are many wonderful initiatives happening in each, and I strongly encourage members to join a committee. Your participation is what makes each committee valuable, all while you work diligently to assist your fellow veterans.

I hope you have a fantastic holiday season, and letís strive to make 2024 a year to remember for the veterans. God bless.


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