BY JOHN ROWAN
This has been a busy month for VVA. Marsha Four, our Women
Veterans Committee chair, led our delegation to the tenth
anniversary of the Women In Military Service For America
Memorial. Her address can be found in this issue. Then
many of us attended the parade and ceremonies celebrating
the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
parade on November 10 was organized by VVA and was a great
success. In this issue you will find many photos of the
parade. Everyone had a great time. You can also find more
about the parade on our web site, www.vva.org
hankfully, the weather broke before we began and, while
it was cloudy, it was dry. At the Opening Ceremony, Rev.
Jackson Day, a chaplain in the Vietnam War, delivered the
invocation. Richie Perricone, a former POW, followed him.
Gen. Ezell Ware spoke after Diane Carlson Evans, the founder
of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Then Tony Cordero,
the president of Sons and Daughters In Touch, spoke on behalf
of all of the families of the KIAs. Mary Jane Kiepe, president
of American Gold Star Mothers; Kathy S. Upchurch, president
of Gold Star Wives of America; and Sarah Rolfe, president
of Blue Star Mothers of America, were present on the stage.
King, president of the Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund,
thanked our sponsors. F. Louis Sulsberger, the Grand Exalted
Ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and
one of our supporters, spoke on behalf of his members. I
then had a chance to say a few words and was followed by
the grand marshal of the parade, Jan Scruggs. He talked about
how The Wall came to be and reported that the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial Fund is developing an education center that will
be located adjacent to the Memorial.
Paul Bucha, a Medal of
Honor recipient, gave an inspiring speech, calling upon Congress
and the nation to live up to their commitments to America’s
veterans. Two other MOH recipients, Brian Thacker and MOH
Society president Bob Howard, were also on stage. The last
speaker was Jay Rocourt, from U-Haul, International, an Iraq
War veteran who highlighted the connection between previous
and more recent veterans.
speakers were joined on stage by Maj. Gen. J.B. Burns from
BAE Systems; Marilyn Park, director of Legislative Affairs
for the American Federation of Government Employees; Barbara
Easterling, secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers
of America; and Cheryl Johnson, international vice president
of the Central Region of the International Brotherhood of
It was a very moving opening ceremony. From my vantage point
on the stage, I can tell you that it was very gratifying
to look out over the thousands of VVA members and others
who had come out to join our commemoration.
The parade was led off by various motorcycle contingents,
including a group of ironworkers, followed by the union’s
float, which had a large American flag that rotated while
attached to a huge beam. The executive group was led by the
VVA officers and Jan Scruggs and VVMF staff on a float celebrating
the 25th Anniversary of The Wall. VVA state contingents,
bands, more floats, and then many other contingents of veteran
The latter group included a large Vietnamese
veterans group, and representatives from South Korea and
the 173rd Airborne Brigade Association. While riding on the
lead float, I was pleased to see that many spectators, both
Vietnam veterans and citizens, had come out to pay their
respects. Then I walked back to the reviewing stand and had
a chance to greet the folks on the sidewalks and the succeeding
marchers. Everyone was having a wonderful time.
I am very proud that VVA produced
this event. While many people helped to make it happen, there
are some that I must commend. Sharon Hodge, who works in
our Government Affairs Department, was a wonderful help in
getting through Washington, D.C.’s bureaucracy and
setting up many aspects of the event. She was joined in these
efforts by other VVA staff. Much credit goes to our impresario,
Pat Gualtieri. Cecil B. DeMille had nothing on Pat. He had
many exceptional volunteers, both in New York and in D.C.
Bob George of Boston Publishing
and his crew did an exceptional job in publishing the special
book commemorating the 25th anniversary of The Wall. Make
sure you get copies for yourself and your friends. Thanks
also go to Adrian Guglielmo, her staff in Diversity Productions,
and our corporate friends, as well as Carl Tuvin and our
friends in America’s
unions for their monetary support, without which nothing
would have been possible. Keith King will have more to report
on this aspect of the event in the future. Finally, Wes Guidry
did a great job in gathering talent for the afternoon concert.
know that I have left out many names, and I promise to get
my personal thanks to you as soon as possible. It takes a
lot of effort and wonderful people to make a project like
this work. Our friends and relations rose to the occasion.
On Sunday, Veterans Day, I attended the ceremonies at Arlington
Cemetery with Vice President Dick Cheney, when he laid a
wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. After the services, I
laid a wreath at the Tomb with the Catholic War Veterans,
whose wreath had been lost. Afterward, I went to The Wall
for those ceremonies.
Jack Devine represented VVA on the
stage. Colin Powell gave a wonderful, heartfelt speech. Barry
Hagge was there, along with Jerry Yamamoto, when we laid
the wreath at The Wall. Afteward, I visited old friends.
always, Bill and Suzie Meeks, Marsha Four, and Sandy Miller
were joined by other volunteers at the Membership tent, which
operated all weekend.
By the time you read this, Thanksgiving Day will have passed
and most everyone will soon be celebrating Christmas or Chanukah.
Our Muslim friends have already completed Ramadan, while
other folks look forward to Kwanza. Whatever your celebration,
Mariann and I wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season
and a joyous New Year.