August 2000/September 2000
Our Day In The Sun: A Veterans Day Message
By George C. Duggins
This Veterans Day, Vietnam Veterans of America gains its rightful place
in the sun as wehost the nation's official Veterans Day 2000 Ceremonies at
Arlington National Cemetery.
This honor recognizes the dedication of all VVA members and salutes our
unrelentingefforts to secure justice and recognition for the service and
sacrifices of our generation of veterans. We've been working on these
goals for more than two decades. Let's not kid ourselves: It has been a
In the early days, we faced an entrenched adversary we referred to as
the Iron Triangle, consisting of the VA, Congress, and some of the
traditional veterans service organizations. They often blocked innovative
initiatives that would have changed the landscape of veterans affairs in
We were challenged every step of the way on our march to secure
Judicial Review of VA decisions until 1983 when the Court of Veterans
Appeals was created as part of landmark legislation elevating the Veterans
Administration to cabinet status.
We faced a daunting task while seeking our Congressional Charter, which
connoted the legitimization of our service and our ethics. Only after a
full-court press lobbying effort by VVA’s leaders and our friends in
Congress did the Senate vote to grant our charter, thus making VVA a
recognized player on the national level and leveling the playing field for
To be sure, we have been stubborn, uncompromising, and tenacious in our
efforts to ensure the VA address the complex needs of our generation of
veterans and our families. It was the unyielding pressure of our
membership that secured the future of the Vet Center program and caused
the VA to recognize the critical need for counseling services for
veterans, now extended to veterans of all conflicts.
It was through our untiring advocacy that legislation was enacted
providing service connection for a variety of Agent Orange-related
illnesses, including the recognition that children of Vietnam veterans are
affected as well, with the historic granting of benefits to children who
suffer with spina bifida.
VVA members have been ahead of the curve on the issue of hepatitis C,
one of the crueler health problems we face. Those of us who came home
apparently healthy, now--after 25 years--face the uncertainty of the
effects of this disease, including the risk of passing it on to our
spouses and children.
We have worked for 22 years through our devotion to our duty as
veterans, and through our undying loyalty to the memory of our comrades
whose service and sacrifice is memorialized on granite and marble
monuments across this great country of ours.
We got here because veterans refused to take no for an answer. We got
here because VVA members chose to fight for what is right. We got here
because you live every day as our motto says, ``In Service to America.''
Our country and our veterans owe you--the members of Vietnam Veterans
of America-- a great debt. The opportunity to host the National Veterans
Day 2000 Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery is your day in the sun.
You have earned it.