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?Directors’ Reports, November/December 2018



©Michael KeatingVermont SCP Perry Melvin reports that Rutland Chapter One had a ceremony to unveil a realistic granite statue of a Vietnam veteran. It is a beautiful sculpture and the event was very well attended.

Rhode Island SCP Dave Smith reports his chapters have been very active with projects throughout the state. In addition, he is working hard on a major endeavor that, if it happens, will put both Rhode Island and New England on the VVA map. He has been on this for over a year. Good luck, Dave. More details to follow.  

Hillsborough, New Hampshire, Chapter 992 again participated in the Deerfield Fair. Its beautiful display is award winning, and the four-day event is great for interacting with the community, as well as recruiting. 

Massachusetts SC Treasurer Justin Lantini reports the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to be erected in Fall River is progressing nicely. Fundraising continues. A live radio broadcast helped get the word out. Great work by all. 

I attended the New Hampshire State Council meeting in September in Concord. It was very well attended with some spirited debate. I updated members on Working Groups I and II. There were a lot of questions, but most remain to be answered.

In October I attended the Massachusetts State Council meeting, which had better than normal attendance. SCP Gumersindo Gomez has been very successful working with state politicians on funding veterans’ issues.

At the October BOD meeting I had hoped to learn more about Working Groups I and II and the future of the organization. While they are doing great work, with a lot of time and effort expended, I was disappointed in the information I came away with. It seems that there are still more questions than answers, but I guess that is to be expected in an undertaking of this magnitude.

There was a lot of discussion among Board members. Of interest, President John Rowan covered a lot of history regarding this and other VSOs and the changes that have taken place. It gets complicated, but it was enlightening and has a direct bearing on VVA and our future. The working groups will report back at the January Board meeting. I hope to have more definitive answers for members then.

Now is the time for members to comment and ask questions on the future of VVA. Working Group I, which is exploring the last-man-standing option, can be reached at VVA_Transition@vva.org Working Group II, which is pursuing the successor option, can be contacted at VVA_Forward@vva.org

I threw out the idea of VVA modifying its charter to open membership to the current crop of veterans and keep the VVA operation, albeit under a new name. Apparently that was vetoed years ago. Back then, it was thought it would split the organization down the middle. However, that was back when our mortality was not on the horizon. 

I was asked to request that VVA National do some sort of funding to help get members to the 2019 National Convention, considering the importance of the event. It seems the best I can do at this time is ask the Finance Committee to consider waiving the $125 registration fee, which should be of some help. However, 1,000 delegates would cost $125,000. I will keep you posted.

The Board voted to reduce life membership from $100 to $50. I voted “no” based on the last actuary report that indicated that the life membership fund would be in the red in seven years. I later learned those were incorrect numbers, and I was not aware of the updated figures. Seems I’m still in a learning curve regarding some procedures; I don’t know how I missed this important info.

The Blue Water Navy bills are stalled in Congress. It is imperative that members contact their representatives and express support for these bills. VA has come out strongly against them as unaffordable and lacking science. But the science is there and so is the money if they really want to find a way. With the new Congress, you need to get on the horn or email your elected reps if you want to get this done. The Government Affairs Committee also wants to know what other pressing issues they should be aware of from membership. 

The MIA count is now down to 1,592 which, while too many, is a positive: It was 1,603 last year. Please read Grant Coates’ POW/MIA report.

I ask all chapters and state councils to update me on local activities so I can report them.



©Michael KeatingI attended the New York State Council meeting in Tioga September 21-23 and the New Jersey State Council meeting in Wildwood on October 7.

In October I also attended the VVA National Board of Directors meeting in Silver Spring, Md., as well as meetings of the Veterans Benefits, POW/MIA Affairs, Membership Affairs, and Veterans Against Drugs Committees.

I attended the November 2-3 Pennsylvania State Council meeting in State College.

Veterans Day I spent in Washington, D.C. I helped at the Membership Tent near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where I also attended a ceremony with Allen Kale’iolani Hoe.



©Michael KeatingIf you haven’t already done so, it’s time to start organizing your calendar for the new year. The 2019 Region 3 George C. Duggins Conference will be hosted by the North Carolina State Council at the Millennium Hotel in Durham, with registration on Thursday, March 21, and sessions on Friday and Saturday. Information is available at www.vva-nc.org Registration may be done online. Interesting and useful sessions have been planned. I encourage you to attend.

The 2019 National Convention will be more important than any in recent years as we discuss and decide issues regarding our organizational future. It will be held in Spokane, Wash., with registration on July 16 and ending July 20. Chapters and state councils need to start planning now to fund delegates whose voices will be heard.

Proposed resolutions and constitutional amendments may be submitted until March 17. It is always helpful for delegates to know whether a state council has endorsed a proposed resolution or amendment coming from a chapter, so you need to start early to be able to get those endorsements before the deadline for submission. The Resolution and Constitution Committees will issue their reports no later than sixty days prior to Convention so you will have time to discuss them at your chapter meetings.

At the October meeting of the Conference of State Council Presidents there was discussion about the number of chapters suspended for failure to submit election or financial reports on time. Region 3 usually gets the vast majority of its reports in on time, and I thank all of you who are diligent. There should never be an issue with election reports, as they can be done as soon as elections are held.

This year I know several groups ran into difficulty with financial reports because treasurers either suddenly died or had to resign due to personal issues, and no one else was familiar with the records. In one case, all the financial records were on the longtime treasurer’s home computer, and no one, including family, knew the password.

It is a good idea for another officer to have a list of all financial accounts and to keep copies of the periodic reports given at meetings so there is a paper or digital trail if needed.

As always, thank you for all that you do for veterans, their families, and VVA.



©Michael KeatingSince I missed the last issue, I will try to bring you up to date with what is going on in Region 4. Every state in the region had at least one representative at the Leadership & Education Conference. Awards were given to Florida Chapter 1036 and Alabama Chapter 1067 for the largest membership increase in the 500-600-member and 400-500-member categories. Congratulations to those chapters. Both continue to increase in number.

In addition, we are still adding new chapters in new areas. Georgia has the new Chapter 1137 in Camden County. The help and guidance of Yulee, Florida, Chapter 1088 were indispensable in making the new chapter a reality. The Camden Chapter started off with a bang by sponsoring a fish tournament followed by a fish fry. Talk about some good eating. These veterans know how to cook fish.  

Storms. Just like the Viet Cong, they keep pounding us. Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Rural areas are still in bad shape and need our help. Still no power, and roads need to be repaired and in some areas are not travelable.

Hurricane Michael tore up several counties in the Panhandle of Florida. Mexico Beach and Panama City were hit very hard—so much force that a freight train was blown over on its side. Water did its number also. After leaving Florida, Michael headed to Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama with winds over 100 MPH. Then it headed swiftly in a northern direction but met with a front moving eastward, which pushed the storm faster and along the Carolina coast, deluging them with yet more rain. That after twenty-three inches of rain from Hurricane Florence. 

Blairsville Chapter 1101 is working on a 10-foot by 200-foot wall that will commemorate all the wars that the U.S. has fought. A picture will depict each war; it will cost nearly $200,000 to complete. A Huey chopper will be in the forefront of the mural. Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Puerto Rico also are moving forward with many projects that I will talk about later.

Here’s to everyone in Region 4 for all the hard work and support you do to promote VVA and the chapters in the region. I can’t believe another year has passed. My wife and I wish each one of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. God bless each of you and your families.



©Michael KeatingI visited with the Illinois State Council in late September at the Mariner’s Village in Carlyle. This meeting was well attended, including members of the National Board of Directors, Richard DeLong, myself, and National Constitution Chair Leslie DeLong. Membership, fundraising, the service officer program, and chapters getting reports in on time were topics of discussion.

Region 5 Conference: Plans for the 2019 Region 5 VVA-AVVA Conference, hosted by the Indiana State Council, are just about complete. State Council President Pat Bessigano and her staff have been working for the past several months putting this together. The meeting will be held June 6-8. June 6 and 9 will be travel days. Seminars will be held on June 7, and the Convention business, resolutions, and Constitution changes will be discussed on the 8th. In addition, national candidates will have time to speak to delegates.

The conference will be held at the Marriott East in Indianapolis. No effort has been spared in making this conference a progressive, fun-filled weekend event. Final information on the event will be released at the January Board meeting and in the January/February issue of The Veteran. Put the dates on your calendar. 

Legislation: VVA has been fighting for the rights of Blue Water Navy sailors. The Blue Water Navy bill sits in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and has not been released to the full Senate for debate or a vote. The bill has hit delays and roadblocks along the way. We need you to call your Senators and tell them to pass this bill before the end of this term.

You can order your Women Veterans Honor Coins today from the National Office. Contact Joe Sternburg for an order form. Five dollars per coin, minimum of ten coins per order. Hurry before supplies run out.

The Michigan State Council will meet in Port Huron on December 2. These are usually great meetings, so if you are in the area, plan to attend.



©Michael KeatingThe Region 6 Conference, held in Altoona, Iowa, August 23-25, was a big success. My hope is that attendees had a learning experience, relaxed, and had a fun time with other Region 6 members. Heartfelt thanks go to Iowa State Council President John Kost for hosting the conference. It wouldn’t have happened without him, along with help from Story County Chapter 1102 manning the registration tables. 

The presenters were outstanding. They included Tom Hall, Tom Berger, and Maureen Elias on PTSD and substance abuse; Rick Weidman on government affairs; Jim Diester, who was saved by MOH recipient Sammy Davis; Clyde Lewandowski on 30 years later; Maynard Kaderlik on Agent Orange; John Margowski and Dottie Barickman fielded questions for At-Large Directors. Mike Demske, Richard Lindbeck, and John Margowski also conducted a mini town hall meeting; and Fran Davis addressed AVVA issues.

Memorial Events: I had the opportunity to participate in several memorial events. I took part in the unveiling of a monument to fallen Vietnam veterans at the Omaha National Cemetery. The monument was a project of VVA Chapter 279. It was a great honor to represent Region 6 at this event and meet VA Under Secretary Randy Reeves.

I also attended the 30th anniversary of Highground Veterans Memorial Park and Robert Kanyusik’s sculpture, Fragments, Wisconsin’s Vietnam Veterans’ Tribute. At this event I talked with Jacob Leinenkugel, a Senior White House Adviser for the VA, a former Marine, and one-time president of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls, Wisc. For more information, go to www.thehighground.us

One Year: It’s been one year since I was elected Region 6 Director. There have been many exciting and not-so-exciting times. There were times I thought, “Be careful of what you ask for in life.” Being regional director was not enough, I had to run for Minnesota State Council President. I was elected in June.

I’m the sort of individual who, if I think I could be doing something differently and better, then I must try. That’s what happened when I stepped forward for these positions. I am very happy with what I have accomplished and learned by holding these two positions. Are there things I wished had never happened? Yes, but overall I would do the same things again. 

I have attended state council meetings in most states in the region. I have worked with some very dedicated VVA members who are very interested in helping all veterans. Thinking back, I may have been too aggressive in trying to get some of my ideas realized. But again, I’d most likely do the same.



©Michael KeatingOn August 25 I traveled to the Mark W. Stiles prison in Beaumont, Texas, to celebrate twenty years of service by the Veterans Incarcerated Group, which is sponsored by VVA’s Beaumont Chapter 292. The presentation of the colors was dedicated to the fifty-five remains returned from North Korea after so many years. Special guests included men who had help start VIG who had served their time and are now free. They talked about being released and their new lives.‘

Sandra Womack and Judy Hardy presented an AVVA 292 award to Joe Tortarce for his work with this veterans group.

Ray Hardy, George Mathews, and Tom Hall presented the 2018 VVA Texas State Council Veteran Incarcerated of the Year award to Tony Vidal for his commitment to VIG.

Through monthly meetings and special events, we provide supportive camaraderie and interaction with outside contacts who come to speak and give information to these veterans. They are a hard-working group. This is the third time that I have visited them.

On September 21 Chapter 1052 had its annual POW ceremony in Cate Square Park in Hammond, La. They always do a great job and every year add more to the ceremony. This year they added Incarcerated Chapter 689 to the program.

The October Board of Directors meeting yielded a lot of good information about plans for VVA’s future. The conversation will continue through the next BOD meeting and into next year’s Spokane Convention. We had a great 40th anniversary banquet. Its cost was covered by the sale of challenge coins. We thank all who bought these coins to make the banquet happen.



©Michael KeatingI was invited by Idaho State Council President Bob Seal to attend the October 7 State Council Meeting at Sandpoint. President Seal provided an excellent summation of how VVA Group I and Group II are progressing and shared his thoughts on how they envision the future of our organization. All VVA chapters in Idaho are very active and involved with their communities.

As reported by Chapter President Frank Smith, Idaho Falls Robert Taylor Memorial Chapter 972 continues to maintain the Idaho State Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Bonneville County and the city of Idaho Falls. They have also worked to replace the markers that direct the public to the memorial. They convinced the mayor of Idaho Falls of this need, and the signs will be replaced.

They also continue their efforts to fly the POW/MIA flag in Idaho Falls and to organize a VVA chapter in Pocatello. In coordination with the Veterans Mobility program, they have delivered 225 wheelchairs to needy individuals. Smith and his members should be proud of their involvement and the contributions they are making to fellow veterans and their families.

Sandpoint Chapter 890 has been active in several fundraising events, including the Renaissance Fair, the Fifties event, Car Show, and Golf Rama. This participation provides wide visibility and attracts potential members.

Treasure Valley Chapter 1025 information was shared by Gordy Souza. During Memorial Day the names inscribed on the Idaho State Vietnam Veterans Memorial were read. The chapter also has manned several information booths. These efforts generated nearly $4,500 in donations. In honoring veterans they are involved in raising the flags located on the Memorial Parkway. They are also very active with Team Rubicon, building walkways, driveways, and wheelchair ramps for blind and wheelchair-bound veterans. The chapter made a $1,500 donation to help complete these good deeds.

The Washington State Council met on April 13 at Snoqualmie Pass. Major activities and accomplishments include the successful financial contribution of the Vietnam War B-52 Program. Our VSO program continues to effectively serve veterans and their families; we have an MOU with the Yakima Warriors Association to place a VSO in their building on the Yakima Indian Reservation; and the Auburn Veterans Day Parade was dedicated to Vietnam veterans. I served as the parade’s Grand Marshal. We also will have a major veterans service organizations’ event on December 10 at Edmonds Community College. Finally, all our chapters are doing outstanding work representing VVA, our membership keeps increasing, and our commitment to veterans never wavers.

I will attend the Montana State Council meeting on April 27, and I attended the Oregon State Council meeting on November 3.



©Michael KeatingI attended the October National Board of Directors meeting and the 40th anniversary banquet in Silver Spring. It was a fun evening with great food and entertainment, and an honor to be in attendance.

In November I traveled to the Philippines to attend Chapter 887’s general and social meetings in Angeles City. While there, I took part in the chapter’s Christmas party at the Porac Children’s Home, which the chapter sponsors. I attended Veterans Day activities in Hagatna, Guam, that were hosted by Chapter 668. Guam is where the sun first rises in the United States. The Philippines and Guam are the furthest chapters from the VVA National office in Maryland.

It’s time to start thinking about Resolutions to be presented at the National Convention at Spokane in July. The resolution form is on the VVA website and the deadline for submission is March 17, 2019.

With the Convention in mind, there is the traditional Region 8/9 Pre-Convention Conference to start thinking about and planning. The date is tentatively set for June 1, with travel dates of May 31 and June 2. The location we are considering is Sparks, Nevada. More information will be in the next issue of The Veteran.

VVA life membership is now set by the National Board of Directors at $50. By January all VVA members will be life members.

Membership continues to grow. As Vietnam War veterans transition into retirement, many of them are looking for ways to help their communities and recapture the camaraderie they experienced in the military. VVA is the best way for them to reconnect with fellow veterans and serve their communities. We must reach out to our fellow Vietnam veterans to get them to become a part of VVA.

In closing, I want to encourage you to keep up your recruiting and retention of members in VVA. It is the best time for us to keep adding numbers to our membership totals. You can contact me at dsouthern@vva.org with any questions or concerns.



©Michael KeatingIn addition to the quarterly meeting of the Board of Directors in Silver Spring in October, there also were meetings of the two Working Groups, the State Council Presidents, and VVA committees. A dinner program celebrated the 40th anniversary of VVA’s formation in 1978.

The Working Groups continue to develop plans for VVA’s future. Next summer’s National Convention in Spokane, Wash., will be critical in deciding the direction taken by VVA. All state councils and chapters are strongly encouraged to set aside funds to send delegates to that Convention so that your voices will be heard.

The Conference of State Council Presidents discussed the continuing problem of state councils and chapters on suspension due to failure to timely file Election Reports or Financial Reports. These problems should be easily resolved, but some never seem to get their acts together. The CSCP is urging all state councils and chapters to renew their efforts to get off of suspension by January to prevent revocation of their charters.

VVA committees continue to advance the interests of veterans. The Minority Affairs Committee drew very positive responses from its seminar. The committee is focusing on how to increase aid to veterans in Puerto Rico, which is still suffering from last year’s hurricanes.

The Board of Directors received reports from the Working Groups, the CSCP, and the committees. VVA At-Large Director Dottie Barickman was awarded the VVA Commendation Medal.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at KStone@vva.org





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