|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Directors’ Reports, July/August 2021|
The big news in Region 1 is the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Fall River, Massachusetts—the only replica of the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the region. You can read my report on the dedication in Membership Notes.
The Norwich, Connecticut, Chapter 270 Color Guard has been busy. Its members participated in the Vietnam Veterans Day program April 24 in Norwich, and chapter members sat on the planning committee. The Color Guard was active again on Memorial Day, marching in the Norwich parade. Additionally, the Color Guard participated in Chapter 120’s Gerry Wright’s Agent Orange Memorial dedication ceremony on June 5 at the Andover War Memorial Park in Andover, Conn.
There is a lot of interest in the region about the November VVA National Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, and a lot of members are planning to attend.
The Region 1 Conference is scheduled for October 16 at the Dante Club in West Springfield, Mass.
The Region 2 state councils have had enthusiastic and well-attended meetings. It was great to see old friends again, but sad knowing we never got to see many who had passed on. They will be missed.
Congratulations to Pennsylvania State Council’s new president Larry Googins for a very successful first meeting under his leadership.
Chapter 77 is proud to have been selected to host The Wall That Heals at Veterans Memorial Park in Tonawanda, New York, from July 22-25. More than 450 of the names on The Wall are from Western New York State.
Region 2 will be well represented at VVA’s Twentieth National Convention. Many of the authorized 318 delegates plan to attend. I look forward to seeing everyone there.
STATE COUNCIL PRESIDENT CONTACT INFO
BY SPENCE DAVIS
When the virus was going strong, many chapters and state councils implemented precautions and limited meetings to protect everyone’s health. Those able to get together in person followed the guidelines as best as they could. Nearly all other activities, including fundraisers, were canceled or postponed. As veterans, when times are tough, we do what we always do: We kept going. Slowly, things seem to be getting back to normal.
The good news is that the VA has added three conditions to the list of presumptive associations of exposure to herbicides collectively known as Agent Orange: bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism. Many veterans have waited a long time to be eligible for these benefits. Vietnam-era veterans and their survivors who previously filed claims but were denied benefits for one of these conditions will have their cases automatically reviewed without the need to re-file a claim. The VA will be sending letters to those veterans and survivors.
The annual VVA Photo Contest is looking for images that celebrate moments of VVA camaraderie and community—pictures that show veterans volunteering, participating in chapter and state council activities, and events that honor fellow veterans. Be sure to follow the rules and submission guidelines. Photos must be sent by email.
The National Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, will be very important given all the issues that need to be decided. These include electing officers and board members, amendments to our Constitution, resolutions, and planning for VVA’s future. I highly encourage you to attend to add your voice to the debates and to vote on the issues. If you have not yet registered, please do so as soon as possible. All of the information can be found at www.vva.org
Feel free to contact me anytime at 912-387-6551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to everyone for all that you do for VVA. May God continue to bless all of us and the United States of America.
I was on the road in South Bend, Indiana, on May 15, Armed Forces Day, to attend the Indiana State Council meeting. SC President Pat Bessigano was very hospitable, and I was treated to a nice meal prior to the meeting. I urged the Indiana chapters to strongly consider sending delegates to the National Convention in Greensboro in November.
I had taken a side trip to Elmhurst, Ill., the previous day to belatedly present the VVA Achievement Medal to Dennis Speck, who has been unable to travel due to illness.
I’ve been in contact with the Buckeye State Council VVA and AVVA to help make plans for the Region 5 Pre-Convention Meeting. We will meet at the Doubletree Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, on September 24-26. Rooms are $99/night plus tax. We will be discussing proposed constitutional amendments and resolutions, and will be talking with the national candidates who attend.
I am hoping for a large Region 5 delegate presence at our twentieth VVA National Convention. We will be making some very important decisions that will help guide us in the transition to VVA’s future.
I attended two Memorial Day events with very good programs, but I was disappointed with the attendance. Now that most veterans who want it have been vaccinated, it is great to see the region starting to get back to some normalization. Many states have had or are planning in-person meetings.
I traveled to South Dakota for its state council meeting, and I plan to attend several other state council meetings in the region this summer. Make sure to register for the National Convention.
Here are some recent virtual events:
In addition, there were three in-person meetings:
Minnesota: The Memorial Day program was a virtual event with cemeteries open for visitors, and with American flags displayed along the entrances and on graves. The state council, as well as several of its chapters, is in the process of shutting down.
South Dakota: The state council met in-person May 15 at the American Legion in Pierre. Chapter 463 kicked off a fundraiser on May 1. On May 30 members of Chapter 463 and the state council placed flags on graves at Black Hills National Cemetery. The following day the chapter and SC hosted the Memorial Day Ceremony at Memorial Park in Rapid City.
Wisconsin: The state council has not had a face-to-face meeting since last year. A Zoom meeting in March brought members up to date on what’s going on at National and the upcoming Convention.
I hope you had a meaningful and memorable Memorial Day. It certainly felt much different from last year as some pandemic restrictions are being loosened. We are still limited in what we can do in service to veterans in our region, but we will keep moving ahead.
Alaska: The VSO program continues to effectively serve veterans in the state. We are proud of Brian Amirault, the state’s Senior Service Officer, for receiving the Alaska Community Service Medal from the governor’s office. It was presented by Verdie A. Bowen, Sr., the Director of the Alaska Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, on May 15. The medal recognizes Amirault’s “exceptional community service as the Senior Service Officer for the VVA Alaska State Council.”
Idaho: The state council met June 11-12 in Meridian. This was its first non-virtual state meeting, and a great deal of work and decision-making took place.
Oregon: The POW/MIA Memorial Highway projects and the plan to establish a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Portland are gaining momentum as COVID-19 restrictions are lessening.
Montana: During the last state council meeting, I was fortunate to meet Al Sperry, a member of Bitterroot Chapter 938. During our conversation, he mentioned his involvement with the construction of the Veterans Monument in Hamilton, which honors all honorably discharged military veterans from all of the nation’s conflicts.
There are more than 1,100 names on the monument, and additional names are being identified. The Veterans Monument is quite impressive and worth the visit. I want to thank Al Sperry for making me—and now all of us—aware of this special tribute.
Washington: Under the COVID Recovery Act, all Washington state veterans organizations were asked to submit replacement budgets for revenue lost during the pandemic. Thanks to Mike Harris and Odis Warren, the state council submitted a budget of $106,000. We are optimistic that we will be granted the full amount.
Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Chris Young of Sno-King Chapter 423 presented NJROTC Cadet Katelyn Leary the 2021 Most Inspirational Award during Memorial Day ceremonies. The annual Car Show sponsored by Bellingham Chapter 165 will be held July 18, and Ande Mitchell’s annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans event will take place August 7.
We look forward to the Region 8 and 9 Pre-Convention Conference on September 14-16 at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada.
State councils and chapters in Region 9 have adapted to the restrictions on meetings due to the pandemic by using alternative ways of taking care of business. Various virtual platforms were used with great success. Telephone calls and emails continued to be a source for communications. Most adapted and overcame the obstacles involved with holding events and recruiting new members.
I recently visited Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Everyone is looking forward to the National Convention in November in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Region 8 and 9 Directors will host our traditional Pre-Convention Conference on September 14-16 at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada. During the conference we will discuss proposed amendments and resolutions, as well as the officer candidates. This helps attendees get a jump start on what delegates will be voting on at the Convention.
State councils and chapters need to have their Election and Financial Reports submitted by July 15 with copies to National and—in the case of chapters—to both National and their state council. If the reports are not submitted, delegates will not be seated at the Convention.
I pray that you all stay safe and stay well and check on your buddies. Wear a mask, keep a social distance, wash your hands often, and get vaccinated.
I am available by email at email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
I believe that we are given signs from time to time that seem to come out of nowhere. Memorial Day weekend was highlighted by a parade on Friday in the downtown Omaha Old Market. The parade ended at the Durham Museum, where we listened to Lee Greenwood sing “God Bless the U.S.A.”
The concert was lit with the “Remembering Our Fallen” tribute towers from one end of the parking lot to the other with row after row of names and faces of those who have died in modern-day wars. I looked for one name, Sgt. Patrick Douglas Hamburger, as I have been doing for years. I was disappointed that I did not find it as I walked down aisle after aisle and row after row through the towers.
I then attended the Memorial Day service at Omaha’s Memorial Park. I reflected on those who had sacrificed and who they once were. The small gathering was quiet and somber. The speakers addressed subjects ranging from honoring and remembering to Gold Star Families and service members who lost their lives serving their country from many eras. There was a focus on how many lives were lost since the Revolutionary War; the numbers are astounding.
But it was the speech about the American flag that caused me to pause. Indicating the waving red, white, and blue, the speaker noted: “It is not the wind that blows the flag, but the final breath of the soldier who lost their life serving their country.” This statement brought the flag to life as it flew high above, suspended between two firetrucks’ extended ladders. I recalled that young soldier, Patrick Hamburger, who lost his life in 2011.
I left the Memorial Day service thinking about him, his family, and all the others who have been lost. I wandered over to a newly re-dedicated park with a 101st Airborne display, a Marine Corps memorial, and thousands of In Memory memorial bricks winding throughout. I looked down at the first rows of bricks, and there on Row 3 was a deeply etched brick dedicated to a soldier named Pat. This sign came from out of nowhere; and I knew he would never be forgotten. I read the inscription several times and promised his dad that we will never forget Patrick Douglas Hamburger.
Staff Sgt. Hamburger, a Lincoln, Nebraska, native, was a Chinook CH-47 helicopter flight engineer assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment of the Nebraska Army National Guard. He died during Operation Enduring Freedom on August 6, 2011. Hamburger suffered fatal wounds during a Special Forces mission—Extortion 17—in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan’s Wardak Province.
During the mission, his helicopter, transporting 31 American troops, was shot out of the sky by Taliban insurgents using a rocket-propelled grenade. All aboard were killed. It remains the single greatest loss of American lives in the Afghanistan War.
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