Vietnam Veterans of America, Oakland County Chapter #133 





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MINORITY  AFFAIRS

VVA'S FOUNDING PRINCIPLE
"Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another."

In keeping with this principle, we, as an organization... and as Americans, should take care to see that ALL veterans, be they Female, Black, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, anything else and/or any combination of the above are welcomed whenever and wherever we come together.

Probably the most difficult and misunderstood committee in any VVA Chapter  is "Minority Affairs".  Many persons aren't even clear about who the term minority refers to. It means, for VVA purposes, those whose heritage is Black, Native American, Asian or Hispanic and all Females.

Why does VVA have a committee to explore and address the particular needs and problems of minority veterans? Why is such a committee even needed? Are there really veterans issues or needs that are more relevant to minorities than other vets? Of course there are!

Did you ever notice how the grunts in the swamps were composed of such a cosmopolitan group of humanity... yet you see so few minorities as members of Service Organizations in even the most urban areas? Did you ever wonder "why"? Is this an indication that there might be some problems somewhere?

The reasons for this are confusing and complex. They may be painful to discuss but until an honest dialog is established nothing will change... so let's get to it!

To start, let's take an honest look at our (Vietnam Veterans) history and a few hard cold facts.

You know what it was like when you came home and and went to your local "Service Organization" and people there by word and deeds made it obvious that you weren't welcome. You might be tolerated as an outsider if you stayed in the shadows and kept your mouth shut. You didn't belong there... you hadn't earned the right to be there... you didn't know what a real war was all about... you were just another one of those crybabies... a real loser!

It hurt didn't it? Really got you ticked-off... It hurt so hard and so deep that a lot of vets retreated to places deep inside themselves and built walls and fences of anger, denial and forgetfulness to escape the pain. If the truth be told, that pain and frustration is the fabric that the Vietnam Veterans of America was forged from.

Now take a minute to imagine how much more hurt, anger and resentment you would be harboring if along with all the aforementioned crap there had been hatred for you because of your gender, ethnic background and skin color!

This unjustified rejection was probably something new to most of you... For minority veterans it was just the same old - same old, revisited and magnified. We fought and died as equals overe there... at home we're demoted to Citizen; 2nd Class.

Now remember we're not just talking about American society in general, (and there's plenty to talk about there). We're talking about Veteran's Service Organizations.  Institutions that by policies or actions had kept themselves pretty well segregated for decades!  Just saying, "That's how things were back then." is a pretty lame excuse... You knew better! Exclusion was and is wrong.

So here is VVA today... it's members having gotten away (hopefully) from trying to imply that there is a difference between Vietnam Vets based on who served "In-country" vs. who stayed state-side, or who was in the boonies as opposed to the "REMF".   But how about the people you trained with, learned with, competed against, ate with... and lived or died with? The ones that you supported & who supported you. They wore the same uniform even if they didn't look like you. They fought and survived or died... same as you... had the same hopes and dreams you did... and still do.

Did you realize that when minority Vets came home, they were treated differently than you?  How have you treated them? How long have you worked on some of your co-workers, neighbors or relatives to come see what VVA is all about? How many of the ones you've never given up on are of a different race or gender? Did you intend to treat them differently... or did you just not notice that you were treating them differently?

I'd be interested in hearing opinions from Asians, Women, Native Americans and Hispanics as to why they haven't categorically embraced VVA or other service organizations. Being one of the "Bloods" I already know that story.

Different wars... same story... America is your home, has been for generations! In many cases more generations than a lot of the guys you served with. You didn't run to Canada or Sweden... more often than not you were denied the same deferments that sheltered others from the draft. Just as your Father and his Father and his Father had done you entered into that unrequited love affair with America and served your country with honor and pride. In Nam, you served in the most integrated military the U.S. has ever had. You served your country while little Black girls were murdered in a church bombing, while Black citizens, seeking America's guaranteed basic freedoms, were beaten in the streets of America... sprayed with fire hoses and mauled by dogs. You harbored hope that the unity you saw in the military would spread in the civilian sector... that maybe King's dream and your dream of being judged by the content of character rather than color of skin would be realized in your life time... but you came back to the same old insipid stupidity. You're were just as out of place back "In the World" as anyone else despite gender or color. That's no surprise,  you were in the same place everyone else was... now you're treated the same, and worse!

You hear about guys who couldn't get a cab or get waited on in restaurands and bars until they got rid of their uniform. You could get out of your uniform and still not get a cab or service because of the color of your skin.

You could walk into a Service Organizations Post and your mere presence would make the place quiet as a tomb... except for the whispers. If somebody came over to welcome you... you saw the icy stares that his own buddies aimed at his back. You could hear the room come back to life as you left... You heard about the VVA maybe when you went there you got a warmer reception... but then you heard guys talking about  "Gooks" "Zips" & "Slopes" etc. so you wonder what racial slurs they reserve for when your back is turned...

It's past time to put an end to all of this. Every Veteran, everybody... Take a good look around you. You'd be surprised how many Vets there are and how fast we're dying. Some have come to terms with harsh reality in their losing struggle with "Father Time"... others haven't learned a damned thing... and never will.

Some of the same old timers who called us losers have owned up to their mistakes and extended the hand of friendship to all Vets. Some of the same people who viewed anyone "different" with suspicion have learned to respect everyone until they are given a legitimate reason not to. When faced with that reason their problem is not with a group but with that individual... and that's how it should be.

As a member of a minority group you could easily be unforgiving, untrusting and keep separate yourself from anything but your particular group. But in doing so do we not then become what we despise?

We should now work together, celebrate together, honor each other in life and mourn one another in death. A few bonds have been forged and a little forward progress is being made, some fences are being mended... yet... this is a society in which many of the same citizens who despise the Viet Cong flag, hate what the Nazi flag symbolizes and would like to deport any who would desecrate the American Flag, actually don't understand why many Americans are offended by the display of the Confederate flag especially side by side with or instead of the American Flag. (Go figure that one out!)

As an organization... as individuals, as Americans, we can't cure all our nation's ills today. We can't ignore them either... we must start somewhere. A good place to start is in insuring that when we come together as veterans, as citizen-soldiers, as survivors, that we include ALL who have stood together and ALL that we stood for... and that we make sure that our message is clearly meant for everyone when we say, "Welcome home"!

There is no difference in Veterans... we are what remains of those who came
together and still work together for a common cause... a few good soldiers whose only flaw is to love a country more than it has loved them!

We must stop shutting one another out in our minds and thinking of each other in terms of gender or color. What we need is to talk to each other, openly and honestly. No finger pointing, no blame-placing or no name-calling. No more us and them... it's you and me..."WE". We need to talk to one another's children and grandchildren. We need to understand that the common thread that bound us in 'Nam still binds us today... if anything it should be stronger after all these years. If we give up on this we all loose... we're vets... old warriors with numbered days. There'll be a new crop of vets later. What we do now could make life a lot better for them... but for now all we have is each other.

                                                                          Welcome Home... everyone!

So tell me how you see it! I can be reached via e-mail at: vva133@sbcglobal.net

 

Did you know that Black soldiers served in ALL of America's wars? The numbers increased sharply during and after the "Civil War". For a bit of history see www.kenyada.com\buffalo.htm .


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