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September/october 2008

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Well, we finished VVA Summer School—better know as our National Leadership Conference. The overwhelming consensus of opinion was that it may have been the best one yet. I want to thank everyone who attended, as well as the presenters, the Conference Committee, and all the folks in South Carolina who helped make this conference a great success. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we all enjoyed the city of Greenville and the local hospitality. Now, we can take our newly acquired knowledge and go forward on behalf of our veterans and their families.

I want to congratulate Elaine Simmons, the new President of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, and all her newly elected officers. The officers and directors of VVA look forward to working with them.

It is hard to believe that we have been advocating for veterans for thirty years now. But every once in a while we need to remind ourselves why we do this work. Recently, I received an e-mail from a disgruntled World War II veteran, who took umbrage with our founding principle, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” While I can sympathize with his feelings that he did not do anything wrong, I did have to explain things to him. My response follows. I hope it will remind us of who we are and why.

“Dear Sir, while I appreciate that you may have a problem with our motto, I assure you that it was developed for valid reasons. Our motto was adopted at our Founding National Convention in 1983. VVA exists because many of our comrades were turned away by the older organizations. All too often we were told that we ‘didn’t fight in a real war’ or were crybabies because we were willing to talk about post-traumatic stress disorder, or post-Vietnam syndrome as it was called at the time.

“They were not in favor of the establishment of the storefront VetCenters, which have proved so valuable in treating the mental health problems associated with warfare. Furthermore, our concerns about Agent Orange were ignored for years, while many of the other veterans’ service organizations sided with the VA when they downplayed our concerns. The American Legion finally did fund some mortality studies that began to show the effects of the use of toxic defoliants. VVA was the only VSO to support the development of the Court of Veterans Appeals, which gives a veteran the chance for his day in court against the VA bureaucracy.

“Our motto is very clear to the new generation of veterans, who understand that our activities have insured that never again will America’s warriors be ignored by the American people, whether they are for or against the war.”

As we go into this fall election period, make sure that you let everyone running for office know how we feel and that they must care for all veterans and their families.



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