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

September/October 2002
Photo:Michael Keating
Remember To March

Congratulations to everyone who participated in our successful National Leadership Conference in Tucson. We came together as a family, treated each other with respect, and left with a much stronger bond among us than at any other time in our history.

I offer my sincere gratitude to each of the presenters. You all did a wonderful job evidenced by the attendance, interest, and participation in those workshops. I heard comments from many of our members that this was the best VVA Leadership Conference ever.

I also want to recognize and congratulate the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America on their highly successful second biennial meeting. AVVA came together as friends and chose leaders for the next two years. They shared ideas, skills, and experiences. Thanks to all AVVA members for their continued support of our common concerns.

Congratulations as well to the newly elected slate of officers of the Conference of State Council Presidents. They have a very important role to play in the day-to-day administration of VVA. I ask each of you to support them in their efforts.

While in Tucson, we learned that our dear friend, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown, passed away following his long battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gherig's Disease. I was honored to represent VVA at his funeral. All veterans have lost a true champion of our cause. Jesse was fond of saying that he was "Secretary for Veterans Affairs," and he truly was. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

On September 6 we were saddened to learn of the passing of James J. Peters, executive director of the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association in New York. Jim, 57, was a close personal friend who has been a good and steadfast supporter of VVA. Jim, who died after a short illness, and Eastern PVA made significant contributions in support VVA's Veterans Initiative. He sustained a spinal cord injury in 1967 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he served as a Second Lieutenant, and Civil Engineer. He began a life-long career at EPVA in September 1969 as deputy executive director.

In 1970, Life magazine published a landmark article about the deplorable conditions facing paralyzed Vietnam veterans at the old Bronx VA hospital. Jim worked with the Life staff, and the publication of the article forced the VA to build a new Bronx VA Medical Center and to establish a national Spinal Cord Injury Service.

The loss of these two friends leaves us all with a sense of loss and mortality. Both fought their entire adult lives for justice for veterans. We must continue that fight.

Veterans Day 2002 marks the twentieth anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Wall. On that day VVA will host the March To Remember to commemorate the anniversary and pay tribute to friends like Jesse and Jim, and tens of thousands of others who gave their lives in defense of freedom and dignity, and in support of those who serve in uniform today.

Monday, November 11, 2002, is our day to demonstrate that we at VVA are still In Service To America. Our battles for justice and compassion continue with the same passion and enthusiasm we had when we first came together in 1978.

We will March To Remember our fellow veterans still suffering the ravages of our war -whether it be Agent Orange-related cancer or birth defects, the burdensome effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or the tragedy of families who still wait for news about their loved ones listed as POW/MIA. We must be prepared to carry that message to everyone, including the administration and the Congress.

We will March To Remember the significant progress we have made in the last 24 years on these and many other issues. We will March To Remember that we still have a long way to go before we can declare victory.

One of the most critical issues facing veterans is the failure of the administration to provide adequate funding for the VA. The VA needs $275 million immediately, in addition to the minimum of $25.5 billion needed to maintain service at current levels in the fiscal year that began October 1. We have met with the director of the Office of Management and Budget to present our concerns regarding the VA health care budget.

We will March To Remember at a time when our nation faces the certainty of war and the certainty of additional American casualties. We cannot sit quietly while the VA budget is being held hostage and the safety and welfare of the entire country hangs in the balance.

It is absolutely imperative that we come together in Washington on Monday, November 11, where we will March To Remember and where we will live our Founding Principle, Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.

We will March To Remember on November 11 because we will never forget.

Remember our troops.


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