The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

September/October 2002    

 

Veterans Against Drugs Visits Kingman Boys and Girls Club in Washington, D.C.

BY  PAMELA TURNER

In early July, Deborah King-Williams, VVA's accounting specialist and Veterans Against Drugs' program facilitator, and Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, visited the Kingman Boys and Girls Club in Washington, D.C. "Working with the VAD program is very rewarding," King-Williams said. "Just watching the children get excited about learning and sharing their ideas and experiences is a real pleasure. I am honored to be able to bring this wonderful program to the D.C. area where I went to school and my children and grandchildren go to school."

"Deborah cares," Veterans Against Drugs chair Herb Worthington said. "When I saw the pictures and heard the stories of what a great time everyone including the children had, I knew we had a winner and another VAD success story.

"The program is starting to take hold and is growing at a favorable pace," Worthington added. "With King-William's help, the program has been given more validity by being represented in the Nation's Capital." Worthington felt that the Medal of Honor recipients and members of other veterans organizations are realizing the impact VVA is making. Worthington said he felt this program could very well be a legacy for Vietnam Veterans of America.

Robinson led a discussion of key values identified by VAD. These values include: respect and camaraderie, loyalty and compassion, honesty and integrity, meaningful achievement, and advocacy. He punctuated his talk with examples from his own life in the military. "It was a great experience to meet the children and speak from the heart about concepts like honor, trust, respect, courage, and confidence," Robinson said. The children shared their thoughts on the meaning of these words and related real-world experiences from their neighborhoods, families, and friends.

"If you are a veteran and are asked to participate in this program, I suggest you do," Robinson said. "It was cathartic to relate my military training and experience to the students and teach them how to be good citizens, students, and children. Make no mistake: these kids were street savvy and smart. They face obstacles at their young age that I could have never imagined. However, what I noticed was that because I cared, they cared to listen. They need our mentorship. I encourage all veterans to help these young children make good choices."

During a second VAD session later in the month, Nathan "Nat" Slayton, VVA's National Veterans Service Representative, visited the same children to follow up on Robinson's lesson. Slayton, who served in the Coast Guard from 1970 to 1977, shared those experiences with the students.

Slayton gave the students an example of camaraderie. He said that when he joined the Coast Guard he didn't know how to swim, and during a training exercise he fell overboard. He had to depend on his shipmates to rescue him, which they did in less than two minutes. Slayton said, "Things happen to people who do not follow directions." Slayton also told the students how important it is always to be truthful and to take responsibility for their actions. "In life there are rules and regulations that everyone has to live by and you should always admit if you are wrong. But stick to your guns if you are right," he advised.

"Much of my life, I have heard statements such as, 'If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,' but I seldom hear what people are doing to help. Often we do not know what assistance people need, but if we make ourselves available, we can help." Slayton felt that the students participated well, were extremely attentive, and that they made it easy for him to make his presentation. He said that he felt inspired by the students and hoped that something he said would help the students stay out of trouble and develop stronger values and beliefs.

When Slayton was finished, King-Williams gave a quiz, "Were you Listening?" on Robinson's previous presentation. The children were divided into "companies" and given five minutes to answer five questions. The winner was Company B, which gave extra answers. Each member was rewarded with a VAD t-shirt. All of the groups gave accurate and unique answers about what they learned from Robinson.

During a question-and-answer period, students gave personal examples of honesty, loyalty, and camaraderie. Some of the students performed skits, giving animated examples of doing something wrong or whether they told the truth when asked. Some of the examples were comical, such as telling the truth about who ate the ice cream, or very serious, like hurting someone's feeling.

Students who gave correct answers were rewarded with t-shirts, key chains, and flags. Every student was a winner.

   

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