|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|President’s Message, January/February 2022|
Let’s Get On With It
BY JACK McMANUS
Thank you for the many congratulations and good wishes. I am very humbled to serve as your seventh president. This is the honor of my lifetime.
Many folks have inquired about my health and my ability to serve. At 75 years old, nothing is guaranteed. But I am optimistic, and my doctors say that my immediate health looks stable. Like so many other Vietnam vets, I have a laundry list of Agent Orange maladies, with Parkinson’s disease probably the most serious. But that is a slow-progressing issue, and it should be a good while before it gets to a debilitating state—long after you all elect my successor. I pledge to you that I will not be VVA’s last president.
The biggest question I am asked is, What is VVA’s future? In light of the resolution passed at the 2021 Greensboro, N.C., Convention that is being called the Last-Man-Standing Resolution, I think it is obvious that we are not going anywhere soon. I intend to follow the spirit and intent of that resolution. If we try to keep VVA focused on our mission and perform as best as we can in our chapters, state councils, and on the national level, then we can still stay relevant and successful in serving both veterans and America as a whole.
Can we still be effective in serving veterans in our communities and on the national stage? Yes, I firmly believe that we won’t be done until we are all done. For sure, we will look and act differently than when we were young’uns. We have a lot to teach, yet we will always have each other.
There has been much criticism of my predecessor John Rowan for his many efforts to get all of us in VVA to decide how we wanted to end our presence as a national VSO after our forty- or fifty-years’ run. Agree or disagree, we finally came to that answer in November 2021. John fully understood how controversial that subject was among our membership, yet he still had the courage to urge us to get to a definitive position despite the personal criticism. John’s biggest legacy might well be his persistence in forcing us to confront our own future and how VVA will be viewed in history.
WHAT WE DO NOW
So what do we have to do now? Our job is far from over. There’s lots of important stuff still to achieve. And there’s no better place to start than our founding principle: “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.”
Let me share an insight that Dave Bonior, the senior Vietnam veteran in the U.S. House of Representatives at the time, imparted at a lunch one afternoon in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, with me and Mike Nash, who was then a VVA Board member.
Rep. Bonior explained that in his view VVA wouldn’t have come into being if the traditional VSOs had just accepted the military service of Vietnam veterans as honorable wartime service rather than degrading service in the Vietnam War as substandard to that of previous veterans. He became very animated as he said that the overall spirit of one war’s period of service and sacrifice being regarded as superior to another war’s was nothing short of sacrilegious.
VVA has been instrumental in helping not only Vietnam veterans but also the generations of veterans that have come after us. Dave Bonior thought the biggest challenge was for history not to repeat itself after we were gone. He didn’t give me any indication that he thought VVA would necessarily remain indefinitely, but rather that we would create a legacy to help make sure that history wouldn’t repeat itself. In his view, our legacy was to be the veterans organization that worked to have future veterans of all wars and conflicts welcomed home and treated with respect and dignity.
What about the idea of AVVA being our VVA legacy group? That was the vision created back in the late 1990s. There was no specific direction, just the concept that AVVA would be the home now and in the future for individuals other than Vietnam War veterans—including veterans from other eras and non-veterans who were children and family members of vets. AVVA itself would determine if, and which, programs it would carry into the future when VVA was gone.
A part of the important work still to be accomplished by VVA rests in remaining AVVA’s partner and assisting them grow and be successful as they gradually move into that future with VVA as just a memory.
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