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Directors’ Report, March/April 2022 -   -  

I attended the January BOD meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was good to see familiar faces of brothers and sisters after having been shut down for so long. The only downside was the cold temps in the hotel. During the POW/MIA Committee meeting the temperature dropped to 58 degrees. During the general meeting, people wore coats. One director even had to take a cold shower. I hope the hotel does some maintenance before the April meeting.

Some news from the meeting:

  • The 2023 Convention will be held in Orlando, Florida.
  • Hypertension is now a new category for VA disability.

The report on the dissolution of VVA is on the website. There remains much to be discussed and decided, but it looks like we are officially a last-man-standing organization. Bring yourself up to speed on where we are and give me some feedback to bring to the next meeting.

The VA assisted-care program, Caregivers, is denying admission to the program, even to members of Paralyzed Veterans of America. They are giving no reason, so appealing is impossible. Another program, Veterans Directed Care, may be an alternative. I don’t have a lot of details, but will try to find out more and get it out.

Rumors have circulated about another organization replacing VVA. Some have called it VVA2. This is misinformation at its worst. People are talking about VVA monies being spent to form this organization without anyone’s knowledge.

I have just finished reading the 628-page Board of Inquiry report on the issue, and the bottom line is this: No VVA funds went into forming this organization, which has been named VetVoice of America (VVA). I am not at liberty to get into the full report, but the summary states without doubt that there was nothing done wrong by any party and no ill intent.

The reason this new organization was formed is simple: We are all aging, with the average age of a Vietnam veteran at 76. It is only a matter of time before we are no longer able to do the work necessary to run the corporation.

By law, VVA is responsible for every power of attorney we hold from veterans with disability claims. This means we must see the claim through to its final appeal, however many years it may take. The VA has ruled that closing VVA’s doors does not absolve us of this responsibility. One option is finding another VSO willing to take over these claims, but none will, especially during the appeals process.

Another option was renaming VVA and opening our membership to younger veterans, but the delegates at the National Convention voted not to do that. I’m not sure how much thought they gave to our children and grandchildren affected by Agent Orange or who is going to take care of them and continue our legacy, but they carried the day. That is their decision to live with.

Veterans Voice of America was formed to take over these claims, and its leadership comes from within VVA. It was also deemed a great marketing acronym for the Household Goods Program. While we still have the utmost respect from our buyers in the program, they are thinking more and more about younger veterans. HGP is our lifeblood and keeping the VVA acronym is clever marketing.

At this point all is in limbo. Veterans Voice of America has its 501c3 but is waiting to be recognized by the VA as a VSO. That could take years. It seems this would be the most logical solution to our problem, but nothing has been brought to, or approved by, the Officers or the Board of Directors. There should be more news on this at the April BOD meeting. Stay tuned.

At the POW/MIA Committee meeting I was appointed the vice chair of the committee, working with Chair Grant Coates. Ironically, on our travel day to the BOD meeting the name of the latest POW to be identified was released. It takes family approval to release a name and sometimes that happens long after identification is made. The latest announcement leaves 1,584 unidentified; 1,601 have been identified thus far.

There was a brief discussion on the alternate regional directors. A motion to accept Justin Latini for Region 1 was approved.


From Massachusetts Chapter 207, Latini reports that the “Forgotten Heroes” portrait by Brian Fox is available on its website at vietnammemorialwall.org Or you can search “Vietnam Memorial Wall Fall River.”

Rhode Island reports that beginning in February it will be part of the Household Goods Program. This is great news: Household Goods’ success is critical to the future of the corporation. Congratulations to State Council President Ernie Boisvert and all those involved in the effort.

I hope the members of Region 1 will step up efforts to recruit new members. Some think we are a dying organization and we can see our mortality on the horizon. But that does not mean we have to go quietly. The founders of VVA were not quiet. They went to D.C. and made so much noise that we became the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to Vietnam veterans. Why should we be any less vocal now?

There are brothers and sisters out there, maybe right next door to you, who qualify for membership, especially with the expanded dates. Let’s get them in now. It’s only $50 for a Life membership. We have done as much or more for veterans over the years than any of the big ones. But there is power in numbers. There is much work to do, and we still have a lot of clout on Capitol Hill.

Most of the benefits that young veterans now enjoy is because of us. While we feel our way forward, let’s continue to stand tall and leave no veteran behind. Let us also think of the most pressing needs facing us, including health care and what we can do to improve it.

Approximately 60 percent of veterans qualify for health care under the current VA guidelines, and I would not trade mine for any other system. However, less than half of eligible veterans are enrolled in the VA system. While some may have alternate medical plans, there are far too many veterans not getting the care they need. Mental health is as important as physical health, so let’s see if we can make a difference to those still in need.

The time approaches for members to decide on our future. VetVoice of America is the most logical and expedient way to move forward. The groundwork has been completed, the 501c3 granted, and we will learn more at the April BOD meeting. I fully support VetVoice of America, and I urge each of you to embrace this new endeavor. The future looks exciting for VVA. With VA approval and our vote we can cement our legacy and ensure that VVA continues to honor its motto, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

I am very happy to say that I am doing quite well.

On December 19 I woke up, realizing that I had suffered a stroke and Charlie had had an ambulance take me to the hospital. I notified everyone at VVA who needed notifying. Ned Foote, the Region 2 alternate director, kept us running without skipping a beat. He filled in at the BOD January meeting. When an at-large Board member position needed to be filled, he was nominated and elected to the position.

This left Region 2 without an alternate director. That made for a tough decision because there are many talented men and women in the region. I have been aware of Carlton Rhodes’ dedication to VVA for decades. He’s a member of several national committees and is familiar with the operations at National. In addition, we’ve been close friends for many years. So I asked Rhodes, who is the New Jersey State Council secretary, if he would accept the Region 2 alternate director position. He graciously accepted.

The Pennsylvania State Council Conference will be held June 10-11 at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center in State College. Call 814-238-3001 for details.

The New York State Council Conference will be held June 18 at the Tioga Downs Casino Resort in Nichols.

From the Region 3 perspective, it is difficult to forecast the future of VVA. Nonetheless, I feel obligated to kind-of, sort-of predict what I see coming.

All seven southeastern states regularly receive requests for Vietnam veterans to speak to schools, churches, the scouts, other veterans organizations, and older veterans groups. We also receive invitations from American Indians, Montagnard Tribes, and members of the armed forces. These requests have become more frequent.

People want to know the when, why, where, who, and how from Vietnam War veterans. In the past, Vietnam veterans often shared their stories and experiences only with one another, not with the general public. That’s changing.

In the future VVA members should continue to share information about who we are and gain more experience in public speaking—while we are still able. There’s not much time remaining.

I recommend that VVA establish a national Speakers Bureau with a minimum of two speakers in each state. Our stories would be shared across the country with everyone who is longing to hear our rarely spoken stories and thoughts about the unpopular Vietnam War.

In January the National Board and State Council Presidents met in Silver Spring, Maryland—just like old times. It was great to see everyone face to face again and be able to talk without looking into a camera.

The first order of business was to elect a replacement for Kerwin Stone, who resigned from the Board due to health problems. He did a great job on the Board, as in his previous positions, and he will certainly be missed. Ned Foote was elected in his place.

Now, as we look to the next two years, it’s important that we continue moving forward. Region 4 is still planning a get-together in Pensacola, Florida. We are aiming for the third week in October.

Membership: Way to go Region 4! We continue to grow, with the second highest regional increase in the organization thanks to Florida’s continued growth—the highest of all the states. Getting new members is easy: Just ask them to join.

New Chapters: Mississippi has a new chapter, and by the time you read this, it will have another. Florida and Georgia will each have a new chapter, too. Who says we’re on the way out? Some months may be slow, but we are still increasing in members and chapters.

AVVA: Region 4 AVVA also continues to grow, with the second highest regional increase in January. AVVA has been helping us almost from the beginning and it’s a win-win as we look to the future. We can continue to be a last-man-standing organization and support and work with AVVA .

VVA members now can join AVVA as dual members with a $50 Life membership that includes having a vote. We can also continue helping to prepare AVVA to move forward once we are all gone. Just think of the end results. Our name would live on, like the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and other organizations. AVVA could even establish places for our artifacts. And since AVVA could exist in perpetuity, our legacy would also be carried on.

It isn’t necessary for VVA and AVVA to merge. We can both continue as we are. And when the time comes that VVA ceases to exist, AVVA would continue to be available for future generations.

God bless each of you. And God bless America.

Nearly forty years ago at the 1983 Founding Convention, there was an extended debate about who should qualify for membership in Vietnam Veterans of America. Ultimately, the delegates decided that membership should be open to everyone who served on active duty in the armed forces during the Vietnam War. Just as World War II veterans include everyone who served during that period regardless of where they were stationed, the Convention delegates determined that all who served during the Vietnam War should be full members of VVA.

Nonetheless, many mistakenly believe that VVA is for in-country veterans only. Perpetuating this misinformation is not only inaccurate but it cuts off a rich source of potential members.

“We must hang together,” Ben Franklin is remembered to have said, “or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” A bigger tent benefits everyone, and we are all richer for it.

It’s time for us to more actively recruit our fellow Vietnam Era veterans. We need them to help us with legislative efforts and with our projects and programs on the chapter, state, region, and national levels. At the same time, many Era veterans are unaware of the benefits to which they are entitled. We are all Vietnam War veterans.

I would like the region’s state councils to start planning for a Region 6 Conference this spring. State council presidents: Please contact me with your thoughts about having a conference and if you would be interested in hosting it. I realize that much depends on the status of the pandemic. I will invite the Minnesota chapters as their state council will be gone.

I am pleased that we are being given the opportunity to share our thoughts on how we envision the future of Region 8.

I think that one of the most important VVA visions has already been realized by our membership, especially in Region 8, and that is that we will be a last-person-standing veterans organization. That vision will remain with us until we no longer exist, for that is who we are: We are Vietnam War veterans

The vision we have in Region 8 is to continue to keep VVA prominently in the news. We want to keep our history alive by hosting major events that remind people about who we were, what we did, and where we are today. We want to share and keep our involvement in a foreign land as part of this great nation’s history. We made history, and this history should never be forgotten—just like we have never forgotten our brothers and sisters across the nation and those whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

We want to keep supporting and working cooperatively with other veterans organizations, and we especially want to work with AVVA. We owe much to our brothers and sisters who continue to support us and who have been part of us since we came home. They were not organized as AVVA then, but they have always been part of who we are. Many AVVA members have made big sacrifices by staying with us and enduring the wounds of war. We are grateful for what they have done, and continue to do, to help us heal and keep us together.

We envision a region and an organization that will become more inclusive and will reflect the first nation’s and immigrant history of the many who served, fought, and died in Vietnam. We must do everything possible to introduce and support initiatives that will help strengthen inclusion and diversity and avoid those that are counterproductive. The membership in Region 8 and throughout VVA should mirror the names of those that appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We were all brothers then, and we are all brothers now.

We would like to continue our legislative efforts and keep proposing legislation that will help all veterans. That way we will remain true to our Founding Principle: “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

We envision an organization that defines and embraces the words “Welcome home, Brother.” Those words demonstrate who we are as veterans and underscore that we were not welcomed home. We are brothers and sisters with a common cause who share the same core values of service to a nation that is not perfect but accepts change for the betterment of all.

These visions will only become a reality if we commit ourselves to doing everything possible and making the difficult sacrifices required of us for success, and in Region 8, we will. Take care, my brothers and sisters, and keep up the good fight.


Region 9 has seen double-digit increases in membership every month for the last year. I believe this trend will continue.

In the future we are looking to get members from more Region 9 states to attend all VVA events and functions. The big event coming in August is the National Leadership & Education Conference in Greenville, S.C. This conference is a valuable tool to help chapters and states develop their leaders. We need these educated leaders to continue VVA’s work into the future.

One of my goals is to have each state increase its number of chapters. Stronger state councils insure that VVA continues to help veterans and their families get the benefits they earned during their time in the military. More members also help persuade Congress to pass legislation that benefits veterans and their families.

I will continue to advocate for Region 9 veterans and their families as I attend state council and chapter meetings, as well as national meetings and activities.

I pray that you all stay safe and well and check on your buddies. Get back in the habit of attending meetings and renew your efforts to recruit new members. I am available by email at dsouthern@vva.org with any questions or concerns.


I would like to thank all those that voted for me at Greensboro. It was humbling for me to get the support.

I found the first BOD meeting in January to very informative. It gave me a better look at how VVA is looking at the future. When VVA came into existence, we all fought for Agent Orange legislation and for other issues that affected us. I believe that now that we are better informed about those issues, we need to put the fire back into what we have done.

When legislation comes up that relates to Vietnam veterans at the federal and state levels, contact your representatives in Congress and at home to show that you are interested in moving the legislation forward.

Wisconsin is trying to lower its property tax reimbursement for veterans. A proposed law to do so has passed one house of the legislature and is now waiting for the other house to take it up.

The BOD meeting scheduled for October has been moved to November to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. VVA has been asked to be a leader in this program, and it should be an interesting time.

If you have an issue that you feel should be brought up to the BOD, feel free to contact me so I can put it on the agenda.

Conference of State Council Presidents

For the past few years VVA has agonized over how we will close out our programs. We do not want to confront the inevitable, but dream of the time we can slump in our overstuffed chairs, with one hand on the remote and the other on an iPad. We dream of the future, but we are not there yet.

Some anxious attorney employees can’t wait. They want us to settle up now at least for those programs of which they have a part. Our employees should harbor some expectations for us to care for them after we are gone and that is fair. But do not be anxious. For one thing, our divestiture is not like a will in which assets are conveyed all at once. Through years of hard work in caring for each other and our fellow veterans, we can and will leave a perpetual legacy.

We should prepare for this. Our brothers and sisters who experienced the Vietnam War and its aftermath know us well. We are different. Not many understand us. That’s why we don’t sleep. That’s why we fret. That’s why we still agonize over losses of close comrades, wondering again why it was not us.

Don’t push us out. We understand some lights will dim, but they still shine brightly. We have almost 90,000 members, and we are forming new chapters.

To those who say we can’t get anyone to lead, that’s just not so. We just had ten strong candidates for At-Large Board seats. If you think you know how to lead, come to the Leadership Conference in August. Leadership of a bunch of old folks is different than when VVA started.

We understand the need to plan. But like a will, it’s always on the back burner. We don’t want to think about it. Our children and grandchildren respect us—maybe our grandchildren a bit more. The nation’s young folks respect us and listen to us, more so than most understand.

We know war is horrible. There is not much glory for those who face death. War is killing. That’s what we train. Tell your neighbors, your friends, and your family. Consequences of boots on the ground are horrible. We know. The facts are on The Wall. For what? This should be our legacy.




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