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
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
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
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
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: email@example.com
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 .