|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Director’s Reports, January/February 2021|
Even though the pandemic continues to ravage the country, several chapters in Region 1 have been active in their communities and even sent me some news for my report.
John Waggoner in Connecticut sent me photos of the Veterans Day ceremony Chapter 270 led at VFW Post 594 in Norwich. Taking part in the event were Tom Brown, Clayton Sizer, Brian Hague, and Marvin Serruto. The VVA flag was on display. The ceremony was covered by the Norwich Bulletin News.
In Westfield, Mass., State Council President Gumersindo Gomez, VP West David Kelliher, and Treasurer Jerry La Valley took part in the dedication of Chapter 219’s new home in Westfield.
Chapter 908 in Lynn, Mass., held a Veterans Day ceremony and handed out $1,600 in food gift cards to Stop & Shop to veterans for Thanksgiving. Thanks to Bruce Dobson, Bob Lennon, Jim Guilfoyle, Don Fahey, and John Osterfield.
New Hampshire Chapter 992 President Melvin Murrel sent me a copy of the chapter’s always-informative newsletter. The chapter has held a Toys for Tots breakfast for the past 12 years. Due to COVID-19, the New Hampshire State Police took over the collection of toys from the chapter’s many collection boxes across the state. The chapter will resume its work next year. In his Christmas message to chapter members, Murrel thanked God for all their blessings, noting that more than 500 members have been part of their family over the years.
We held virtual National BOD meetings on November 14 and January 16, and it seems us old folks are getting the hang of this technology. The meetings went without a glitch, but I look forward to resuming our normal face-to-face meetings in Silver Spring.
National is looking into a new veteran-operated business for VVA members to buy new and used vehicles. VVA would receive $100 per transaction, with state councils getting 50 percent. There is no cost to join. More info to follow when details are worked out.
VVA was down over a million dollars in rebates to chapters because of the virus. Partial payments worked, however, and the corporation is getting back on sound financial footing. There is still work to be done, but we are getting there.
There was concern regarding the security of Ranch Hand blood samples. Treasurer Jack McManus and Linda Schwartz have been working with DOD, and they report that the samples are secure and the operation may be expanded to include Korean War and World War II samples. The samples are stored at Wright Patterson AFB, and the Air Force cannot do anything with them without consulting VVA.
Here is hoping membership will keep the news coming from the field and everyone stays safe.
BY TED WILKINSON
VVA Officers will no longer pursue any name change for the organization, and will continue to allow membership only to those who served in the military during the Vietnam War. VVA remains busy on Capitol Hill addressing veterans’ issues with Congress. With passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, three presumptives were added to the list of diseases acknowledged to be caused by Agent Orange exposure.
Region 2 membership has held up quite well during the pandemic. For the past eight years Region 2 has averaged an increase of 239 members per year. In 2020 membership increased by 162 members. Delaware, which averaged an increase of 21 members per year, in 2020 had 8 new members. New Jersey, which has averaged an increase of 39 members per year, in 2020 added 15 members. New York has averaged an increase of 94 members per year, and in 2020 the membership increased by 99 members. And Pennsylvania, with an average annual increase of 84 members, increased by 40 members last year.
Delaware State Council: Paul Davis, President: 302-697-8384
New Jersey State Council: 559 West Ninth Ave., Roselle, NJ 07203-2450; 908-298-1588
New York State Council: Ned D. Foote, President, 8 Queen Diana Ln., Queensbury, NY 12804; 518-338-8147; email@example.com
Pennsylvania State Council: Thomas Haberkorn, President, 212 Suie St., Johnstown, PA 15904; 814-266-1125; firstname.lastname@example.org
Region 3 is basically the same as all VVA Regions: We are sitting back and waiting for a favorable break from the coronavirus to return to some type of a normal lifestyle in 2021. All southeastern state councils and chapters continue to stay in contact through Zoom, GoToMeeting, the OneCall system, and other video conferencing services.
As 2020 passes and we reflect on the past Christmas season, it will be the holiday we hope to overcome in 2021. For so many Vietnam veterans the loneliness, the memories, the silent actions of individuals, and all the happiness that a veteran is willing to accept has come into play.
On a lighter note, I was in conversation with another Vietnam veteran who said, “Go slow, got nothing to lose.” Then he said, “You gotta have eyes in the back of your head to capitalize on the future.”
We will all remember 2020 as the year of our thoughts, our memories, and our future.
Hope you had a wonderful holiday season and all is well with you and your family. I’d like to thank all those who have put in many hours and much talent to help veterans. Thanks to those who hold chapter, state, and national offices, and those who serve on VVA committees.
My contact with the state presidents in the region has been very limited, so I have no information on what issues and projects they have been working on. Because of the coronavirus some state councils and chapters have not been able to hold elections. I hope they can take place soon now that we have a vaccine.
This has been a tough year. I think the worst part was not being able to meet in person in the different committee and board meetings. Yes, we Zoomed the meetings, but it’s not the same.
Let’s hope we can soon return to some sort of normalization. We have a lot of work to do this year, especially with the 2021 National Convention. If you are interested in running for a national office, see The VVA Veteran Digest or the Elections Committee Report in this issue for the requirements.
Stay safe and take care of yourselves and others. Thanks for all you do for veterans and VVA.
We have a new President of the United States, and we at VVA continue our journey of deciding what will become of us in the not-too-distant future. It looks like we will have a National Convention this year.
All members of Region 7 need to know that the VVA membership decides the future of this organization, not the Officers or the Board of Directors. We, as your elected Officers and Board members, are here to carry out the will of the body—not the other way around. As your elected Region 7 Director, I will do my duty and carry out the will of Region 7.
Whenever proposals have come before me I have always contacted the State Council Presidents of Region 7 and asked for their counsel and advice on how we should vote, and I have voted according to the wishes of the majority of the region’s SC Presidents. If you care about our organization, please make every effort to take part in our National Convention this year because it will be the most important convention we have ever had and a turning point for the organization.
Although the pandemic has made it difficult to have any type of functions for veterans, the Arkansas State Council has been able to take part in a few events honoring veterans, one of which was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Fort Smith National Cemetery honoring fallen Vietnam War brothers from Arkansas—a state that lost 597 men during the war. This was done by Chapter 467. The Oklahoma State Council conducted a one-day meeting and held elections for its officers on October 24. It is my understanding that Lew Broughton is still its president.
The Louisiana State Council officers and members again would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the entire membership of Vietnam Veterans of America for the generosity shown to our members after our two back-to-back natural disasters. Money is still being sent to our disaster relief fund, and it is appreciated more than words can express. One member sent a $1,000 personal check but wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you, my friend, my brother from another mother.
BY FRANCISCO F. IVARRA
The coronavirus pandemic has not deterred Region 8’s state and chapter leaders’ determination to provide services to our fellow veterans and their families. Our VSO programs and fundraising efforts remain strong, and plans for state council and chapter events will continue until they can take place.
Alaska: President Craig Wade reports that the pandemic has kept VVA members at home and the weather is very challenging. Nonetheless, the VSO program still provides services to veterans.
Idaho: President Vern Peterson is working diligently to keep the state membership viable and engaged. Former SC President Bob Seal serves as president of Boise Chapter 1025.
Montana: President Chuck Renevier has kept me informed on issues and concerns regarding VVA.
Oregon: The November 21 Zoom state council meeting went well; President James Fleming gave an informative presentation. Although events and meetings are limited, the VSO work being done by Stu Steinburg is commendable.
Washington: Ande Mitchelle, State Vice President and President of Chapter 1109, continues to hold meetings at the American Legion in Sedro Woolley. Joel Ware, President of Chapter 102 in Seattle, is conducting his chapter meetings via Zoom.
Thanks to Mike Harris for his fine work submitting grants to help fund programs, especially for his help in securing a $20,000 VSO grant from VVA National.
David Loomis, President of Bellingham Chapter 165, reports that George Mills donated a 2013 Toyota SUV with low mileage and with every conceivable convenience for a handicapped person to the chapter. The SUV will be sold at a later date with the proceeds going to help fund the chapter’s scholarship program.
Loomis and his wife Rosemarie continue to recruit AVVA members. The chapter has the largest AVVA membership in the state. A special thanks to Ron Wilson, the chapter’s Vice President, and his helpers for their continuing work in building wheelchair ramps for disabled veterans.
Let’s hope for a year that will bring us comfort, shelter, and some normality.
BY DICK SOUTHERN
2020 was a test of our spirit and resolve, but we survived and continued to work in our communities. 2021 shows hope of getting back to meetings since a vaccine is available at VA facilities across the southwestern states. California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico are all experiencing restrictions placed on them by their governors. Guam and the Philippines are facing the same issues as we do in the States.
It continues to be a challenge to hold VVA chapter and state council meetings, as well as state council conventions to elect officers, because only a small number of people are allowed to meet. Some committees have held virtual meetings, but they are no substitute for live meetings. We find ourselves keeping track of everything by email and telephone.
The VVA National Board will meet virtually in April. This year I hope to resume visits to the Region 9 state councils and chapters to answer questions and offer advice on subjects of concern to members and their families.
I urge you all to stay safe and stay well and to check on your buddies. Wear a mask, keep a social distance, and wash your hands often. You can contact me at email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
We have moved into 2021, leaving 2020 behind as a foggy cloud with a reminder of a pandemic that quickly became a crisis with numbers of deaths and illnesses that were shocking. We were provided daunting upside-down messages, statistics that needed a sidebar calculation to understand, and anxiety over who will protect us. We were given statewide mandates to shut down businesses, to maintain social distance, to shelter in place, and to wear a mask of any size, any fabric, or any condition (soiled or not).
My concern is with the length of the isolation and the quick action to adhere to anything that was perceived to “keep us alive” at all cost. We understand the devastation of loss of a life, and we have processes in place in normal times to navigate through the grieving. But we do not understand the rapid unprepared loss of everything else.
With the loss of businesses, revenue, benefits, housing, education, family gatherings, friendship, and human interaction, how will we emerge from this pandemic? What will we become? How will we cope? Who will bring us back to normal?
Removing the normal from so many citizens by those who maintained their own normal and repeated over and over, “We are all in this together,” is heartless. Who are the true survivors? They are the ones who “took one for the team” and marched in lock step with the orders. More and more I am observing changes in the people we know. They display concerning behavior such as fear, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, insecurity, sleeplessness, restlessness, feelings of worthlessness, anger, and depression with no release in sight and no one to talk to.
I hear of citizens policing each other and shaming anyone who does not practice what they practice. I witness confusion about who to listen to and who to ignore, and a reluctance to discuss differences that might be met with unwanted pushback and silencing. Discussions are less and less acceptable, and loneliness sets in.
Teleconference and telework replaced face-to-face interactions, and were met with mixed feelings, including feelings of panic trying to learn new technologies or get lost in the shuffle. Often, we saw familiar businesses close. The property landscape turned to weeds, the parking lot was empty, the lights were turned off, and the American flag remained unattended and cared for. What happened to the vendors who kept the business humming? Who needs them now? Did the pandemic steer us closer to saving the planet or cleaning the air when the country went silent?
The halls of the VA hospitals are silent. You cannot help wondering: Where are all the people? The halls echo every step, and the lights have been dimmed to save electricity. I watched as veterans’ meetings reopened, and I saw who was there and who was not. I wondered how those absent were doing. Mental health has been a topic that no one wants to face, but maintaining mental health should be a top concern. Navigating out of a pandemic affects everyone.
Turning off your life’s routine is the same as turning off your life: Your purpose stops.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 712-314-1808. I pledge to continue to serve our nation’s veterans.
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