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Obituaries, July/August 2022 -   -  

Former VVA president Tom Corey, left, greets another Vietnam War veteran at The Wall in 2005. Photo: VVA Archive

Thomas H. Corey, 1944-2022

Thomas H. Corey, who served as Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Secretary, Vice President, and President, died June 6 in Jupiter, Florida, at age 77.

“His service to VVA was so important that in 1991 the chapter that he formed in 1981—Palm Beach County, Florida, Chapter 25—was renamed in his honor,” said VVA National President Jack McManus. “Vietnam Veterans of America and all of America’s Vietnam War veterans and their families have lost one of our hardest-working, most-dedicated, and widely admired leaders.

“Tom was an example to multitudes of veterans, and all who had contact with him. He showed us that no matter the hardship, if you have the willpower, you can make changes for the better in people’s lives. He did this every day, year after year, with commitment and compassion.”


Tom Corey was drafted into the U.S. Army in December 1966 and served as a 1st Cavalry Division squad leader in Vietnam. On the first day of the 1968 Tet Offensive, January 31, Corey was shot in the neck and permanently paralyzed.

“Being quadriplegic didn’t stop Tom from becoming a life-long veteran’s advocate, and an effective and truly inspiring leader,” said VVA Communications Director Mokie Porter, who worked closely with Corey during his time as a VVA officer for nearly 20 years (from 1987-2005).

“It is a special kind of a person who can, when faced with such enormous disabling and physical challenges, have the strength and fortitude as Tom had for so many years,” Jack McManus, a longtime friend, said. “Veterans are truly fortunate to have had the benefit of Tom’s advocacy for these past 42 years.” 

Corey returned from Vietnam to his family in Detroit where he spent time in and out of the local VA hospital. He relocated to West Palm Beach in 1972, where he became a veterans advocate. Committed to improving the conditions he had encountered while a patient in the VA healthcare system, Corey joined Vietnam Veterans of America in 1980, two years after the organization’s founding.

After founding and leading Chapter 25 in 1981, he became one of VVA’s most active and accomplished leaders. He was elected to the National Board of Directors in 1985. Two years later he began a ten-year stint as National Secretary, then went on to be elected Vice President and President, an office he held from 2001-05.

Among Tom Corey’s innumerable accomplishments on behalf of his fellow veterans, he returned to Vietnam 16 times, heading VVA’s Veterans Initiative to work with his Vietnamese counterparts on the fullest possible account of those still missing in action from both sides of the conflict, as well as on reconciliation and Agent Orange issues.

As president of the Vietnam Veterans Peace Initiative, Corey spearheaded the building of a maternal health clinic to provide medical support to Agent Orange victims. He was the first recipient of the VVA Commendation Medal, the organization’s highest award.

It’s important “that the country takes time to recognize the sacrifices of the men and women who served our country in defending this nation. Whether they went off to war or not, they joined the military or were drafted and did their job serving their country because they cared about it,” Tom Corey told Parade magazine in a Veterans Day 2011 cover story interview.

“Hopefully more people will do that, take the time, and let them know and say, ‘Thank you for serving.’ It’s so important.”




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