By: Commander of VVA Chapter 1076 Neil Johnson
VVA knows what returning veterans face. We have been through it before and we know that, despite all the rhetoric, returning veterans will face major problems. VVA will be here for as long as it takes to make sure that those who serve our country receive the care and respect, they have earned
VVA’s goals are to promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans. VVA strives to achieve the following:
- Aggressively advocate on issues important to veterans
- Seek full access to quality health care for veterans
- Identify the full range of disabling injuries and illnesses incurred during military service
- Hold government agencies accountable for following laws mandating veterans health care
- Create a positive public perception of Vietnam veterans
- Seek the fullest possible accounting of America’s POWs and MIAs
- Support the next generation of America’s war veterans
- Serve our communities
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the only national Vietnam veterans’ organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families.
By the late 1970s, it was clear the established veterans’ groups had failed to make a priority of the issues of concern to Vietnam veterans. As a result, a vacuum existed within the nation’s legislative and public agenda. In January 1978, a small group of Vietnam veteran activists came to Washington, D.C., searching for allies to support the creation of an advocacy organization devoted exclusively to the needs of Vietnam veterans. VVA, initially known as the Council of Vietnam Veterans, began its work. At the end of its first year of operation in 1979, the total assets were $46, 506.
Council members believed that if the nation’s attention was focused on the specific needs of Vietnam veterans, a grateful nation would quickly take remedial steps. However, despite persuasive arguments before Congress, which were amplified by highly supportive editorials printed in many leading American newspapers, they failed to win even a single legislative victory to bring new and needed programs into creation to help Vietnam veterans and their families.
It soon became apparent that arguments couched simply in terms of morality, equity, and justice were not enough. The U.S. Congress would respond to the legitimate needs of Vietnam veterans only if the organization professing to represent them had political strength. In this case, strength translated into numbers which meant membership. By the summer of 1979, the Council of Vietnam Veterans had transformed into Vietnam Veterans of America, a veterans’ service organization made up of, and devoted to, Vietnam veterans.
Hindered by the lack of substantial funding for development, the growth of membership was at first slow. The big breakthrough came when the American hostages were returned from Iran in January 1981. It was as if America went through an emotional catharsis that put the issues of the Vietnam era on the table for public discussion. The question was asked why parades for the hostages but not for Vietnam veterans? Many veterans complained about the lack of recognition and appreciation for past national service. Vietnam-era veterans wanted action in the form of programs that would place the latest generation of veterans on the same footing as veterans from previous wars.
Membership grew steadily, and for the first time, VVA secured significant contributions. The combination of the public’s willingness to talk about the Vietnam War and the basic issues that it raised, as well as the veterans themselves coming forward, was augmented by the nation’s dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in November 1982. The week-long activities rekindled a sense of brotherhood among the veterans and a feeling that they shared an experience that was too significant to ignore.
In 1983, VVA took a significant step by founding Vietnam Veterans of America Legal Services (VVALS) to provide assistance to veterans seeking benefits and services from the government. By working under the theory that a veteran representative should be an advocate for the veteran rather than simply a facilitator, VVALS quickly established itself as the most competent and aggressive legal-assistance program available to veterans. VVALS published the most comprehensive manual ever developed for veteran service representatives, and in 1985, VVALS wrote the widely acclaimed Viet Vet Survival Guide. In the nineties, VVALS evolved into the current VVA Service Representative program.
The next several years saw VVA grow in size, stature, and prestige. VVA’s professional membership services, veterans service, and advocacy work gained the respect of Congress and the veterans’ community. In 1986, VVA’s exemplary work was formally acknowledged by the granting of a congressional charter.
Today, Vietnam Veterans of America has a national membership of over 75, 000, with over 500 chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Philippines. VVA state councils coordinate the activities of local chapters. VVA places great emphasis on coordinating its national activities and programs with the work of its local chapters and state councils and is organized to ensure that victories gained at the national level are implemented locally.
VVA strives for individual and group empowerment and locally originated action to assist veterans and other needy members of their communities. These volunteer programs offer unique and innovative services to an ever-widening population. They include support for homeless shelters; substance-abuse education projects and crime-prevention campaigns; sponsorship of youth sports, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters; and relief to other communities affected by natural disasters and chronic poverty.
VVA is governed by a national board of directors and by national officers — 24 women and men democratically elected by VVA delegates, are sent by their respective chapters to biennial conventions. VVA’s essential purpose is to promote the educational, economic, health, cultural, and emotional readjustment of the Vietnam-era veteran to civilian life. This is done by promoting legislation and public-awareness programs to eliminate discrimination suffered by Vietnam veterans.
VVA’s government-relations efforts combine the three ingredients essential to success in the legislative arena — lobbying, mobilizing constituents, and working with the media — to achieve its ambitious agenda. Legislative victories have included the establishment and extension of the Vet Center system, passage of laws providing for increased job-training and job-placement assistance for unemployed and underemployed Vietnam-era veterans, the first laws assisting veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure, and landmark legislation (i.e., Judicial Review of veterans claims) permitting veterans to challenge adverse VA decisions in court. All were enacted largely as a result of VVA’s legislative efforts.
VVA helps to provide greater public awareness of the outstanding issues surrounding Vietnam-era veterans by disseminating written information on a continual basis through a weekly electronic publication. The VVA Veteran ®, VVA’s award-winning newspaper, is mailed to all VVA members and friends of the organization. In addition, self-help guides on issues such as Agent Orange and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are published and made available to anyone interested.
Vietnam War History
Lasting from 1955 to 1975, the Vietnam war engulfed the Southeast Asian country
of Vietnam as well as its neighboring countries, Cambodia and Laos. It resulted in several million deaths, most of whom were Vietnamese civilians.
The conflict began during the 1950s when the struggle between the country’s communist northern part and the anti-communist south escalated. The United States began its military involvement in an effort to back the South’s effort to quell the communist onslaught, which, at the height of the Cold War, was feared to promote the spread of communist ideology and influence worldwide. During the war, about 500,000 US troops were dispatched to Southeast Asia, about 58,000 of whom were killed. 151 Veterans were from Nevada State.
The war ended in 1975 with the fall of Saigon and the victory of North Vietnam.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
On Nov. 13, 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated and stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. Inscribed on the black granite walls are the names of more than 58,000 men and women who gave their lives or remain missing. Yet the Memorial itself is dedicated to honor the “courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country” of all who answered the call to serve during the longest war in U.S. history.
Two members of the U.S. Senate, Charles Mathias (R-Md.) and John Warner (R-Va.), took the lead in Congress to enact legislation providing three acres in the northwest corner of the National Mall as a site for the Memorial. It was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day is a US holiday observed annually on March 29. It recognizes veterans who served in the US military during the Vietnam War. It should not be confused with Veterans Day.
On March 29, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 29, 2012, as Vietnam Veterans Day. The proclamation called “upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the Vietnam War.”
On March 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. This act officially recognizes March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. The Act also includes the day among those days on which the US flag should especially be displayed.
On March 29, 2018, at the Grant Sawyer Building the Vietnam Veterans (local Chapters 17,
1076 and Nevada State Council) co-host the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, the first Southern Nevada Vietnam Veterans recognition ceremony that drew hundreds of Vietnam Veterans and Supporters to honor our Vietnam Veterans who served their country.
This March 29 & 30, 2019, we are pleased to report that the event was so successful that the Nevada Department of Veterans Services and our Northern VVA chapters will be co-hosting this year’s recognition with the hopes of another great turnout.
The March 29, 2020 is currently in the planning stage on making this an annual recognition event in Southern Nevada. Please follow our progress in the Veterans Reporter on how you and/or your organization can participate.