what we really need is for veterans to participate in their own well-being

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

Politics. It's back. And as per usual, I've become the target of unsolicited political emails from friends and foe alike, all from well-meaning but sometimes easily swayed armchair patriots.

Folks, I'm not so shallow as to get my "facts" from party propaganda or canned rhetoric, left or right, so let's not waste my time, especially since so few of you bother to verify what you forward. I'm more interested in the truth than I am in political gossip, so you can expect that I'll research everything you send. However, I've better things to do, so I ask that you not use me - or any other TAVV member - to further your partisan agenda. I find such unsolicited "intel" insulting, and when I do respond, you'll probably not like my less than diplomatic demeanor, especially if the email proves to be untrue. On an organizational level, TAVV cannot and will not indulge in politics, as it's against our by-laws. It's also disrespectful to our membership.

Members of our organization represent a wide range of the political spectrum. Despite those differences, TAVV members have managed for 29 successful years now to work together in assisting local veterans and civilians, regardless of their political affiliations. It's too easy to get angry over politics, folks, so it's better that we just avoid the subject altogether. What concerns TAVV is how those politics affect veterans. But even then, we need facts, not party-sanctioned, think-tank mass-messaging. If you have something worth saying, I'd prefer it not come from a copied email. So please, do your homework before sending me what someone else sent you. Political chain mail is generally little more than lazy grandstanding, one-sided, meaningless, and hardly worthy of the time it takes to read them.

This week, in the wake of the VA scandal and shakeup, I received questionable chain emails from two leaders in the veteran community, one from a long-time friend and well-respected member of the national veteran scene and the other from a local veteran coalition president. There was nothing constructive in either, as both were simply party hate mailings aimed at the current administration in Washington. Even if I agreed with the message, I find it offensive that any individual would use his leadership position as a bully pulpit to attempt to coerce or co-opt others in his trust into believing as he does. In my opinion, that's a self-serving and arrogant abuse of power. Furthermore, to assume that all veterans think alike is contrary to the melting pot of public opinion that we call America. For any elected veteran leader to use his nonpolitical position to promote any brand of politics is unfair to those non-believers within his purview.

And this is only the beginning. As politically polarized as this country has become, nothing is wasted when considered as ammunition. What offends me most is that veterans are constantly used as pawns by politicos who have no concern for our needs except during election season. And damned few of those individuals are veterans themselves. Even veterans who prey politically on other veterans seem to have little to contribute during election off-years. And while Congressmen point fingers at each other for the recent VA hospital debacle, where were they when additional funding was requested to shore up the VA system? Rather than raise taxes or go further in debt, they chose instead to make severe cuts in those needed funds. That's a matter of record. Folks, there's plenty of political blame out there to go around. And there's much more to supporting veterans than simply waving a flag and making idle promises. We deserve better, but unless we make our demands heard, we'll get nothing more than the usual lip service to which we're accustomed.

In my column last month, I extolled the virtues of our local VA clinic. I felt a tad foolish when, the following day, a local whistleblower revealed the existence of secret lists here in our own Central Texas healthcare system. Well, that's what whistleblowers do, and without them, such practices would never come to light. Still, my opinion of our clinic hasn't changed. Even with this latest revelation, I hear far more positive remarks than negative. And unless veteran service organizations receive complaints from veterans about clinic problems, we can only assume that all is well.

Only when you folks share your grievances will we be able to improve the service. Now that the clinic issues are out in the open nationally, let's put the political name-calling and finger-pointing aside and address the problem. Politics and politicians notwithstanding, what we really need is for veterans to participate in their own well-being. Maybe it's time for each of you put something back into the system. Get involved. After all, the veteran you help just may be yourself... See you on Thursday. 

Semper fi! 

Don Dorsey, President

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 7:00 pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.