BY JOHN ROWAN
VVA and AVVA’s version of summer camp, better known as
VVA’s Leadership Conference and AVVA’s National Convention,
is over. For those who were able to attend, a good time was had
by all. Whether it was the parachute drop, the ugly Hawaiian shirt
contest (I won), the golf tournament, or just hanging out in the
pool, the participants had a great time. But all was not fun and
The speakers at the opening ceremony were stirring; the seminars
were informative; and the AVVA members elected their officers for
the coming two years. Mary Miller returns as President, as does
Sonja Holybee as Treasurer. Elaine Simmons was elected Vice President
and Patsy Varnell, Secretary. Congratulations and best wishes to
all. We look forward to continuing our joint efforts on behalf
of veterans and their families.
Aside from the seminars, there were
some special events and announcements. Garry Trudeau, the creator
of the cartoon Doonesbury, received the President’s Award
for Excellence in the Arts. His cartoon character “B.D.,” a
Vietnam veteran who stayed in the Guard, got wounded in Iraq, and
is depicted as he goes through rehab at Walter Reed and deals with
his PTSD at a Vet Center, was made an honorary life member.
Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet military
who served in Vietnam, advising the North on how to use SAM missiles,
provided us with information taken from their Air Defense University’s
archives about shoot-downs of American aircraft. This information
has been passed on to our government. We hope that this will be
the first of many transfers of information—the direct result
of our continued efforts through the Veterans Initiative.
the Ukrainians was particularly moving for me because my job in
the Air Force was to identify them and target them for elimination.
When one of the veterans noted how successful we were in 1967 when
I was there, and how they were able to learn from their mistakes
during the bombing halt in 1968, which resulted in much higher
American losses, I must admit I lost it for a bit.
a more positive note, we announced that VVA has entered into a
working agreement with the National Association of County Veteran
Service Officers. This partnership will give us a significant increase
in coverage across the country. This will enable our members and
all veterans to get the help they need filing their claims. It
will eventually require us to provide more resources for our appeals
program, which leads me to Broadway to Baghdad. This event, which
is detailed in an ad on p. 32, is a fund-raiser for our Service
Representative program. Any help you can provide in making this
event a success would be greatly appreciated.
Also introduced were
the leaders of a new organization, Veterans of Modern Warfare.
VMW is an outgrowth of the Gulf War Resource Center, which VVA
has supported for several years. This organization will be open
to everyone who has served since August 2, 1990. The president
is Julie Mock, a Persian Gulf veteran from Seattle.
our Convention in Reno, it was agreed that we would support a new
organization in lieu of letting more recent veterans into VVA.
VMW is that organization. We will be reaching out to our chapters
to help the leadership of VMW establish chapters of their own.
VMW plans to hold its first National Convention in 2008, when elections
will be held for all officers. They have based their Constitution
on VVA’s and look to us for guidance. We hope to help them
organize. When this happens, there will be a veterans’ organization
that can pick up where we leave off—when we fade away like
all good soldiers.
After all the activities were over, Mariann and
I and four of our friends drove to Santa Fe for a little R&R.
This gave us an opportunity to stop in Las Cruces and meet with
Ken Daby, the VVA New Mexico State Council President, and some
of the local VVA members. New Mexico provides some excellent benefits
for their veterans and the VVA State Council operates a Veterans
Information, Resource, and Referral Office in Las Cruces that deals
with a lot of transient veterans.
This trip also gave us an opportunity to visit the Vietnam
in Angel Fire, an awesome site in an incredible location. I urge
all of you to try to get there some time. It is right up there
with The Wall.
Our never-ending struggle is always brought
home when we learn of another loss. A stalwart warrior for his
fellow veterans, Dean Reynolds of Dallas passed away after a long
fight. He was joined at the last call by Mike Flowers from Toledo,
Ohio, one of the founding members of VVA’s Board of Directors.
We must honor their memory by continuing the battle for their cause—justice
for all veterans.