|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Directors’ Reports, September/October 2023|
I was honored to be elected as Region 1 Director. My priority will be to ensure that communication with fellow state presidents provides a lifeline for the region. All chapters must know that they are being heard, and each state must know that they will have a voice at the national level.
Our organization can only grow from our chapters. Membership is crucial, now more than ever, as we are an aging group that refuses to be swept away too early. Our vote to continue until the “last man standing” sent a message to all: We are not ready to be forgotten.
Although we are a small region, our members continue to do amazing things in their communities for veterans and others who need our assistance. I would like to thank Skip Hochreich, the outgoing Region 1 director, for his assistance and support this past year. I recognize his achievements and commitment to making VVA a better organization.
Vietnam Veterans of America’s 21st National Convention was another success, and very well attended with over 700 delegates. Region 2 was well represented. Our delegates, members, and guests arrived in Orlando, Florida, by plane, train, and automobiles with only a few problems. Apparently, the airlines could not get all of us down there without having a delay of a day or two, but in the end, everything worked out.
I cannot say enough about how proud I am to represent such a fine group of veterans as those who make up Region 2. I appreciate being re-elected as Region 2 director and will always strive to do my best for the best region in VVA.
Three Region 2 chapters received membership growth awards. Congratulations to Chapter 11, Chapter 77, and Chapter 1105.
Two Region 2 members were given the VVA Commendation Medal, the organization’s highest honor: Carlton Rhodes, the New Jersey State Council secretary, and myself.
Grant Coates was named Vietnam Veterans of America’s 2023 Member of the Year, a very much deserved award.
The VVA Convention this year was an unqualified success, achieving notable accomplishments and fostering connections that many of us deeply value. The camaraderie at the Convention is akin to a family reunion in which friends and comrades meet, share lengthy conversations, and sometimes reconnect with those they knew many decades ago in Vietnam. Bystanders often join in, listening intently and sharing their stories. This aspect of the Convention is something we all cherish.
I’d like to share a brief update about Region 3 and our future plans. After COVID-19 brought many activities to a halt, the region is now active again, with all seven states participating. We’ve decided to convene our Region 3 Conference in March or early April next year, assembling in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina at Lake Junaluska. The weather may be cold, wet, or snowy, but we are moving forward with determination and anticipation.
The experience of departing the Convention and driving home on Interstate 95 reminded me of our collective alertness, almost as if we were back in Vietnam. The fast and sometimes furious drive mirrored the bustling activity in the hotel’s hallways, where people walk at different paces but always reach their destination safely.
We look forward to seeing all of you next year in Reno.
It’s hard to believe the 2023 National Convention has come and gone. We re-elected all the Officers and Board members, with three exceptions: Wayne Reynolds as our new Treasurer, and Steve Williams and Ken Holybee as new At-Large Directors. Overall, it was a very productive Convention with wide agreement on nearly all the critical issues before us.
I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the Florida State Council and all the Convention planners for doing an outstanding job. Everything from the hospitality to the camaraderie was absolutely wonderful. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those members still recovering from COVID and other health issues.
Looking back over the year, it’s inspiring to see our membership continuing to grow. We may reach 100,000 by our next national gathering – the 2024 Leadership Conference in Reno. Florida has risen to second place in national membership, with Chapter 1036 (The Villages) fluctuating between the third and fourth largest chapter in the nation.
Congratulations are in order for Georgia’s JR ROTC Cadet, William Thomas Powell. He was selected as the state’s $1,000 scholarship award winner and won first place in the VVA National JR ROTC contest. He and his family attended the Convention, where he was presented $2,500 by President Jack McManus at the Awards Banquet.
I’d also like to extend a huge Thank You to all the veterans in Puerto Rico who recently won their longstanding battle with VA to keep their clinics open. This was an important victory for which everyone worked diligently.
Looking forward, our next Agent Orange Town Hall meeting is scheduled for September 30 in Savannah. For additional information, call Savannah Chapter 671 President Joe Mitchler at 912-656-6818. Region 4 is also planning a get-together for the spring of 2024 (stay tuned for details about the location and agenda). Plus, our 2025 National Convention is going to be in New Orleans.
In closing, I want to express my gratitude to all the Florida VVA and AVVA members for their time and hard work on this year’s National Convention. Your efforts made the event a tremendous success.
I recently attended the National Convention in Orlando, where Region 5 seated 103 delegates. Our caucuses were scheduled for August 9 and 10, but I was able to arrange for all the candidates running for office to speak on the 9th.
Mike Goodpaster from Michigan and John Stoner from Ohio served as the Sergeants at Arms at the door. Fifteen At-Large candidates and three candidates for National office came into the caucus for interviews. One scheduled candidate failed to appear. Each candidate was given five minutes to speak and answer questions, followed by a five-minute discussion about the candidate by the caucus.
I was honored to receive the same number of votes for my re-election as Region 5 director as our President Jack McManus did, with only Vice President Tom Burke receiving more votes. I also attended a dinner hosted by the Illinois State Council on the 10th. My thanks to Fred Barks for the invitation.
I want to express my gratitude to everyone who voted for me. I will strive to be an even better Region 5 director this term. We are charting a new direction for VVA, and I look forward to what the future holds.
I am pleased to report that Region 8 continues to thrive and maintain activity across all fronts. Our state presidents are diligently fulfilling their responsibilities in line with our state and national policies. States within the region with VSO programs are performing beyond expectations, and chapter membership is consistently growing. Across the board, Region 8 continues to effectively serve veterans and their families, hosting annual events and fundraisers with success.
I’d like to focus on the Region 8/9 Pre-Conference, held at the Silver Legacy in Reno June 26-28. Special thanks go to Dick Southern, Region 9 director, whose hard work insured this was an outstanding and successful event. We had among the highest attendance in recent years, and we were honored to have President Jack McManus and Vice President Tom Burke participate. Along with them, two regional directors and two individuals running for At-Large Directors made presentations to the attendees.
The presenters dedicated ample time to explain the resolutions and constitutional amendments that would be considered at the National Convention. Each state president was given time to share the activities their states and chapters are engaged in.
Like Region 9, Region 8 saw representation from all state presidents and their delegates. This cohesive presence created a vibrant environment that fostered healthy dialogue and generated ideas for the present and future of Vietnam Veterans of America.
The open conversations were evident when Jack McManus and Tom Burke expressed their viewpoints and responded to questions from attendees. As McManus wisely noted, the answers to many questions would be determined through the voting process by the delegates at the National Convention.
Region 8 sent committed and serious delegates to Orlando. We will strive to do what is right and support what we believe is best for the success of VVA. We eagerly anticipate standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers and sisters, as we once again support each other, just as we did in Vietnam.
Our organization now boasts more than 90,000 members. In June, the Regions 8 and 9 directors successfully held a conference in Reno. Following that, our National Convention took place in August in Orlando. With 703 delegates in attendance, we voted on constitutional amendments and resolutions that will guide VVA into the future. It’s important to note that the delegates voted not to set a date for VVA’s closing. In addition to guiding policy, we also voted for National Officers, Region Directors, and At-Large Board members.
As we return to business at the National Board meeting in October, our focus will shift to preparations for the National Leadership & Education Conference at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno next summer.
One of my goals for the future is to see each state council in Region 9 increase the number of chapters. Stronger state councils will insure that VVA continues to thrive, helping veterans and their families obtain the benefits they deserve for injuries and other health issues resulting from their military service. A growing membership also helps persuade Congress to pass legislation that benefits veterans and their families.
I remain committed to advocating for Region 9’s veterans and their families. My efforts will continue through visits to state council and chapter meetings throughout the region, as well as attendance at National meetings and events.
I send my prayers for you all to stay safe and stay well, and encourage you to check on your buddies. It’s a great time to rekindle the habit of attending meetings and to renew efforts to recruit new members.
In the meantime, I am available by e-mail. You can contact me at email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
The 2023 National Convention has come to a close, and I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude. To those who supported me and those who listened to my campaign, I am humbled and excited to have been reelected to continue serving Vietnam Veterans of America. I pledge to approach the next two years with sound judgment, clear thinking, diligence, and passion.
It’s surreal to reflect on the extraordinary effort many delegates made to attend the Convention. Some drove to Orlando — in convoys, rental cars, and personal vehicles, or even had family members drive them. The strength and tenacity of our members are evident, and their camaraderie is the glue that binds us. One member commented that he only sees his brothers and sisters every other year, but feels strongly that this is where he belongs.
The debates over proposed amendments and resolutions made for a somber yet exciting time, allowing delegates to have their say and help move the organization into the future. Delegates engaged in meaningful hallway conversations, and I am thankful for their willingness to share their worries, fears, concerns, and hopes for a solid and unwavering legacy.
An inspiring encounter at the Rosen Centre Hotel underscored the respect and admiration Vietnam War veterans receive. While in line at a coffee shop, I ran into a large group attending a seminar. The leader expressed honor at walking the hallways alongside so many Vietnam veterans, even taking the time to shake their hands individually. It was only later that I learned that many of these 30- and 40-year-olds had served as well, yet remained silent about their own service, choosing instead to stand aside and salute Vietnam veterans.
The sense of unity, respect, and determination at the Convention serves as a vivid reminder of the importance of our work. Together, we continue to forge a path toward a brighter future for all veterans. Thank you for your commitment and dedication to this vital mission.
First, I want to congratulate the Officers and my fellow Directors on being elected. I also wish to express gratitude to those who ran for office and were not elected. Running for office requires significant effort, and I appreciate everyone who volunteered and committed themselves to that undertaking. Thank you for voting for me.
I am resolved to do whatever it takes to ensure our legacy, working diligently to keep the torch burning. I feel a sense of excitement about my new role and commit myself wholeheartedly to strengthening our organization.
I want to acknowledge and thank all those who expressed concern after my tumble onto the stage at the National Convention’s closing ceremony. In the excitement of the moment, the tip of my shoe caught the edge of the stage, and I lost my balance. Fortunately, I came away without even a bruise.
As I look forward to getting to work, I will constantly remind myself that I represent you, the members of our organization. Thank you once again for helping me to help our fellow warriors
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