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

August/September 2004

Richard Montgomery's Dream


What follows is a letter written by Ray Bates to Herb Worthington, chair of VVA's Veterans Against Drugs Task Force.

On Thursday, June 10, the Veterans Against Drugs Program received the Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This award is given in recognition of consistent influence in promoting initiatives that partner veterans in community service. The award was accepted on behalf of the late Richard Montgomery, who started this program in 1988 after seeing a fellow Vietnam veteran (Tony Yates) on television declaring war against the drug gangs that shot and killed his son. Rich, a man with vision, called upon local veterans groups to take back the drug corners in Philadelphia. The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Vietnam Veterans of America, and a few other veterans groups became involved with Rich's vision to combat this war on drugs.

In 1993, after putting pictures of these murdered children on the wall in his office, Rich contacted Judy Ringold, director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Rich wanted to give something back to the families who had lost children. Volunteer artists from the Academy of Fine Arts drew portraits of the murdered children and presented them in a ceremony. Transparencies of the portraits were made and the children's pictures were put on a moving wall. The exhibit, called Lost Dreams on Canvas, was taken to local high schools  for a week-long antiviolence program. Mothers came into the schools and talked to the students about how their loved ones were murdered.

After meeting Rich in February of 1993, I joined him in his dream of stopping the violence on the streets in Philadelphia. I learned Rich's good and bad behaviors in dealing with law enforcement, veterans groups, the District Attorney's Office, neighborhood watch organizations, and members of Congress. Most importantly, I learned about helping the families who had lost children and about doing whatever it takes to get them the support they need to survive their losses.

Last January, Richard Montgomery lost his battle with Agent Orange. The veterans community, the city of Philadelphia, and the families he helped over the years honored Rich and his family. Acknowledging this great man was easy. District Attorney Lynn Abraham, Sen. Harris Wolford, and other dignitaries spoke at his funeral about his accomplishments. I was asked by Rich a few days before his passing to promise that the Veterans Against Drugs/Lost Dreams on Canvas program would not end.

Judy and I continue Rich Montgomery's legacy, with more than 300 completed portraits of murdered children. The exhibit is being displayed at local high schools. Many people are involved with the programartists, teachers, parents, and students. They are touched by the program and understand the dream Rich had. His dream continues. We should all be free from violence, anger, and hatred. My challenge to all local veterans chapters across this country is to band together, make a difference, and fight to stop the violence.

You have helped Rich spread the message across the nation, Herb. Thank you for all you do with Veterans Against Drugs.


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