BY JOHN ROWAN
As I write this message, I am recovering from the Veterans Day weekend. On Friday, November 10, I attended the dedication of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, N.Y. Meanwhile, Vice President Jack Devine represented VVA at the dedication of the new Marine Corps Museum in Quantico. For the first time in many years, I did not take part in a Veterans Day parade, because I attended my cousin Maura Conniff-McCarthy’s wedding. Unfortunately, in the past, my schedule kept me from attending her two brothers’ weddings, and I swore I was going to make this one.
However, that evening I was back on the job attending the Ball for the Grand Master of Masons in New York with New York Grand Master Neal Bidnick; Cheyne Worley, the Vice President of the Veterans of Modern Warfare; and VMW’s Executive Director Paul Davidson. We have established a pilot project in New York with the Masons to help their members who are veterans obtain access to our Service Representatives and to provide them with information on health issues. If this program is successful, we will take it across the country. If any of you are involved with the Masons, please contact me at email@example.com
By the time you read this message Thanksgiving Day will have passed, and most everyone will be celebrating Christmas or Chanukah. Our Muslim friends already have completed Ramadan, while some other folks look forward to Kwanza. Whatever your celebration, I wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season and a joyous New Year.
In this issue, you will find a report on the dedication of South Dakota’s Vietnam War Memorial. I attended this celebration with Dan Stenvold, our North Dakota State Council President. South Dakota may be a small state, but they put on a grand celebration. Gov. Mike Rounds and his staff treated Dan and me like visiting dignitaries. We met a lot of Vietnam veterans, including members from our local chapters. We hope this will lead to the development of more chapters and a state council.
In September, I also had the privilege of attending the Veterans Brain Trust meetings of the Congressional Black Caucus, run by my old friend Ron E. Armstead. During the hearings, I learned about a new veterans’ health issue. Apparently the surface of the runways of aircraft carriers has to be replaced on a regular basis. This work is accomplished by first grinding down the old surface. In the past, the men who did this work were not given respirators or other safety equipment, leaving them exposed to all types of toxic dust. This dust also contaminated other parts of the ship. While safety precautions have now been instituted, many sailors were exposed to these unsafe conditions and have come down with illnesses that they believe are related to their exposure. We will look further into this issue and will assist any veteran who would like to make a claim based on these experiences. If you fall into this category, please contact a VVA Service Representative immediately.
I am happy to report that VVA and the Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund’s collaboration, Broadway to Baghdad, was a great success, thanks to our impresario Pat Gualtieri and his fantastic crew, who put on a wonderful show. Thanks to HBO, which donated the use of the HBO Theater lounge and provided our guests with food and drink, and other generous supporters, including Veterans Advantage, the Grand Lodge of Masons in New York, U-Haul, Banfi Vintners, The City University of New York, the Grey Line, the United Spinal Association, Samaritan Village, the Hotel Association of New York, the Communications Workers of America, VVA’s Illinois and New York State Councils, Chapters 32 and 126, the Seneca Gaming Corporation, Monticello Gaming and Raceway, the Theatrical Protective Union Local #1, Local 7 Carpenters, and Twyla Tharp and her cast in The Times They Are A-Changin’. A good time was had by all, and we hope that this is just the beginning for VVA and VVAF’s fund-raising efforts.
We will soon ring in the New Year. The officers, committee chairs, and staff have been developing several programs and operational changes that will soon be implemented. With everyone’s input, 2007 will be our best year yet.
Mariann and I send everyone our best wishes during this holiday season.