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

July/August 2005
Photo:Michael Keating
Remembering 25 Years

As we approach our 12th National Convention, I look back on my more than 25 years in VVA. I am retiring as your president, but I am not leaving VVA. Though I am not seeking re-election, I intend to continue to be active in our organization and contribute to its future.

In my more than 25 years with VVA, I have served under all four previous presidents and with 11 national Boards of Directors, in the positions of board member, secretary, vice president, and president. I felt honored serving in each of these positions and have witnessed change within VVA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and all the other agencies we have worked with.

My desire always has been to seek justice; this has been a challenge.

Over the years, there were many big battles in Congress, including ones involving VVA’s Charter, the accounting of our POW/MIAs, Agent Orange, judicial review, Vet Center survival, and the constant struggle for adequate VA health care funding and other issues in our medical centers.

The veterans service organizations have come together for the first time ever and formed the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform. I have worked with the VSO’s and other non-governmental organizations to improve things for those who served and those serving today. I have worked with every VA Administrator and VA Secretary since 1978. I have also worked with some great senators and representatives who have joined us in our battles for veterans’ rights.

We still have many in Congress who understand a veteran’s service and are committed to those who served honorably. They understand the need to take care of those serving today, both now and when they are separated from service. We are still dealing with others in Congress who would like to see us go away, close the doors to our VA Medical Centers, and limit other entitlements veterans have earned by their service to country.

I hate repeating this, but many in positions of power are still trying to dismantle the system that many of us are dependent upon, and they are willing to do it, veteran by veteran. We will get more than $1 billion added this year and more than $1.5 billion added for next year for veterans’ health care. We have accomplished this by sticking together and working with those in Congress who cared enough to shout foul.

We have always sought the truth from our government. We are dealing with agencies that will not tell the truth, even when we have the proof showing they are lying. Over the years, I have witnessed this repeatedly—from the VA, DOD, OMB, and the Presidents. It happens no matter which party is in the White House. We will continue to seek the truth and care for those affected by chemical agents, secret tests, injections, medications, and other things that harm those who served.

Time is marching on. As VVA poet laureate Steve Mason has said, “We are in the fourth quarter.” The future of VVA will be decided by the highest authority in VVA, the delegates assembled at our National Convention in Reno. I will do my job to help the delegates make their choice of who will be best to lead us into these next important years as we fight to protect our health care system and face the challenge of ensuring that the needs of our members, their families, and all our veterans are met.

At our first national convention we vowed that, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” We have and will continue to live up to this with the new generation of war veterans, many of whom are the sons and daughters of Vietnam veterans. VVA will educate this newest generation and guide them as we have the Gulf War veterans. We will not let them take on their battles alone. I want to thank those who served with me over the years, those who were there to help promote VVA, rain or shine, and our staff who make VVA work. Without our dedicated staff and volunteers, none of what we have accomplished together over these last 25 years would have been possible. My VVA Chapter, 25, has always been there for me. To the members who elected me and entrusted each office to me, and to all who have continued to support me, I thank you. Mom and Dad, thank you. Thanks also to my son, Brian, my daughter, Trang, my friend and former wife, Sharon, and to Janet Alheit, my nurse for the last fourteen years who has kept me alive and gets me in my wheelchair every day. I also thank the good doctors and nurses who have treated and cared for me over the years at the Miami and West Palm Beach VA Medical Centers. I leave this position in VVA with few regrets. I gave it my best shot. Sure, looking back there are some things that I would have done differently. We knew how to move forward after each issue. There are many times when you are at the top that you feel alone, overwhelmed, and you need a friend. At those times, I looked to God and those who served with me—their names are on the Wall—they helped me through. To our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters serving today, we are here for you. God bring you all home soon.

Your President


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