We are grateful that
large-scale combat operations in Iraq have ended, but we watch
with concern the ongoing fighting as we continue to keep our men
and women in uniform in our thoughts and prayers. As we go to
press, we await news of Sgt. 1st Class Gadimir Phillipe of Linden,
New Jersey, ans Pfc. Kevin C. Ott of Columbus, Ohio, reported
missing in Iraq. We pray for their freedom and safe return home.
VVA will always keep its pledge to achieve the fullest possible
accounting for our POW/MIAs, regardless of when and where they are
As we approach our 11th
National Convention, I want to reflect briefly on the past two
years and on the difficult challenges faced by VVA and our nation,
and our willingness to face those challenges.
Our nation faced the
tragedy of September 11, 2001, with strength and service. VVA
members from across the country proved once again that our
national motto, "In Service To America,'' is a meaningful call to
action. VVA members worked at or near Ground Zero in New York,
pulled the injured from the flames in the Pentagon, donated blood,
raised money for victim relief, and answered the call to active
service in defense of our nation.
Thanks to each of you who
have supported VVA in moving forward with our mission to take care
of the needs of those who served. We have made significant
progress on many issues, reinforcing our Founding Principle,
"Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.''
VVA's National Board of
Directors, Conference of State Council Presidents, committees,
task forces, and the national staff have conducted the affairs of
the organization with spirit and cooperation. You should be proud
of their advocacy on your behalf.
The state councils and
local chapters across the country have been busy advocating for
veterans issues, carrying out many innovative and outstanding
programs that help veterans, their families, and others in their
In March 2002, I was
privileged to lead the VVA delegation to the joint U.S.-Vietnam
Conference on Human Health and Environmental Effects of Agent
Orange/Dioxin in Hanoi. Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee Chair Paul
Sutton and Veterans Healthcare Committee Chair Linda Schwartz were
presenters at the conference and served our interests well.
In association with the
Yale School of Nursing, VVA co-sponsored the historic gathering of
American and Vietnamese scientists and others at the Yale Vietnam
Conference in September 2002 in New Haven, Connecticut.
Our groundbreaking efforts
on behalf of hundreds veterans who were exposed to hazardous
chemical and biological agents in Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard
and Defense) and Project 112 have forced the government to
acknowledge its complicity in this previously secret project.
Our 9th National Leadership
Conference in Tucson in 2002 was a tremendous success. It was
attended by many of our friends and supporters, including
correspondent and author Joe Galloway and Rep. Lane Evans
Despite rain and tornado
warnings, thousands of VVA members, their families, and other
veterans from across the country joined us in VVA's March To
Remember commemorating the 20th anniversary of the dedication of
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in November.
In March, we presented our
annual testimony before the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs
Committees, again making a strong case for additional funding for
quality veterans health care in a timely manner. Our advocacy
efforts continue on many issues vital to Vietnam veterans and
others who served and their families, including the Jobs for
Veterans Act, the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act,
and the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act.
As we look forward to our
convention and our 25th anniversary in St. Louis, we
recognize that our work is not complete, and that it requires the
combined efforts of each of us to fulfill our mission and insure
that in these times of less than perfect Department of Veterans
Affairs budget and service delivery choices, we commit ourselves
to make sure that veterans are not left behind.
Best wishes to each of you.
I look forward to meeting and speaking with those who are able to
join us in St. Louis.
Peace and God Bless America