Looking to the Future VVA, November/December 2016
BY MARSHA FOUR, VVA VICE PRESIDENT
Exactly twenty-nine years ago I walked into a VVA chapter meeting. It was a simple visit with a friend, unassuming and unexpectedyet it changed my life profoundly.
There was a palpable passion among the members of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Chapter 67 as they spoke about veterans benefits, health care, legislation, justicechanges that were needed for which we must take up the sword and fight. Back then the list seemed unending, and I was astounded by the total lack of VA services and benefits for women veterans. I was a veteran and deserved to be treated as one.
I became so involved in the urgency of the work that I never took time to learn about VVA’s origins. Where did we come from? It’s a proud, gritty story of men and women Vietnam veterans who fought and forged the way for us all, ultimately offering us a piece of the action. From the crucible of its first convention in 1983 came our Founding Principle: “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” It is who we are. It is why we are. We vowed our commitment to the seven million veterans of the Vietnam Era and to all America’s veterans, regardless of time or conflict.
This Founding Principle was a simple yet profound response to our treatment as newly inducted veterans. The message couldn’t be mistaken. It’s upon this premise that our legacy could well depend. It is the reason VVA exists. I hear it in the strident voices of our founders. It is the underpinning of our organizational structure. It is who we are. It is our energy. It is our cause: Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.
In attempting to grasp the strength and passion of our defining principle I realized that part of its creation was due to the abandonment we felt as veterans returning from a war: rejected, marginalized, humiliated, and disrespected. But from those first early months and years it took on a significance much greater than any one of us. It became our “charge” for all times and all ages. We will always be remembered for Never Again, Never!
It drives every cause, every motivation, and all our energy for the sake of veterans justice. It holds us captive to a powerful underlying pride and commitment to VVA: its formation, its accomplishments, and its legacy. This commitment extends far beyond the confines of the national organization. It reaches each state, every chapter, and every community where veterans reside.
We live by a charge that is altruistic in nature, devoted to a selfless concern for the welfare of our brother and sister veterans. Our charge is a pledge to the members of our organization and to all who have or will serve this country in uniform. This pledge is realized and apparent in the life-changing accomplishments of our leaders and staff, along with the grassroot efforts of our members. VVA accepted the challenge and was responsible for the establishment and extension of the Vet Centers, passage of laws for increased veterans job training and placement, laws affecting homeless and women veterans, judicial review, and Agent Orangeto name just a few.
But looking ahead, the question of longevity arises. We can’t deny the inevitable and must acknowledge our individual and organizational mortality. We need to pause and reflect. How will we be remembered? What will be our legacy? How do we prepare for the inevitable? What decisions need to be made? When do we begin the process?
Another question we must face is how do we ensure the continued viability of our Founding Principle? What form will it take? Was it only for us, or is it a commitment for all time? How will we live it to the end? Who will embrace our charge?
We have always been strong proud warriors, strident at times, negotiators when profitable, as we fought for the truth and justice that all veterans deserve, and stood united for a cause and with a clear purpose.
Much remains to be done on such issues as PTSD, MST, and toxic exposure.
Making blind, knee-jerk decisions regarding our future would be unjust to our membership. We need to see the future through a vision that is purposefully sought over a reasonable amount of time involving our entire membership. Together, confident of our strength and goodwill, let us chart an organizational course in which we can all take pride.
We can no longer wait. Time isn’t on our side. We, the members of Vietnam Veterans of America, must plan for the future. Otherwise, we will only have a past.
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