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September/october 2009

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On behalf of the Officers and the newly elected Board of Directors, I want to thank the delegates who attended the National Convention for their support. We want to congratulate all those who ran for office and encourage those who were unsuccessful to remain active in VVA. There is plenty of work to go around at all levels of the organization.
From the comments I received from many of the delegates, this may have been one of our best Conventions ever. It was certainly helped along by some great speakers, such as Gen. Russel Honoré, Pat Sajak, and the surprise visit from Jon Voigt, who is working to get a national Vietnam Veterans Day.
 As usual, we could not have done it without our wonderful staff, who made this Convention one of our finest and quickest. We also must thank our hosts, the Kentucky State Council and the local chapters. Also, the Constitution Committee, the Resolutions Committee, and all our issues committees did wonderful jobs. The committee hearings were well attended and in many cases turned into seminars on the various issues affecting veterans. Given how quickly things went along and the interest of many of the delegates for more information, we will consider some modifications for future conventions.
 For the last two years the officers have focused on modernizing operations and developing new revenue streams. We hope to see the results of these efforts over the next two years. This will enhance our efforts to help veterans and their families.


As those who attended know, my main emphasis was on our latest—and in some ways, perhaps, our most important—initiative, the Veterans Health Council and its web site, If you have not visited this site, I urge you to do so right away. The long-term effects of Agent Orange and other toxic substances on Vietnam veterans and more-recent veterans may be the most significant issue facing veterans of modern times.
Historically, it was assumed that the dangers of warfare were over when you left the battlefield. Unfortunately, since the atomic era and the use of defoliants in Vietnam, the old adage is no longer true. These toxic exposures have injured and killed more veterans than bullets and bombs have.
Some of these ailments can be mitigated if they are identified early. But in order for this to occur, health care professionals must be educated. This is especially important when you realize that more than 70 percent of veterans don’t use the VA system and don’t belong to veterans service organizations such as VVA.
I again urge each and every one of you to go and become knowledgeable about these issues and then do whatever you can to get the word out to all veterans. I encourage you to reach out to other organizations you are involved with. For example, I am coordinating with some of my brother Masons, who are also VVA members, to get an op-ed piece published in their Grand Lodge magazines.
My sons are IBEW electricians, and I contacted the editor of their union’s paper, which resulted in my letter being published in their latest national newspaper. I know that many of you are Elks or Knights of Columbus, or you belong to Rotary, a union, or are active in a unit association such as the 1st Cav or the 3rd Marine Division. If you need some assistance in this effort, please contact me at or contact your State Council Presidents; they have these materials on disc.
Unfortunately, these issues are not limited to our generation. As you will see on the web site, the veterans from the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan face similar toxic exposures. They need to be educated as well.


We applaud the appointment of VVA Maryland State Council President Ed Chow as Maryland Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the ascension of Tom Insley as Maryland State Council President. Good luck to both.


Our hearts go out to the family of Ezell Ware and his colleagues on the Veterans Support Foundation. His knowledge and leadership will be missed. We also extend our condolences to John Miner and his family and the VVA community in Vermont on the death of his wife Joyce. She was an important asset to Vermont VVA and will be sorely missed.
The death of Robert S. McNamara, on the other hand, engendered more ambivalent feelings. Often called the architect of the Vietnam War, he later recanted his support for that war. His passing brought out many of the old arguments. Academics will argue for years whether his mea culpa was real or self-serving. But, whatever your viewpoint, this is clearly the passing of another icon of our generation.




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