February 2001/March 2001
In The Shadow of Wannabes
By George C. Duggins
Last November, Vietnam Veterans of America and Harris Publishing
produced the VVA Membership Directory 2000. It included information
on VVA members. Similar directories were produced in 1992 and 1996 and
proved to be very popular with our membership. The problem with the
directory for 2000 is that it contains errors. The errors have been
dutifully reported by our members. In some cases members themselves
have reported the errors in their own data and in other cases members have
reported errors about other members' data.
It is important to understand what membership data was provided and by
whom. Information for the directory came from two sources: the VVA database
and the questionnaires filled out by our members and submitted to Harris
Publishing. The VVA membership database was the source for member names, addresses, phone numbers, gender,
branch of service, dates of service (if known), and chapter affiliations.
Harris Publishing gathered military rank, branch of service, dates of
service (with up to three entries for dates of Vietnam service), unit
designations, and military medals and awards.
Errors in the VVA Membership Directory 2000 came from three
sources. Errors in addresses, phone numbers, gender and branch of
service could have come from the membership database. VVA confirms
the information in the membership database through periodic verifications
with chapters, and that data therefore is relatively accurate.
The second source of error is Harris Publishing. There have been
cases where the publishing company transposed members' data. VVA does not
believe that this type of error was very prevalent.
Both of these errors are annoying and frustrating to the member
affected by the error. VVA sincerely apologizes for these errors and will
take measures to work with Harris Publishing to minimize errors in future
The third source of errors in the directory is from a few members
themselves. Unfortunately, some of the information submitted by our
members included exaggerated claims about miitary achievements and
Out of the 50,000 questionnaires submitted, only a miniscule fraction contained intentionally false information. Sadly, this casts
a shadow over our entire organization. Some of you have seen reference to
this issue on the VVA Talklist and rightfully demanded corrective action.
Ironically, each false entry has been easy to disprove, but the book is in
print and the damage is done. The one issue that unites veterans is the
universal repudiation of "wannabes," This is especially
true when false claims include decorations this country awards only to its
bravest sons and daughters. I
speak for everyone at VVA when I say that we, as an organization regret these errors.