By Steve Ranson, LVN Editor Emeritus
A statewide veterans’ group that has enormous outreach, especially during the legislative session, and a Vietnam-era sailor who has taken an active role as an advocate were recognized for their contributions during a recent ceremony at the Old Assembly Chambers in Carson City by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services.
The Veteran Supporter of the Month is the United Veterans Legislative Council (UVLC), a small group of dedicated veterans who represent more than 300,000 retired, former and current service men and women and their families on a myriad of issues during the state’s legislative session. The July Veteran of the Month is Reno resident Graham Stafford.
Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall presented the certificates on behalf of Gov. Steve Sisolak who was attending the summer meeting of the National Governors Association. “It’s important to honor our veterans and veterans’ support groups,” Marshall said.
NDVS Director Kat Miller said the UVLC presents a formidable, unified voice for veterans, the military and families to find, identify and lobby for legislative action. She said the ULVC consists of every Nevada veteran organization. “During the last session, 27 pieces of legislation were passed,” Miller said. “It was hard to dig through the noise to find out what was important. Those incredible men and women brought together that voice in a way to make it easier for our elected officials to know what is important.” Miller said the ULVC did some amazing work this year. “They talked issues, not politics,” she added.
Miller highlighted some of the legislation passed during the past two sessions with the support of the ULVC: $50 million for the construction of the Northern Nevada State Veterans Home, tax deductions for employers who hire unemployed veterans, expanded exemption of college tuition for veterans when they return from service and required state licensing boards to develop reciprocity opportunities for veterans.
Tony Yarbrough, a U.S. Navy chief petty officer who served during the Vietnam War and was recently elected state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is chairman of the ULVC. He said it took many years to develop the council and to come up with a unified voice.
“Everyone in the ULVC is a leader since we all speak veterans’ issues,” said the Yerington resident. “We are the epitome of teamwork.”
Yarbrough said the ULVC is unlike other organizations because of the work they do on behalf of veterans and how they work closely with the NDVS. He said the 27 key members of the ULVC have been instrumental with their assistance. Miller said Stafford is a Nevada Veterans Advocate and plans to volunteer at the new veterans home in Sparks. She said Stafford has volunteered at many outreach events such as the Reno Earth Day, the VFW job fair, Reno Women’s Expo and the Reno Classic Car Show.
“Graham has volunteered with the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies involved in land management and conservation, pulling out miles of unwanted barbed wire fencing, cleaning up camping area, improving hiking trails and opening up and improving desert springs,” she said. “Graham is just amazing. I don’t know where you get all the energy.”
Stafford served in the U.S. Navy in a Navy Security Group off the coast of Vietnam and in other areas of the South Pacific.
“We were doing the intelligence work for the troops in Vietnam,” he said. Stafford said when he returned from Vietnam, he attended college but didn’t tell anyone he was a veteran. He recalled a situation, though, that hanged his opinion.
“I heard right around the time of Afghanistan of somebody who went up to a guy in uniform and thanked him for his service,” Stafford said, adding he never heard that during or after his Vietnam service. After that experience, Stafford decided he wanted to be a veterans’ advocate. “I want to thank Nevada for the wonderful job they are doing for veterans,” he said. “This state really appreciates and does wonderful work for veterans.” Stafford, though, left a final thought for the veteran community. “I served a long time ago,” he said. “If I see a veteran, I do thank them for their service.”