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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2007

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / President's Message / Government Affairs / Membership Affairs / AVVA Report / Arizona AVVA / AVVA Elections / AVVA Scholarship / Arts of War / Book Review / Letters / The Locator / Membership Notes / Reunions / Substance Abuse Committee / Taps / Veterans Incarcerated / VVAF /

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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.

The 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.

Keith 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.

These 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 Teamsters.
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
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 units followed.

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.

I 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.

VETERANS DAY
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.

As always, Bill and Suzie Meeks, Marsha Four, and Sandy Miller were joined by other volunteers at the Membership tent, which operated all weekend.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS
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.

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