Our Chapter is very proud of the fact that we were able to send 4 Delegates to Louisville in 2009 and 5 Delegates this year, 2011, to the VVA National Convention in Reno. Delegate reports and photos from the National Convention will be coming ASAP. Please, check back real soon!
Gary, John, Moe (standing)
John, Darrell, Bill, & Ron (back row)
Tom, Bill, Darrell, & Ron (sitting) Tom, Gary, Norma, Moe, & Dennis (front row)
Jon Voight acclaimed Hollywood actor who won an Academy Award for his portral of a paraplegic Vietnam veteran
Lt. Colonel Michael Strobi, author of "Taking Chance" and his son
Jon Voight swearing in the new VVA Officers Darrell, Bill, and Ron with John Phelps, father of Chance Phelps
Jon Voight with Tom & Cheryl Brown John Phelps and Jon Voight
John Riling congratulating John Phelps as our newest 528 Member John Voight with Darrell, Ron, and Tom
Bill & Mary, Ron, Tom & Cheryl, & Gary Darrell, his wife Sandy, daughter Erica, and Ron
Mouse, Moe, and Bruce Blossom Pat Sajak (Wheel of Fortune) with Cheryl Brown
Bill, Mary, and Cheryl John, p-nut, and ??
Dennis, Gary, John, & Moe (Standing)
Darrell, Bill, & Ron (Back Row)
Tom, Bill, Darrell, & Ron (Front) Tom, Gary, Norma, Moe, & Dennis (Front Row)
John, Gary, ??, Tom, Bill, Darrell, and Ron Tom, Bill, Darrell, and Ron
Dennis & Moe P-Nut
Dale Luebkie busy as usual making Dog Tags Patty Bielskis
Moe and others helping out Color Guard from Fort Knox
The VVA National Convention met this year in Louisville, Kentucky. The attending Delegates of Chapter 528 were: Darrell Bazman, Bill Boudreau, Tom Brown, and Ron King. Chapter 528 members Gary Estermyer and John Riling attended as Representatives from the State VVA Council of Michigan. Norma Demerly also attended as our AVVA Delegate. Dennis Bielskis attended for VVA Chapter 142 (Monroe) and Moe Swope helped John Riling with product sales. Dale Luebke was able to come and make Dog Tags for many Vietnam Veterans. Everyone had lots of fun but it was a very busy and informative week. Unfortunately, Chapter 528 did not win any of the four awards we entered.
We met and talked to Pat Sajak, Jon Voight, Linda West, John Phelps (Vietnam Navy Veteran who served in the Gulf of Tonkin and the father of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps). We also met and talked with Lt. Colonel (retired) Michael Strobi who volunteered to escort the remains of Chance Philips back to his hometown in Wyoming. HBO made a movie of Lt. Colonel Strobl's book/diary about bringing Chance back. It's called "Taking Chance" and it stars Kevin Bacon. The HBO movie has been nominated for 10 Emmy Awards. All delegates were able to watch the movie and after its conclusion received a free DVD. Lt. Colonel Strobl brought his young son with him. Bill Boudreau and I noticed his son was wearing a Derek Jeter shirt so we gave the boy a Michigan Pin and told him that Derek Jeter went to The University of Michigan.
John Phelps, Chance's father, came up to Michigan Council Product Sales and Ron King and my wife Cheryl waited on him. After Ron figured out who John Phelps was, he informed all the workers (many of our own Delegates) that Chance's father wanted some merchandise. Naturally, we gave Mr. Phelps the pins and patches he wanted - free of charge. John Riling, Bill Boudreau, Norma Demerly, Ken Diegel, Ron King, Darrell Bazman, and myself talked Mr. Phelps into becoming a Member of Chapter 528. Michigan State Council paid his VVA dues for three years. John Phelps accepted to become a member of our Chapter - #192!
Each of our Chapter Delegates attended three separate meetings as well as attending our Region 5 Caucuses. The different Committee Hearings were: Agent Orange/Dioxin, POW/MIA, PTSD and Substance Abuse, Veterans Benefits, Veterans Incarcerated, ETBO, Membership Affairs, Public Affairs, Health Care, Women Veterans, Homeless Veterans, Minority Affairs, Government Affairs, and Constitution Committee. I attended the Veterans Benefits Committee, Public Affairs Committee, and Government Affairs Committee. At the Region 5 Caucus we were able to meet and question the 14 candidates who were running for the National Board of Directors. The results of the Election: John Rowan, President; Jack Devine, Vice President; Barry Hagge, Secretary; and Larry Frazee, Treasurer. The new National Board of Directors are: Marsha Four, Bill Meeks, Patrick Welch, Dan Stenvoid, John Margowski, Thomas Burke, Jerry Yamamoto, Sandy Wilson, Pat Bessigano, and Richard Delong.
During the Opening Ceremony, Delegates were entertained by recording artist Michelle DellaFave and Actress Lindsay Bloom (Dingalings). Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore delivered the Keynote Speech. Heather French Henry, a native of Maysville, Kentucky, who has been an active veterans' advocate since winning the Miss America crown in 2000, took part in the Saturday afternoon autographing and book-signing session. The daughter of a disabled Vietnam veteran, Heather French Henry followed her father into the halls of VA hospitals for treatments, experienced his night terrors, and stood by his side as he recovered from severe post-war emotional trauma.
During the Saturday Banquet the VVA honored Pat Sajak, who received the Excellence in the Arts Award. In 1968, Pat joined the U.S. Army, and was sent to Vietnam. After a few months as a finance clerk, he was transferred into Armed Forces Radio and given the morning show on AFVN in Saigon where he yelled, "Good Morning, Vietnam!" for a year and a half. He finished his military career at the Pentagon in 1970. Acclaimed Hollywood actor Jon Voight also spoke during the Convention and at the Banquet. Mr. Voight won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a paraplegic Vietnam veteran in the 1978 film "Coming Home" and went on to appear in dozens of films and TV shows. His breakthrough film came in 1969 when he appeared in the critically and popularly acclaimed movie Midnight Cowboy. The film won the Best Picture of the Year Oscar and Voight and co-star Dustin Hoffman were nominated as Best Actor. On the Convention Floor Jon expressed his regrets at being caught up with the hysteria that swept our nation at the end of the 60's and into the 70's: "How sad I feel that our war heroes of Vietnam were not given a heroes welcome back then, and their suffering was unimaginable. So many American lives lost in vain, and no one hailed those that returned. Can we blame them for their bitterness? Our country turned against them." Mr. Voight was truly upset as he apologized for his mistakes. At the Banquet, I was able to go up to Mr. Voight and thank him for his honesty and told him that his sincere apology was one of the bravest things I've ever experienced. He thank me! Jon Voight was also honored by the VVA because of his work to get a National Day of Recognition for Vietnam Veterans. Mr. Voight helped convince the U.S. Congress to set aside March 28 to honor the Vietnam Vets. The House of Representatives and the Senate voted to designate March 30th (March 28 in 2010 - Sunday) to be Vietnam Veteran's Day. Here are the front and back sides of a pamphlet which was given to all Delegates at our VVA National Convention in Louisville. Front Side. Back Side. For more information see any of our Members who attended the National VVA Convention in July/August 2009.
At the Saturday Banquet we were entertained by the band called Wulfe which specialized in music of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Everyone had a very enjoyable night. I would like to thank the Chapter for electing me as one of your Delegates.
Being chosen to represent our chapter as a delegate to the national convention was an honor for me. Being chosen to attend the convention with you guys was truly an honor - you guys are awesome! The convention was exciting and packed full of activities, programs, and general good times. Indeed, it was an eye-opener to see the hundred of dedicated, no-nonsense veterans who are genuinely concerned for their welfare, as well as the welfare of future veterans.
It was refreshing to see the huge numbers of Government agencies, offices, and personnel who are diligently working to better Vietnam Veterans and their families lives. Also,it is encouraging to know that our efforts as veterans are not being ignored, and that a lot of hard work is being expended to decrease the amount of time that we have to wait to be compensated for injuries, etc. The three committees that I attended, Agent Orange/Dioxin, Health Care, and Government Affairs were extremely focused on finding positive, viable solutions to problems plaguing our veterans. I also saw dedicated and professional people at all State and Government levels eager to streamline veteran issues, and to stop the "lip service" and actually provide answers to concerns.
Finally, being a part of this massive convention and attending it with professional people like you is a very humbling experience, and one I will never forget! Thank you for letting me be apart of it.
Greetings All: As usual, I totally enjoyed myself in participating in the business of VVA at the convention. It's always so refreshing to exchange ideas with other VVA family from around the country. To be able to converse with "3peat President John", National committee chairs, National Directors and VVA staff is very informative.
The hearings I attended were; PTSD & Substance Abuse, Membership Affairs and Constitution. I heard Dr. Tom Berger and Dr. Tom C. Hall speak about the progress in the committee. Gordie Lane spoke about a Veteran's Diversion Program he co-founded with Peter Bronstad to better handle court cases involving veterans in Onondaga County, NY. The membership hearing turned into an 1 1/2 hour Q&A session as no membership resolutions or amendments were to be discussed. The constitution hearing was very helpful in reviewing the amendments for consideration. At the Regional meeting I attended in Moline, IL in May proved that those delegates were pretty much in agreement with the National committee. I also attended the Legislative Affairs breakfast on Saturday morning with Bill and again it was very informative hearing questions posed to the VVA leadership and the main speaker, House Committee Chairman Bob Filner.
Being one of the 657 delegates was again my pleasure and honor. I am grateful for the financial assistance offered by the 528 membership. I believe all the 528 members who attended will share their experiences and offer suggestions to make Plymouth-Canton Chapter 528 even better and stronger. Reno in 2011 !!
Tuesday July 28th: Arrived approximately 3:30 p.m. after approximately a 5 1/2 hour drive. Tuesday evening, after checking into my room, I went to the Convention Mall and delivered some requested items to Michigan State Product Sales, and than registered at the Registration Area without any problems. I went back to Product Sales and received my Michigan Council Kit, U.S. Marine 'T' shirt Viet Vet., 10 trading Michigan Pins and my Vietnam Service ribbon lanyard for I.D. Tags. All the Chapter Delegates hooked up and went to T.G.I.Fs for dinner downtown Louisville. With luck, I was upgraded to a Suite at no extra charge due to Hotel over booking. So with this larger room I had the Delegates meeting in my Suite where: Tom, Ron, Darrell, Gary and myself planned out the various schedule of times to go to Seminars, following Opening Ceremonies Wednesday morning.
Wednesday July 29th: Convention Opening Ceremony at 9 a.m. Posting of the Colors, Welcoming to Louisville, opening speeches by President John Rowan, and former Miss America Heather French Henry, whose father is a Vietnam Vet and she has made it her work to help veterans and especially Disabled Vets, making appearances all over the U.S.. Another main concern and recognition for this Convention was for our Canadian Brothers. Approximately 30,000 Canadians fought for America in American Branches of the Service. We received instructions on the working of the Convention, Seminars, Proposals, and voted on the Convention Agenda. With all the preliminary items out of the way, we were excused to go to lunch and then attend various seminars. The seminars we attended were: Agent Orange, POW/MIA, PTSD, Veteran Benefits, ETABO, Membership Affairs, Public Affairs, Health Care, Women Veterans, Homeless Veterans, Minority Affairs, Government Affairs, Constitution Committee. The others Seminars we (the Chapter Delegates) divided up to attend, at our meeting Tuesday Evening.
Thursday July 30th: Again had the Delegates return to the Main Convention Floor where the business of Proposals and Amendments took place. See Note book PROPOSALS AND AMENDMENTS for details. Many Proposals and Amendments were presented some with much discussion and a couple sent back to Committee for re-wording. Things moved along so well that we extended the agenda beyond the 12 noon lunch break to finish for the day - approximately 1:30 p.m.. VVA President Rowan dismissed the Delegates for the Day. This is when Tom Brown and his wife and mine went to the LOUISVILLE SLUGGER Factory/Museum down the street in Downtown Louisville. During the Regional Meeting at 7 p.m. in various rooms the Delegates got to hear from all those running for the various offices and what their stand on issues facing VVA today and what they will attempt to do if elected.
Friday July 31st: Morning began with the Election of Officers and Board Members for the National VVA. (this was all done by secret ballots in a room divided by Regions and run by the Kentucky League of Women Voters). 9 a.m. the Convention Floor opened to work on the remaining Proposals and Amendments that were sent back to Committee. Some proposals were withdrawn and some were discussed, and some voted on. The results of the election were announced to all the Delegates and the Delegates were excused for the day around 2:30 p.m. and excused from the Convention floor, because of the response for the "Blue-Eyed Soul" ladies (formerly known as the "Gold Diggers" for Dean Martin TV Show) who were scheduled for one of the smaller rooms had to change to the Convention Floor to accommodate people wishing to attend. At 3 p.m. we had a private showing of the HBO Movie "Taking Chance" with Kevin Bacon playing the Marine Col. escorting PFC Chance Phelps home for burial in Wyoming who was KIA in Iraq in 2005. This was a very moving story and I did not feel such a softy when everyone one around me had tears running down their cheeks. After the movie, we were quite moved when the real Col. Michael Strobl USMC and his son after receiving a standing ovation discussed a little of the making of the movie and his book. Kevin Bacon read the screen play and begged to play the part. Everyone that attended the three screenings was given a DVD of the movie.
Saturday August 1st: The day began with the "CLOSING CEREMONIES" and the traditional exchanging of the VVA Flag to the Nevada Delegation as the 2011 National VVA Convention will be in Reno, Nevada. We then heard speeches by the Governor of Kentucky and a U.S. Senator in charge of VA Benefits, and a Senator from Kentucky on the committee for Veteran Affairs. We heard good news and many promises, an Increase in Veteran money and the Idea of the goal of NOT having any "Homeless Vets on any of the streets, of any of Americas cities." We were then given the final charges of the "Louisville National VVA Convention" the closing of business and the ceremony of the "Retiring of the Colors". The Convention was dismissed and the formal part of the Convention concluded.
Banquet - Saturday Evening: 6:30 p.m. there was a reception outside the Convention Floor that had been converted into a Banquet room. Our delegation cleans up pretty well and we were all set for the festivities at 7 p.m when the doors opened. Unfortunately, we could not all sit at one table but we were right next to each other at two tables. The Awards segment began with Awards to Linda West, author of Beyond the Rice Paddies, Jon Voight, actor for is years of work on screen but especially for his portrayal of a Returning Viet Vet in "COMING HOME", and I might add now a very good friend and ally for Veterans. Pat Sajak - TV Game Host "Wheel of Fortune" for his work in 1969 Vietnam with Armed Forces Radio. Mr Sajak gave several antidotes on his Vietnam Years and we heard several of his recorded radio broadcasts from 1969. John Phelps, artist and Vietnam Veteran who has done many Vietnam works of art and several sculptures. John is also the real life father of Chance Phelps the young Marine from the Movie "Taking Chance". Also, Lt Col. Mike Strobl - The Marine Colonel that lived, and wrote about and advised on the real life story "Taking Chance" from HBO. Again, Bill Nelson - Vietnam Vet, & C.E.O. of HBO was recognized for bringing us the story "Taking Chance" and giving us over 700 copies of the Video free to each Delegate.
SUMMARY: The Delegates that the Chapter sent to this Convention Darrell Bazman, Ron King, Tom Brown, were first timers, but they all handled themselves with enthusiasm, respect, and determination to represent the Chapter and State Of Michigan in a great light. I know Gary Estermyer (who always takes his Delegation jobs with the up most dedication) along with myself were re-excited by the others which made this convention experience something that will live for a long time. It was a pleasure to serve with these guys, socialize, eat, and work and listen. We got to meet their families as well to get to know each other better. Thank-you Chapter 528 for making me one of your Delegates.
My flight to Louisville was on a small Northwest/Delta plane which only had 2 seats on each side. I arrived at 1:40 p.m. at the Louisville International Airport and proceeded to ground transportation to get my shuttle over to the hotel which my pick up time was scheduled for 2 p.m. After waiting until 2:30 p.m. and watching various other shuttle buses to other hotels come an go, I called my shuttle service. They informed me that mine was on its way, and ten minutes later it arrived. Arriving at the Galt House I proceeded to check in an got my room. I went to my room to check it out and then returned to the lobby to meet with other members an go to dinner. Several of us from various chapters went out to dinner at the Spaghetti Factory. It was only 2 blocks away so the walk gave us a chance to check out downtown Louisville. The food was good. Back at the hotel sitting in the lobby talking and watching as more members from different chapters arrived. On Tuesday I helped at AVVA sales/silent auction table and at product sales table until registration opened at noon. I had no problem getting my name badge and tickets for the AVVA luncheon and banquet. Opening Ceremony was very impressive and the guest speaker General Honore was really getting the crowds attention. I went to several seminars: By-Laws, Fund Raising, and Procedures. I found out that any changes suggested for the By-Laws must be on proper form and submitted 120 days before biannual meeting. There was discussion on chapters being incorporated even if there state wasn't. Also, about stand alone chapters having to be incorporated. There was also discussion on changing the one state, one vote, to one chapter, one vote. It was also announced about AVVA members being approved if interested to become service officers and to talk to Nancy Switzer. Fund raising needed to find out state laws if soliciting form required when contacting merchants. Ask for a donation or suggest a donation not price. Some fund raising Ideas are bingo, juried craft show, AVVA 50/50 raffle, bake sale, and place mats with sponsors on it. Also, cookbooks with recipes from chapter members and also coffee an cookies at rest areas. At our AVVA luncheon we had a former Miss America talk. Delegates had to decorate a hat for a contest. Madam President Penny Meinhardt won with her hat decorated with things from her region 5 states. Finally the banquet went well, food and entertainment was great. It was a long week, a lot of walking back an forth between towers to seminars. Waiting on elevators! But it was for my first experience and an interesting one.