|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Directors’ Reports, November/December 2021|
Hope this finds everyone in good spirits and doing well.
VVA has had twenty National Conventions. Since we all took that “Freedom Bird” home, it seems like yesterday when the phrase “time flies” was coined.
It was sobering to be at the retirement luncheon for Rick Weidman. It started with him helping others as an Army medic with the Americal Division in Vietnam in 1969 and continued until his retirement this summer as VVA Executive Director of Policy and Government Affairs. It was extremely gratifying to present a card of appreciation from Region 2 to him.
We need to thank Tom Daws. After 25 years of distinguished service as president of Delaware Chapter 83, he is retiring. He will continue serving as treasurer for a while. Also, please welcome Rocky Graves, who is taking the reins as Chapter 83 president.
On September 22, I was in Dover, Delaware, for the Vietnam Dustoff Association reunion dinner where I gave a VVA Welcome Home talk. The dinner was attended by 200-plus people including two Delaware state senators. The reunion lasted the entire week and included the dinner, tours, a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, and a ceremony at the Kent County, Delaware, Veterans Memorial Park in Dover. The host, VVA Chapter 850 in Dover, covered the cost of the entire event.
On September 24-25 I was in Nichols, N.Y., for the New York State Council meetings. Chapters have been donating to state councils to help with Service Officer Programs. Because of reduced incomes, apparently due to the pandemic, this help is much needed.
The New Jersey State Council met December 5 at VFW Post 2230 in Kenilworth. The New York State Council Board of Directors will meet January 21, 2022, followed by a membership meeting the following day. The Pennsylvania State Council Board of Directors will meet June 10, 2022, followed by a membership meeting on June 11.
The seven states that make up Region 3 hope that the delegates returning from VVA’s National Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, had an enjoyable visit with many good memories to share.
Plans for the Region 3 Conference in March 2022 are coming together. The location will be in the great state of Tennessee near Nashville. We’ve received lots of support from the other six states to provide for a meaningful agenda.
In other news in the region:
Region 3 has been extremely busy and hopes for a slowdown in the coming holiday season. It’s been a year of lots of travel and many road miles.
The Region 5 pre-convention conference took place on September 24 and 25. It was hosted by the Buckeye State Council at the DoubleTree Hotel in Columbus, Ohio. The conference was put together by Don Jones, and it was a great program. The delegates discussed the proposed constitutional amendments and resolutions that had been reported out of committee and would be put before the delegates at the National Convention
I also attended the Indiana State Council meeting on October 16. It was held in Indianapolis in VVA 295’s building. Plans for the National Convention were discussed.
When this article is published the National Convention will have ended. It is my hope that we will have accomplished all the things we needed to get done at the Convention.
This will be my last Veteran Directors Report as I chose not to run for reelection. I wish the newly elected Board and Officers the best in completing VVA’s work helping veterans. It has been a privilege and an honor to have worked with so many dedicated individuals while I have held leadership positions at the chapter, state, and national levels over many years.
IN THE REGION
Aug 14: BOD Zoom meeting
Aug 25: E-vote on MOU with IACCVSO and approval of the disbursement of an unbudgeted surplus of $957,000
Sept. 12: Zoom Kansas State Council Meeting
Sept 23: E-vote on eight Honorary Life Members and on revoking the Chapter 835 charter
Sept 29: E-vote to amend VVA National Disciplinary Policy
Oct 5: E-vote approving National Treasurer to transfer excess operating funds
Nov 2-7: National Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina
Take care of yourselves. God Bless America and all veterans.
By the time you read this report, our Twentieth National Convention will have taken place. I hope it was a successful one with our delegates doing what is best for the organization. I congratulate the newly elected Board of Directors and the Officers and wish them good luck. To the ones who will not be returning, I thank them for the service they rendered to VVA.
On a sadder note, Region 7 has lost two well-known members. Nate Washington, the longtime President of the Oklahoma State Council and a former assistant Region 7 Director, died August 22. He was always there for his State Council and it membership, having served multiple terms in office despite dealing with major medical problems.
Richard DeLong, a former President of the Louisiana State Council and a long-serving At-Large Board member, died August 31. He also held the office of President of VVA’s Conference of State Council Presidents. His contributions to VVA are too numerous to list in this report.
To the wives and other family members of Nate Washington and Richard DeLong, please accept my condolences on behalf of all Region 7 members.
Terry Courville, the President of the Louisiana State Council, and its other officers have expressed heartfelt gratitude for the generous financial support from VVA members and VVA National to help victims of Hurricane Ida. I wish you could have heard the response from VVA members who received that financial aid in their time of need. They were extremely grateful for the generosity that was provided. It was a truly humbling experience for me as Region 7 Director to see how our national membership lived up to our Founding Principle: “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”
Region 8 is led by Alaska State Council President Craig Wade, Idaho President Vernon Peterson, Montana President Chuck Renevier, and Oregon President James Fleming In addition. I am president of Washington, and Wyoming is reorganizing.
Region 8 continues to provide excellent services to the veterans community and has not wavered in accomplishing its mission. The pandemic continues to interfere with some of our many planned activities and events, but the states and chapters are moving forward in providing scholarships, offering transportation, holding stand-downs, fundraising, helping the homeless, increasing membership, and constructing wheelchair accessibility. The state leaderships remain active and productive.
Region 8 will not be deterred by the pandemic or anything else that may hinder our efforts to serve veterans and their families. We will continue to move forward. The 2021 National Convention provided guidance and direction. In addition, we visited with old friends and made new ones in Greensboro.
Last year was a huge challenge to VVA. Budgets were wiped out and national meetings were canceled, including the Education and Leadership Conference. Regional meetings and visits were canceled. State councils and chapters, too, canceled meetings and conventions. Masking and social distancing became the norm. But by staying in contact through telephone, email, and virtual platforms, VVA met the challenge of the pandemic.
2021 came in with vaccinations being offered to all veterans. There was increased use of virtual platforms at all levels of the organization. The VVA Veteran returned to print. By the third quarter, we saw regional, state council, and chapter meetings and conferences being held with proper precautions. Membership numbers increased and we approached the 89,000-member mark. A National Convention was held. Vietnam Veterans of America is coming back as strong as ever.
I will continue to advocate for Region 9 veterans and their families as I attend state council and chapter meetings.
Over the last two years I have been heavily involved working with the Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial to bring awareness about the importance of building a memorial that pays tribute to the 396 who died in Vietnam, while also educating current and future generations about the impact and sacrifices that have been made to keep freedom and democracy alive throughout the world.
In the early stages of the project one of the major donors said that “to bring this memorial to the finish line you must tell the stories.” What we learned was that stories are not only about those who lost their lives, but also about all those who served in the military. We must tell the stories of those who served and came home, as well as the stories of those who were left at home to hold up the families and to worry and wait for their loved ones to return. Those, in other words, whose lives were touched by the 396 who paid the ultimate price. Telling those stories will take a lifetime.
Starting the process of telling stories of veterans, family, and friends has been a challenge, as many are reluctant to share their thoughts and experiences. All wars are different in their own way, but they also are alike in many ways.
When I was discharged, I thought that the Vietnam War and the four years that I served would remain frozen in time. In my first job back in the civilian workforce, I worked with several Vietnam veterans every day but did not learn of their service until years later. Why? One co-worker who served in the Army in Vietnam said that even his wife did not want him to talk about what she felt she would never understand anyway. It seemed that few of us could share experiences, and we needed to be careful not to be overheard. Many years later I ran into this man at a veterans club, and he opened and told me his story.
As veterans, we must champion those who cannot speak, those who hesitate to speak, those who feel that their story would be shocking or misunderstood, and those who feel that their story would not be worthy. All who served can look back and say that they made a difference and they contributed to preserve and defend democracy.
It has been my honor to serve Vietnam Veterans of America. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to meet many remarkable veterans who have an equal passion and commitment to serving our nation’s veterans.
Thank you for your support over the years. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 712-314-1808.
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