Wayne Newton, the legendary Las Vegas headliner, will receive the President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts at the Saturday night Awards Banquet. The award honors the entertainer known as “Mr. Las Vegas” for his decades-long support of American active-duty troops and veterans, as well as his long, illustrious show biz career.
Wayne Newton went to Vietnam with the USO the first time in 1966 when he was sixteen-years old, came back again in 1968, and has entertained American troops in every military conflict since then, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since that first trip to Vietnam, when he promised an American nurse that he’d call her mother when he returned home, Newton has made some 50,000 calls on behalf of service members to folks back home. That included proposing to a girlfriend for a soldier deployed in Iraq.
For more details on Wayne Newton, here is his website: http://waynenewton.com/
John Olson, who will receive the VVA Excellence in the Arts Award at the Saturday night Awards Banquet, is one of the most accomplished photographers who covered the Vietnam War. Olson, who was working as a UPI technician, was drafted into the Army when he was 19. When he got to Vietnam in mid-1967 Olson was assigned to a signal battalion. Nine months later he extended his tour, and began working for Stars & Stripes as aphotographer.
During the Tet Offensive in February 1968 he spent three days photographing some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle for Hue. His memorable image of wounded Marines being evacuated on a tank was published in Life magazine and around the world, and he won the prestigious Robert Capa Award for “superlative photography requiring courage and enterprise abroad.”
After he came home, Olson went to work at Life. At twenty-one, he was the youngest staff photographer ever hired at Life. He soon returned to Vietnam and spent two years there shooting the war, and went on to cover the White House from 1969-70. He started his own company in 1972 to shoot advertising campaigns for some of the world’s top corporations. In 1994, and his wife co-founded NancyScans Corp., which produces high-end scanning and printing services.
An exhibition that featured twenty of John Olson’s Tet ’68 photographs, “The Marines and Tet: The Battle that Changed the Vietnam War,” opened in January this year at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Troy Evans—the veteran character actor best known for his recurring roles in the TV series “China Beach” (as Motor Pool Sgt. Pepper) and “ER” (as the clerk Frank Martin), and in the movies “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,” “Article 99,” “Under Siege,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “Black Dahlia,” and “Demolition Man,”—will emcee the Saturday Night Awards banquet.
Evans, a native of Kalispell, Montana, was drafted into the Army and served a sixteen-month tour of duty with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1968-69. He received the VVA Excellence in the Arts Award at the 2003 National Convention in St. Louis, and hosted the Awards Ceremonies at the 2005 Convention in Reno. He will be available for meeting, greeting, and signing autographs for his fellow VVA members on Friday and Saturday.
Dr. Peter A. Singer, a Professor of Clinical Medicine, the Chief of Clinical Endocrinology, and the Director of the Thyroid Diagnostic Center at USC’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, will receive the Excellence in the Sciences Award at the Saturday night banquet.
Dr. Singer received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and then joined the Navy to take part in the Vietnam War. He served as a U.S. Navy medical doctor in Da Nang and San Francisco. While in Vietnam, Dr. Singer began what has become a lifetime work of serving those living in poverty in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia. For nearly thirty years, he has returned to Vietnam to do humanitarian work as Chair (and now Chair Emeritus) of East Meets West/Thrive Networks.
East Meets West/Thrive is an NGO founded by Le Ly Hayslip, the Vietnamese woman best known as the subject of the Oliver Stone film, “Heaven and Earth.” It works throughout Asia, including in Vietnam, to “improve the health and well-being of underserved communities,” specializing in “programs in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene; and education.” During the last thirty years, the group has helped more than one million people living in