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Directorsí Reports, May/June 2024 -   -  
   

The March 29 National Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremonies across the Northeast were a heartening testament to the solidarity and support from veteransí organizations and our wider communities. Despite challenges posed by rain and cold winds, the spirit of the ceremonies remained undiminished.

As I reflect on the recent ceremonies throughout the region, it was particularly inspiring to see a significant increase in attendance by younger veterans. Their expressions of thanks to Vietnam War veterans for warmly welcoming them home are a great reminder of VVAís impactful presence at such a crucial time in their lives.

These younger veteransí presence and participation enrich our ceremonies and offer a promising future for our chapters. Incorporating these veterans into our ranks as AVVA members would be a strategic step toward sustaining our chaptersí activities, from fundraisers to future ceremonies. They represent a vital continuation of our legacy.

Looking ahead, Region 1 is excited to host a conference this fall. We anticipate a strong turnout from chapter officers and members, leveraging our regionís relatively compact geography to foster greater attendance. The Leadership Conference this summer presents an invaluable opportunity for members to deepen their engagement with VVA. Itís an excellent platform to encourage learning and potential future participation and inspiration to members considering leadership roles in their chapters and at the state and national levels.

As we move into the spring and summer, letís continue to engage our communities through Agent Orange Town Hall meetings, veteran coffee hour socials, and other veteran-centered activities. These events strengthen our bonds in the community and highlight the enduring relevance of VVA. Letís carry forward this momentum, ensuring our organization remains a vital part of all our communities.


Reno, Nevada, is the site of this yearís VVA National Leadership & Education Conference. The array of seminars promises to be memorable. Weíre excited to see you there, and remind you that you donít need to hold a leadership position to attend the conference. On April 5 and 6, I had the pleasure of attending the New York State Council meeting. With 19 chapters represented, it was an insightful session filled with productive discussions.

Itís with a heavy heart that I report the passing of Rev. Bob Lewis in February. As the longstanding chaplain of the New York State Council and a dedicated veterans advocate, his presence will be deeply missed.

Weíre pleased to report that financial and election documents are now available online in a fillable format, significantly streamlining the process. Please note that the deadline for submission is July 15. Currently, Region 2 has seven chapters under suspension from 2023: Delaware Chapter 546; New Jersey chapters 200, 510, 955, and 100; and Pennsylvania chapters 210 and 623.

The Wall That Heals will be displayed in Penn Yan, New York, from August 8-11, offering a profound experience of reflection and remembrance.

The Moving Wall will be visiting Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, from July10-15, providing another opportunity for homage and respect.

We wish all candidates the best of luck in their upcoming state elections.


Springtime in the sunny eastern reaches of North Carolina brought its fair share of challenges, with plenty of rain and wind Ė and then, for good measure, some more rain. None of this has dampened the spirits of our VVA community, however. While it would be a Herculean task to highlight the achievements across all the regionís states, North Carolina deserves special mention for its recent sponsorship of the Region 3 Conference.

Held in Asheville, N.C., in late February, the conferenceís turnout was exceptionally high, with 126 attendees. The discussions were chosen to resonate with Vietnam War veterans and their families, focusing on aging, family involvement, and the anticipation of health challenges that lie ahead.

The conference saw representation from all seven Region 3 states, with guests also coming from Alabama, Louisiana, and California. In a show of solidarity, all four National VVA elected officers attended, underscoring the importance of this gathering.

A heartfelt thank you to Mokie and Elizabeth Porter, whose photography and videography efforts have preserved invaluable memories from the conference. Mike Creen also stepped up, capturing two hundred photos of our time together. Millie Freemanís special prayer before the dinner added a profound touch to the evening.

A highlight of the event was the color guard presentation by our VVA brothers from the Cherokee Indian Nation. Their professionalism and Cherokee attire were truly a sight to behold.

We owe a debt of gratitude to North Carolina State Council President Elizabeth Cannon, whose vigilant coordination ensured the eventís seamless execution. Her efforts kept everything on track, ensuring a memorable experience for all attendees.

A resounding thank you to all of the states for their participation and to everyone who made the Region 3 Conference a big success.


As the winter months rolled in, I once again took up residence in the Sunshine State, embracing the warmth of Florida for four months. During this period, my commitment to connecting with fellow veterans remained a priority, leading me to a unique gathering in Northport, Florida.

I had the pleasure of attending a meeting with an independent veteransí group. This small, yet impactful, assembly of veterans meets monthly, and initially began as an offshoot of a Bible study group. The discussions and camaraderie found here were both enriching and a testament to the diverse ways veterans come together to support one another.

In addition, I was honored to be a guest at the VVA Chapter 1037 meeting in Port Charlotte. The chapter is currently navigating a period of transition and rejuvenation. Following the loss of a pivotal member who was instrumental in sustaining the chapter, itís heartening to see both new and longstanding members band together to steer the chapter into a new era. The rebuilding phase of Chapter 1037 reflects the resilience and solidarity that define our veteran community.

These experiences underscore the vibrancy and dedication within our ranks, as veterans across different walks of life and locations come together to share, support, and strengthen one another.

As we move forward, letís continue to seek out and nurture these connections, for they are the backbone of our collective endeavor to serve and uplift each other.


The Attorney General of Texas has initiated a lawsuit against VA Claims Insider, a company that has misrepresented its services as free for veterans seeking help with claims, yet charges for these services. The company is not accredited by the VA. Veterans should seek assistance exclusively from accredited service officers for their claims.

VVA Veterans Benefits Director Patricia Harris has reported a decrease in the VVA case backlog, a positive development. The Benefits Committee is currently reviewing all its policies and procedures to ensure efficiency and efficacy. Additionally, all grant applications for the service representative programs have been successfully approved. The committee has requested that VVA President Jack McManus draft a letter to other VSOs, encouraging them to file claims for children of their members affected by Agent Orange exposure.

The 2025 VVA Budget was ratified by the Board. A motion was passed to allocate $1 million to the Dissolution Fund and another $1 million to the Legacy Program Fund. Itís important to note that these are restricted funds derived from the Investment Fund, representing a re-allocation of funds rather than the use of new financial resources.

I urge Region 6 members to participate in the National Leadership & Education Conference in Reno this August. This may be our last Leadership Conference for several reasons, including declining attendance, cost concerns, and a shortage of members willing to take on new roles. Region 6 members with questions or concerns are invited to contact me directly.

Lastly, I propose that Region 6 members consider organizing a conference in September. We can discuss potential dates and locations following the April Board meeting or at the Leadership Conference.


Iím pleased to share recent milestones and upcoming events across Region 8.

Alaska held its State Council meeting on April 8 and 9 in Anchorage, which included elections for officers. The annual National Vietnam War Veterans Day commemoration on March 29 in Wasila was memorable, featuring Connie Evans as the keynote speaker. A nurse in the Vietnam War and a recipient of the VVA National Minority Veterans Award, Connie Evans symbolizes our profound gratitude to all nurses who served in the war.

Idaho will hold its State Council meeting on May 18, during which President Vern Peterson will step down. His contributions to Idahoís veterans have been invaluable, and his leadership will be greatly missed.

In Oregon, the State Council will meet on May 18 in Lebanon, where elections are slated to occur. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial initiative on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds has received a significant boost with a $100,000 donation from Chapter 392 (see p. 30). This gesture underscores our commitment to honoring our brethren and the continued efforts to fund the memorialís completion.

We are proud that our membership numbers are increasing nationally, and we also want to recognize individuals who are diligently working to organize and establish new VVA chapters. In Medford, Oregon, Frank Pangborn, a Vietnam War veteran who moved from California, is now working to do just that. He is a passionate VVA member, and we have no doubt that he will be successful.

Additionally, the advocacy for the VA Hospital in Roseburg has seen progress, paralleled by the approval of a Veterans Home in Roseburg by the Oregon Senate and House of Representatives. Kudos to Bill Duncan, the president of Chapter 805, and all contributors to this significant achievement.

I was honored to represent VVA at the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans event hosted by the Yakama Warriors Association on March 30 in Washington. This event marked the largest assembly of Vietnam War veterans in the eastern part of the state. Skagit Valley Chapter 1109 proudly represented us in the Sedro Woolley Annual Parade. Washingtonís State Council meeting and elections were held on April 27 in Toppenish.

I hope everyone had a great Vietnam War Veterans Day. Peace.


Region 9 is made up of VVA chapters in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, the Territory of Guam, and the Republic of the Philippines. With a membership of some 11,000, it is a challenge to stay in touch with state councils, chapters, and members in the Region, but I make every effort to do so.

The state councils and chapters are active in their communities. That includes hosting and sponsoring versions of the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial. One notable event was the Wall That Heals displayed on Oahu and Maui in Hawaii in February. Many California cities have also displayed versions of The Wall.

Nevada has a chapter that holds ceremonies as they receive unclaimed veteransí remains for burial. The New Mexico State Council and chapters are working on completing Angel Fire with a cemetery and a permanent Wall display. The Arizona State Council supports an active Veteran Service Officer Program. The Colorado chapters have an educational program for high schools. Utah has a wonderful replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Layton. The chapters in Guam and the Philippines are active in their communities, supporting an orphanage and holding events.

Just around the corner is the National Leadership & Education Conference at the Silver Legacy Resort Hotel in Reno. I am looking forward to a good turnout of members from Region 9. Leadership conferences are always a place to learn about how to be a more successful state council or chapter leader.

I will continue to advocate for Region 9 veterans and their families as I attend state council and chapter meetings throughout the region and National Board of Directors meetings and events. One of my goals for 2024 is to have each Region 9 state council increase the number of its chapters. This can be accomplished by active recruiting of new members.

I pray that you all stay safe and well and check on your buddies. Get back in the habit of attending meetings and renewing efforts to recruit new members. In the meantime, I am available by email at dick.southern@gmail.com for any questions or concerns.


AT-LARGE

On February 17, I made the journey to Waupaca, Wisconsin, to pay my respects at the funeral of Steve House, a past State Council President who also served on the VVA National Board of Directors. The service was well-attended by VVA members, reflecting the high regard in which Steve House was held.

His contributions extended far beyond our borders. He played a pivotal role in establishing libraries in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, and facilitated the donation of many wheelchairs and walkers in those countries.

In March, I attended the Wisconsin State Council meeting, where I provided an update on the January Board of Directors meeting. During this meeting, Appleton Chapter 351 highlighted its educational display and school program, which features items from the war and represents all military branches. The chapter is seeking new leadership to continue this valuable program.

On March 29, Vietnam War Veterans Day, I had the honor of speaking at the Veterans Hall in Necedah, Wisconsin, where we held a pinning ceremony. I shared photos from this poignant event at the Board meeting in Silver Spring in April.

As the Leadership Conference quickly approaches, I urge those with a passion for leadership within VVA to consider attending. The Conference will be held in Reno from August 20-24. More information is available on the VVA website at https://vva.org/events/2024-vva-national-leadership-conference This event is an excellent opportunity for those looking to play a more active role in VVA.

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