|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Directors’ Reports, November/December 2022|
Just back from the Board of Directors meeting and the 40th anniversary commemoration of The Wall. Plenty of business got done during the meetings. Region 1 had members from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island in attendance.As you have seen on TV, it looks like every ambulance chaser in the country wants to grab a piece of the fruit from the Camp Lejeune toxic water money tree. After much discussion, a resolution was approved that no VVA officer, board member, chapter, or state council can endorse on behalf of VVA any attorney to pursue a claim regarding the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. An MOU has been established between VVA and Bergmann & Moore LLC regarding this case. B&M and VVA have a relationship going back to 2004. B&M is managed by former VA attorneys and while members are free to go their own route, it is highly recommended that VVA members confer with B&M regarding the Camp Lejeune case. A hasty decision now could cost you benefits lost in the future. Another MOU was approved to work with the newly formed Veterans Voice of America to continue VVA’s legacy and Founding Principle, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” VetsVOA is a nonprofit that will handle existing claims on behalf of VVA in the future when we are no longer able to continue our work because of an aging membership and declining VSO programs in the country. I believe this is a prudent way forward to protect VVA members and see their claims through the appeals process. At the November Board meeting President Jack McManus discussed VVA’s legacy. He proposed setting up local programs to teach schoolchildren about veterans and patriotism through nationally coordinated programs. We will discuss that further at the January Board meeting. A very impressive PowerPoint presentation was made regarding DPAA and the recovery efforts to account for Vietnam War MIAs. Excavations in Vietnam are centered on searching for the bones and teeth at dig sites. On Veterans Day, we were bused to The Wall for the 40th anniversary ceremonies. The threatened rain and wind held off for the impressive event. Earlier, Park Service officials told VVA President Jack McManus that the event was canceled, and VVA Color Guards could not carry their flags due to the wind. McManus told them, “Yes, we are carrying the flags. We have members from across the country here and we are coming.” The next thing we knew, the event was back on. We hosted the Massing of the Colors with 35 states representing VVA. The speeches were succinct and heartfelt. The bagpiper and the haunting sound of the horn playing of “Taps” was touching, to say the least. Memories of that cold day at the 1982 dedication came to mind. Congratulations to everyone who put this together. Massachusetts Chapter 207 continued their long history of 30 years celebrating Remembrance Day for MIA/POWs. This year’s ceremony, held on September 16, had former POW Fred Purrington as the guest speaker. New Hampshire Chapter 992 and President Melvin Murrel have an exceptional newsletter. I wish there was room to include it in this column. I hope to get news from more Region 1 chapters and state councils in the future. Stay safe.
The New York State Council held its annual conference September 23-25 at the Tioga Downs Event Center in Nichols, N.Y. The Conference was well attended, with members from 22 chapters, along with VVA National President Jack McManus. NYSC Vice President Grant Coates chaired the Conference. This was the first one in seventeen without NYSC President Ned Foote, who was unable to attend because of recent surgery. Thanks to great teamwork, all ran as smoothly as a well-oiled clock. Congratulations to newly elected NJSC President Phil Pesano!At the end of October I had replacement surgery on both knees, which has put me on the sidelines for the rest of the year. I would like to thank alternate Region 2 Director Carlton Rhodes for sitting in during the National Board meeting. I am very proud of every state in Region 2 for having their color guards take part in VVA’s Massing of the Colors at the Veterans Day Ceremony at The Wall in Washington, D.C. I would also like to thank all of you who pestered me to get another service dog. I finally took your advice—and saw it as a sign from my late wife, Nyla—to adopt one of the 4,000 rescued beagles that we talked about during the Leadership Conference in Greenville, S.C. I had to jump through hoops but was able to adopt a nine-month-old beagle with PTSD. We are helping each other. He goes by the name of Sammy and looks forward to meeting you all. Until we meet again, be safe.
There’s no getting around it — time changes everything in our lives, and this, of course, applies to Region 3. One day the overall membership is growing and in great condition. Then chapters are closing, mainly because they have had no meetings since the onset of Covid. Chapter members are getting more mature, and some simply do not want to undertake added VVA responsibilities.On the other hand, new chapters are being formed in some states and we are growing rapidly in membership. That’s the case in Tennessee, where one chapter reorganized and has become a leader in local membership growth. North Carolina is looking at several cities in which many Vietnam veterans live. Recruiting progress is slow, though, because of health concerns and the work it takes to recruit adequately. An answer will surface soon, we hope. Other states in the region are looking at future member number losses also. This is happening as many members choose not to join a chapter and join our at-large member list, instead. The question is: What is the answer to these problems?
I am pleased that we have again been given the opportunity to submit VVA Region Reports. We welcome Sean Venables as the editor of The VVA Veteran. We know that he, along with new publisher Mokie Porter, will continue the fine work of producing this magazine, a publication that we all enjoy reading and that keeps our organization visible and informed.Region 8 continues to do well, a direct result of our state and chapter leaders’ commitment to effectively serving veterans. Our VSO programs are second to none in providing services to deserving veterans filing disability claims. Our efforts should be enhanced as the state of Washington has been granted two additional VSO positions by the State Department of Veterans Affairs. We want to thank Chief Service Officer Jeannie Ebert and Odis Warren, the treasurer of the Washington State Council, for making this possible. Our membership continues to increase, and AVVA is also rapidly growing in numbers, thanks to AVVA Region 8 Director Jennifer Ellis. We also greatly appreciate the AVVA work being done by Ruth Feliciano, the Oregon State Representative, and Steve Jordan, the Washington State Representative. All states in Region 8 are active and have held major veterans events, including Bozeman, Montana, Chapter 788, celebrating their 25th anniversary. I want to thank Chuck Renevier for inviting me to this well-attended and meaningful event. I want to mention one more major event. The annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans get-together held on Ande Mitchell’s property in August was a complete success with great attendance, food, and entertainment. We were honored to have VVA President Jack McManus in attendance. We were all impressed with his message and words of confidence and encouragement. I want to thank Craig Wade, the president of the Alaska State Council; Vernon Peterson, the president of the Idaho State Council; and Jim Fleming, the president of the Oregon State Council, for the great work they are doing for VVA. I am proud of their commitment and leadership to help move Vietnam Veterans of America forward, especially with their efforts to increase membership and chapters. I also want to thank Roseburg, Oregon, Chapter 805 President Bill Duncan and his officers for their tireless efforts to keep the VA Medical Center facilities in Roseburg open to serve all veterans. We enjoyed being with our fellow VVA brothers and sisters during the November Board meeting and Veterans Day events. Take care and stay safe. Peace.
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