As a young widow with a two year old son, Jonathan, I had the desire to do something to give back to those I thought of as true heroes – VETERANS. The traumas I had experienced through the sudden death of my husband and other life difficulties meant that I could in some ways closely relate to those who were experiencing the traumas from their war service including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Agent Orange, Homelessness just to name a few.
The ability to volunteer time meant that I could reach out to the newly forming Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. and offer my talents to organize their offices. My expertise in office procedures meant that I took the organization from one that was operating out of cardboard boxes to one that actually had desks, computers and the most helpful but basic, filing cabinets. It meant that the organization through the past eighteen years went from a loosely run grassroots effort to a well-organized multi-million dollar business that serves veterans and their families. There needed to be structure.
Over the beginning years of my involvement with the VVnW, Inc. my volunteer duties changed from an Office Manager to an Administrative Assistant. Five years ago, I was appointed to the position of International Executive Director of the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. for the U.S. and Australia by the National Board of Directors. This promotion brought with it additional, expanded, managerial duties and also gave me a seat on the National Board of Directors.
The empathy, passion and compassion that I exhibit toward all veterans is something that has caused me great joy as well as great pain. Trying to help a veteran who was just released from prison to “just get home” and then finding that he died of a heart attack on his way hitchhiking there, was just one example of a heart wrenching event that caused pain – it was as though a friend had died even though it was someone I had only met one time. Each day brings similar events and whenever it is possible to help even just one veteran it is something that makes my day.
I have been asked to speak at many prestigious occasions and do television interviews regarding the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc., the United Veterans Beacon House, the Military Support Package as well as the other programs of the organization. This is something that I am proud to do. I am as ready and proud to stand next to a veteran who is homeless as I am to stand next to those who are our country’s newest veterans. I can fall into tears over a letter received from a young veteran who is serving in Iraq and be just as easily moved by reading the citation detailing why a soldier has been awarded the Medal of Honor in the past.
Veterans are not an easy group to deal with. Their unique problems take a special blend of patience and understanding and while I have some bad days I do all I can to encourage, empower and listen to a vet who is in trouble and just needs someone to talk to. I respect veterans. I am an American Patriot. I am very proud that I have had a part in the building of the Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. through good times and bad.
I would like to share why it is that I do this job - “it is because of the willingness of veterans to serve our country when called that we have the freedoms that we enjoy today and whatever way I can help them is not too much to ask. Our young people need look no further than to a veteran for a hero and I am proud to do what I can on their behalf.”
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