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Directorsí Reports, January/February 2024 -   -  

As we reflect on the past year, our dedication to commemorating our fallen brothers and sisters remains unwavering. Throughout 2023, chapters across Region 1 diligently attended ceremonies that paid homage to those weíve lost. While weíve bid farewell to some of our founding members, weíve also welcomed new faces, continually renewing the spirit and commitment of our community.

The VVA Veteran has been instrumental in bridging the gap between generations, connecting new and old members through reunion announcements and the Locator. These connections honor our past and strengthen our bonds and collective resolve as we move forward.

As we embark on the new year, it is our collective hope that our founding principle, ďNever again will one generation of veterans abandon another,Ē will be embraced by all VVA members. We aspire to pass on this legacy of camaraderie and honor to future generations, ensuring that the torch of remembrance and respect continues to burn brightly.

Welcome to 2024. As we step into this new year, letís channel our energies to continue VVAís legacy of success. Itís an undeniable truth that time seems to accelerate as we age, and fittingly, Vietnam War veterans have accomplished tremendous feats in what feels like the blink of an eye. However, our mission is far from over and there remains a vast expanse of work ahead of us.

I extend my deepest gratitude to the veterans who have risen to leadership, spearheading our efforts to ensure that all veterans are well cared for. Yet, the need for involvement is ever-present. We have a pressing need and therefore ample opportunity for more members to engage actively in our mission of supporting veterans. I encourage more of you to rekindle the spirit and drive of our youth.

A great way to ignite that energy is to participate in the upcoming National Leadership & Education Conference August 20-24 in Reno. It will be an ideal occasion to gather, learn, and reignite our collective passion. Itís not too early to start planning your trip.

Letís make 2024 a year of action and rejuvenation. Letís bring back the vigor and commitment that have always defined us as Vietnam Veterans of America. I look forward to seeing the incredible impact we can make together and the camaraderie that will flourish at the Leadership Conference. Time does indeed fly, so letís make every moment count.

Here is contact information for me and the Region 2 State Council presidents:
Ted Wilkinson: 585-322-6722; yankeeted@aol.com

New York SC President
Ned Foote: 518-338-8147; nedvva@roadrunner.com

Pennsylvania SC President
Larry Googins: 724-869-7090; vvapasc@comcast.net

New Jersey SC President
Phil Pesano: 848-480-3689; pesano@comcast.net

Delaware SC President
Paul Davis: 302-697-8384; pauldavis5233@comcast.net

As we welcome another year, we reflect on the last one, which was marked by triumphs and trials for Region 3. It was a year that tested our resilience, with the health of our members and the passing of veterans at the forefront of the challenges.

Last year, Tennessee saw a promising influx of new chapters, while other states faced losses of chapters due to leadership challenges and dwindling participation. We are actively addressing these issues, reaffirming our commitment to sustaining and expanding our membership. Our region is undertaking extensive outreach initiatives to connect with and help the many Vietnam War veterans in our local communities who are still unfamiliar with VVA and the values we hold.

During the holiday season I spent several hours with a veteran friend suffering from liver cancer. It was a poignant reminder of the profound decisions Vietnam War veterans face, balancing quality time with loved ones over prolonged medical interventions. These moments underscore the deeply personal journeys of all veterans and the respect and support they deserve from everyone.

Looking ahead, preparations for the Region 3 Conference are in full swing, with our February meeting fast approaching. The agenda is set, and our seven states are responding with enthusiasm. Asheville, N.C., will be our host city. Itís known for its scenic beauty and warm hospitality. It promises to be an enriching gathering for all attendees.

In closing, let us enter this new year with the lessons of the past guiding us and the hope of the future driving us. Weíll continue to stand together, support each other, and honor the legacy of all who served.

I had the honor of representing VVA at Veterans Day ceremonies at Ft. Custer National Cemetery in November. The event was a heartfelt gathering, resonating more as a brotherhood of veterans rather than as a formal ceremony.

This opportunity came through Floyd Carmichael, the Michigan State Council Treasurer, who has dedicated more than 5,600 hours as a volunteer at the Cemetery. Alongside me were esteemed colleagues from the Michigan State Council, including Vice President Ken Rogge, Secretary Gary Estermyer, and VVA Chapter 259 President Mike Goodpaster.

Our commemoration continued into December as the Michigan State Council marked its 40th anniversary with a banquet, graced by special guests Jack McManus and Tom Burke. We took a moment to honor past presidents Pat Kline, Don Cannon, and Jack McManus for their service. The following day, during the State Council meeting, we received a Congressional Record Resolution from Rep. Debbie Dingellís office recognizing our four decades of dedication to the veterans community.

This spirit of collaboration continued as I attended the Buckeye State Council Board meeting and holiday banquet on December 8 and 9. My appreciation goes out to the State Council for their unwavering commitment to veterans. It was a pleasure to witness the introduction of Tammy Sigman as the new Buckeye State Council Administrator by Richard Arthur. Tom Burke and I presented SC Vice President Gene Wilt and Treasurer Michael Newman the VVA Achievement Medal in recognition of their exceptional service.

As we honor our past and celebrate progress, itís evident that our journey continues with a strong sense of unity and purpose. Hereís to continuing our service with the same dedication and camaraderie that have always been our hallmark.

I am extremely pleased with Region 8 and the continued commitment we have made to implement VVAís Founding Principle, ďNever Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.Ē This commitment is constantly being demonstrated by every state president and chapter member in the region. We do not tire, nor do we grow weary in reaching for our goal of providing effective services to veterans and their families. And many times we go beyond what is required.

During the holiday season last year, we did not hesitate to provide meals, clothing, and shelter to fellow veterans and their families in need. Our Veteran Service Officer programs continued to provide guidance, advice, and services to veterans deserving disability compensation.

As Region 8 director and as a member of the National Board, I will continue to visit our states and share the information discussed at Board meetings. Transparency and communication are essential for keeping everyone current with accurate information. I will also continue to help and support local, state, and national programs that bring veterans and their families together to learn, share, and implement the information shared into meaningful and productive results.

I remain overwhelmed by the many accomplishments that our leaders have achieved in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. We stand proud in being part of our brotherhood in Region 8 and even more so in belonging to the national VVA family.

We ended last year with another major accomplishment in Region 8: we have been notified by Oregon member Dick Tobiason that the Senate has passed legislation (S.1478) designating the 3,365-mile U.S. Route 20 across America as the National Medal of Honor Highway. We thank Dick Tobiason and all who worked to achieve this historical milestone.

This year we hope to gather with you at the National Leadership & Education Conference in Reno and at the National Convention in New Orleans in 2025. We have much to do, and we will do it together.

We look forward to 2024 with the same commitment, enthusiasm, and dedication to our responsibility and obligation to help improve the lives of all veterans. Peace and Good Will.

As we bid farewell to Fiscal Year 24 and energetically step into FY 25, itís time to sharpen our pencils and prepare new budgets and finance reports. I encourage everyone to diligently schedule and attend your state council and chapter meetings as we lay the groundwork for a productive year.

Region 9 is a vibrant community spanning Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, Guam, and the Philippines. With more than 10,000 members, maintaining communication across our diverse and expansive region is challenging, but I am committed to staying connected with state councils, chapters, and members.

One of my primary goals is to expand our reach within Region 9. I envision each state council increasing its chapter count through active recruitment and engagement. Letís all make an effort to bring new members into VVA.

As I continue to advocate for Region 9 veterans and their families, I plan to attend state council and chapter meetings, as well as National Board of Directors meetings and events. Our national organization boasts more than 91,000 members. That all-time high number is a testament to our collective efforts and the enduring value of our community.

Looking ahead to 2024, we eagerly anticipate the Leadership & Education Conference at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno. I am hopeful for a robust turnout from Region 9 members, especially considering the proximity of this event to the West Coast.

In the new year, I urge each of you to prioritize your health and safety, check in on your buddies, and re-engage with VVA meetings and recruitment initiatives. Together, letís step into the future with a renewed commitment to veterans and the values we hold dear. In the meantime, I am available by e-mail. You can contact me at dick.southern@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.

Stay safe, stay well, and letís continue to grow stronger together.




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