Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

close ranks and step up to share the load

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

TAVV (Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans) is one of the hardest working veterans groups in the State. And because we move from one project to another in rapid succession, it sometimes appears that nothing is ever completed. Not so. At the beginning of each new year, I always review our past newsletters to see what we accomplished the year before, and I’m never disappointed.

I know that volunteering isn’t always easy and it’s almost never convenient, but to those of you who chose to participate in last year’s events, you have my utmost respect and gratitude. 2015 was one more in a long line of productive years for TAVV. And if it’s productive for TAVV, it’s productive for all veterans. I expect no less in 2016.

After completing the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument in 2014, a stand down would’ve seemed appropriate. My guess is that about half of TAVV participated in the monument project in one way or another, whether serving on a committee, lending your expertise, reading names, supporting the exhibits, or serving in the Color Guard, the Firebase Team, or as a member of the Patriot Guard. With four of our members serving on the 11-man Monument Executive Committee, TAVV was committed from the beginning. You folks never let us down. Although the monument was a hard act to follow, it was but one mission.

Our members went on in 2015 to participate in many Statewide events, including VA hospital visits in Kerrville, the Tet Reunion in Abilene, a Vietnam War Commemoration in Leander, the installation of the Texas Vietnam Hero Tag Exhibit in College Station, the Vietnam National War Museum in Mineral Wells, the Independence Day Parade in Lakeway, a memorial service for Vietnam casualties in El Campo, the Red, White, and Blue Banquet in Bastrop, and the Memorial Day Ceremony in Round Rock.

Locally, many TAVV members were involved in Honor Flight Austin as either guests or guardians. At the annual Muster Days Event at Camp Mabry, TAVV again displayed Vietnam era military items and vended military memorabilia. When the Daughters of the American Revolution celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War on Memorial Day at the State Cemetery, TAVV’s Firebase Team was there. Later, a few TAVV members were honored at a DAR Veterans Appreciation Banquet. At the annual VVA 915 POW Recognition Ceremony at the State Cemetery, TAVV again shared in the duties and responsibilities. And as in past years, many of you participated in the VFW’s annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down at VFW Post 856. With regard to Veterans Day, TAVV represented our generation well in the downtown parade, not only as a “marching” unit but also as members of the organizing committee. At the Veterans Day Ceremony at the State Capitol, TAVV provided both the Color Guard and the Firebase Team. And last but certainly not least, several of you spoke at local schools throughout the year about your Vietnam experiences.

And then there were awards. Many of our members were recognized for their service to the veterans community. Robert Floyd, Chairman of the Monument Executive Committee, was acknowledged at many events for being instrumental in giving Texas Vietnam veterans the monument they so rightly deserve. My Texas Vietnam Hero Tag Exhibit received a fair share of attention, and is now on permanent display at the Museum of the American GI in College Station. For his continuous service to veterans, TAVV Secretary John Miterko received the Americanism Award from the Forty and Eight Veterans Honor Society. My brother Ron and I received complimentary trips to Vietnam from Operation Comfort for our assistance to veterans and were later named national VA Veterans of the Day. For his service to home-less veterans, TAVV Vice President Joe Boatman received a scholar-ship to the Veterans Entrepreneur Academy to assist in the operation of his non-profit Veterans Connection Thrift Store. And TAVV State Representative Jim Torres, who serves with Joe on the Round Rock War Memorial Committee, received recognition from Congressman John Carter for his service to the Williamson County veterans’ community.

The cornerstone of TAVV has always been The Perimeter. Without Donna Goodwin to compile, organize, and present this outstanding newsletter, TAVV would probably have accomplished very little. Our regular columns keep you informed about legislation, legal aid, POWs, Agent Orange, mental health, general health, comrades in dis-tress, veteran homelessness, and many other items of interest to our veteran community. And most likely due to Donna’s efforts, we added 11 new members last year and forged new alliances with organizations such as the El Campo VVA chapter, the local DAR, TexVet, and the Lost Pines Leathernecks of Bastrop.

2015 was a good year for TAVV, but it ended on a sad note with the loss of yet another member. This past year, TAVV lost four of its most respected leaders: former Vice President Bob Solomon, Monument Executive Committee member Terry Burkett, Turkey Fry coordinator Will Rogers, and VA Volunteer Chairman Sid Hull. We’ll miss them all, but as we honor their memories, we’ll soldier on. It’s what we do.

It’s a new year now. We’re older, maybe wiser, but certainly less healthy and fewer in number. With more missions ahead, that means we must close ranks and step up to share the load. Please become involved. All of you benefit from the efforts of a few, and it really doesn’t have to be that way. Do something for someone other than yourself. Do it while you’re able.

See you on Thursday.

Semper fi! 

Don Dorsey, President

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets Thursday, January 14, 2016 - 7:00 pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.

Good, bad, sometimes snarky, what I write depends on what inspires me.

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

Writing this column each month can be a daunting task. Too often, I’m forced to restrain my true emotions in order to make an occasionally passionate missive more palatable to the general – and gentle – public. Good, bad, and sometimes snarky, what I write usually depends on what inspires me. Although my intention this month was to write a positive piece about the goodwill TAVV exhibits during this time of the year, that idea was overshadowed this morning when I was awakened by a phone call from a seasonal scourge. Yes, this is the season of goodwill and kindness, but unfortunately, it’s also the season of exploitation and intimidation. In a curious twist, the jovial caller this morning was soliciting a pledge in support of a national veterans group, a group of which I had no knowledge. Offput by his non-stop rhetoric, I interrupted him to explain my involvement in the veteran community and further inform him that I only donate to charities with which I am familiar, preferably local groups so that I can see how my contribution is used. Evidently, my response caused him to get off message, and when I asked if he was a veteran, he became quite indignant. Still, he was willing to lower his $20 demand, as though I was willing to haggle over the sale of my principles. Never happen. Knowing that a considerable amount of the monies collected by these phone solicitors will be used in hiring more disinterested people like him, I then requested that he donate to TAVV’s annual VA hospital turkey fry. Of course he refused, cutting me off in mid-sentence and rudely hanging up. As was obvious from the beginning, he was a hired gun, and his support for veterans began and ended with a phone call.

Folks, don’t allow these solicitors to goad you into doing anything with which you’re not comfortable. They know what they’re doing. They know that most Americans are more apt to donate to a cause rather than to participate directly. They also know that if they can keep you on the line long enough, you’ll likely give in. Job security for these solicitors depends on separating you from your money, regardless of the charity they represent. It’s just business. Generally speaking, very little of the donations they garner will ever get to the cause they peddle. It’s the nature of the beast. Granted, a job’s a job, and in hard times, even unskilled labor can be difficult to come by. But don’t allow your heartstrings to override clear thinking. It’s the game they play. And this is the time of year when you’re most vulnerable. These solicitors are trained to counter whatever you say, so don’t let a compromised conscience dictate your actions. As a rule, it’s always best to give locally where you can follow the money. Recently, several people have asked me about the Wounded Warrior Project. After viewing their pricey TV ads and after receiving several mailings, I personally choose to contribute elsewhere. But that’s my decision. Furthermore, they once denied assistance to a disabled Vietnam veteran friend because he was in the “wrong war.” I suppose WWP does some good in the veteran community, but in the recent past, their national rating has been unacceptable to many. View the following links:

However, when in doubt, do your own research. Google the charity in question, but don’t go to their website. Check the blogs. And check the agencies that grade the charities. But be aware that the lack of a Better Business Bureau credibility rating doesn’t necessarily make the charity a scam. TAVV isn’t rated, but then we didn’t apply to the BBB. And neither did the VFW or the VVA, two other reputable veterans organizations. By the way, I’m a member of both groups, and I still refuse to succumb to their national solicitations. Trust what and whom you know. To my knowledge, TAVV, a state-chartered, IRS-certified veterans organization has never been accused of misappropriation of funds. Our books are always open, and our treasurer’s report is published in the minutes of our newsletter each month. Outside of operating expenses, all of our funds support local charities, VA hospitals, and veterans’ causes.

Now, for my intended message. November is TAVV’s most active month. We begin with Veterans Day and its related events, but quickly move into charity and Thanksgiving. This season will be our most ambitious Thanksgiving to date. We’ll be frying over 80 turkeys for the VA hospital and for our three favorite local charities: SafePlace, Loving Libby, and Garret’s Kidstrong. Safe-Place assists displaced and abused families, while Loving Libby and Garret’s Kidstrong, organizations associated with the Dell Children’s Hospital, will be providing Thanksgiving meals to the families of kids with cancer. To offset our expenses, TAVV will fry over 100 turkeys the day before Thanksgiving in our annual Fundraising Fry. We’ll be quite busy, so please check our newsletter calendar and show up to assist where you can. Even if you’re physically unable to participate, your presence is welcomed. Moral support counts. You can begin by attending our TAVV meeting tonight!

See you tonight.

Semper fi!

Don Dorsey, President

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 7:00pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.

Begin by giving of yourself

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

And so it begins. Throughout the year, TAVV strives to stay active assisting and supporting the veteran and civilian communities, but as Fall approaches, we’re at our best. It’s our season of giving, the time when we feed and work directly with homeless and hospitalized veterans and when we assist in feeding civilian families in their times of need. We start later this month by lending our support to the VFW’s Homeless Veterans Stand Down at Post 856. Please read about it in this issue of The Perimeter and participate where you can. It requires only that you contribute a few hours of your time, time that may cause you to rethink any negative thoughts you might presently have concerning the homeless. I can assure you that you’ll leave the Stand Down counting your blessings. Few people are born homeless, folks, and any one of us is only one major catastrophe from losing everything he has, even if he considers himself wealthy.

This month, we’ll also be readying our supplies and equipment for the annual TAVV turkey fry events in November. A year ago, we found out just how much preparation was required. Will Rogers was a Godsend, but now that he’s gone, it’s for us to close ranks. At last year’s Kerrville VAMC Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey fries, I was disappointed to see so few of you taking part. I’m hoping that this time around, Will’s unselfish sacrifices will serve as an inspiration. Even sick, he did more than most of us. But he did more because he cared more. He always sought to make the holidays brighter and happier for those less fortunate. There are many ways to get involved, and we can use any help we can get, from donations to physical labor. After sitting under a tarp at Will’s house since last Christmas, the cleaned fryer will need to be fired up to detect any mechanical problems. Because several of you have volunteered to assist in this start-up, we’ll make a plan at this upcoming TAVV meeting.

After going over our records from last year’s Fundraising Fry, it’s pretty clear that we’re better at war than we are at business. With regards to turkey sales, we pretty much worked for free, doing little more than breaking even. Were it not for donations, we might even have been in the red. So, after several years of keeping our fried turkey prices low, it’s time that we earn a profit. We were at least $10 lower than our competitors last year, and most of those were commercial operations. Even our customers complained that our prices were too low. We’re not looking to make a killing, just to finance our programs. If we’re to continue helping others, we’ll need money. With this being our only organized fundraiser, this has to carry us for a year. So, at this TAVV meeting, we’ll also be discussing a price increase.

During November, we’ll be frying turkeys on 3 occasions, same as in the past. Our first event will be Saturday, November 21 at the VA hospital in Kerrville, our annual Thanksgiving Feast. While Kerrville and TAVV volunteers decorate the hospital’s recreation room and ready the trimmings, the pit crew will be outside frying turkeys. Because the patient load changes from month to month, we’ll fry approximately 15 turkeys, a few more than we need. To offset our expenses, we’ll sell what we don’t carve. This first fry of the year, a 200-mile round trip, is always a test, so we’ll make adjustments as is necessary. At last year’s feast, TAVV’s regular “reinforced fire-team” did the heavy lifting as per usual, with few others bothering to inconvenience themselves. Hopefully, that’ll change this year. Regardless, we’ll manage, but sharing the load makes it easier on everyone.

Following the Thanksgiving Feast will be our Charity Fry on Monday, November 23 at Austin’s VFW Post 856, our meeting place. We’ll set the fryer up in the parking lot before daylight and fry turkeys for SafePlace, a home for abused and displaced families, and for Garrett’s Kidstrong and Loving Libby, two non-profit organizations that provide Thanksgiving meals for the families of kids with cancer. TAVV has been donating fried turkeys to these three groups for many years now as part of our civilian outreach pro-gram. We’ll fry between 30 and 40 turkeys, possibly more. It’s a real “feel good” moment for TAVV, and you’re all invited to come out and socialize. And if you’re able and willing, we’ll put you to work.

And then there’s the Fundraising Fry on Wednesday, November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. This one’s a real grind. Like before, we’ll set up before daylight at the post. But on this occasion, we’ll fry at least 60 pre-sold turkeys. Details will be provided at our meeting. Again, all of you are invited. With enough people, this seasonal event takes on a party atmosphere, as we’ll be sampling turkeys and drinking beer and sodas. The proceeds from this event is designed to pay for all the turkeys we give away this year, and ideally, we’ll have funds left over to carry into 2016.

For fear of overwhelming you now, we’ll talk in the next newsletter about the Christmas Turkey Fry on Saturday, December 19 at the VA hospital in Kerrville. This one will require more help, as Christmas presents have to be gathered, wrapped, and delivered to the patients. There it is, a full Fall ahead of us. Please mark your calendars accordingly. With this much time to prepare, it’s unacceptable that each of you can’t find the time to help TAVV or people less fortunate. It’s the season of giving … so you can begin by giving of yourself.

See you on Thursday.

Semper fi! 

Don Dorsey, President

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 7:00pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.

Keeping the Fires of TTFFH Burning

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

Sometime prior to 2003, TAVV member Ed Stout approached me in his most characteristic and undiplomatic manner with an idea that he thought might enhance our holiday visits to the Kerrville VA hospital. In what can only be described as an offer we couldn’t refuse, the conversation went something like this: “Don, if TAVV doesn’t care enough to fry holiday turkeys for the hospitalized veterans, I’ll do it myself.” His challenge was accepted and the annual TAVV Turkey Fry was born. It’s been one of our more successful programs, and our fund raising Turkey Fry effort at Thanksgiving continues to provide us with a steady source of much needed income. Though our profit margin is slim, donations have always been exceptional. The event has also become a rally point during the holidays as TAVV members gather in a party atmosphere to fry and consume turkeys.

Our first official Turkey Fry was at the VA hospital in Temple. It was a cold, damp, overcast November morning when a small group of us met at o-dark thirty in the covered pavilion behind the hospital to set up our 7 individual fry pots and burners. The pavilion is located on the shore of the hospital’s lake, and with the biting cold wind whipping through the open-air building, we were miserable. The bundled-up patients were lined up and too hungry and too cold to care that their plates were filled with mangled turkey parts. I served as one of the carvers that day, and my carving expertise left a lot to be desired. Few of us knew what we were doing back then, but with Ed’s tutelage, we all soon became somewhat proficient at frying and carving. That day was a turning point for TAVV, bringing the hospitalized veterans and TAVV together in an annual event that also brought TAVV a fair measure of community recognition. Ed’s idea was a good one.

But Temple was only the beginning. Ed and I spoke often about the dangers presented by the open pots of hot oil. With our members getting up in age and with health issues making us less steady, it was only a matter of time before someone stumbled into the spindly legs of a burner and knocked over one of the pots. Ed loved frying turkeys, and not to be deterred, he began working on an idea to rectify the situation. A consummate inventor and tinkerer, he designed a self-contained, 12-foot long mobile unit, a fryer that would hold 35 gallons of peanut oil and fry, in an assembly line fashion, 8 turkeys at a time. Having just received his back pay from an agent orange related disability settlement, he sank $13,000 of it into the construction of a stainless steel fryer, a creation that he affectionately called The Turkey Fryer From Hell, TTFFH for short. Because his intention had always been to someday donate the fryer to TAVV, our organization did manage to reimburse him a few thousand dollars over time. That was the least we could do. Resembling a closed casket built on a trailer frame, the TTFFH was a godsend. Not only was it safe to use, but it was also able to travel. Over the years, several revisions were made, improving the efficiency and convenience of his original design. What you see now in the TTFFH is the result of years of trial and error. Ed would be pleased.

Then, late in 2010, we lost Ed in the most senseless of tragedies. Not only did we lose a good friend, but his death placed our VA Hospital Turkey Fry Program in jeopardy. The fryer had become a major part of our holiday season Kerrville VA visits, but it belonged to Ed and his estate. However, thanks to the generosity of Ed’s daughter Angie, a TAVV associate member, the fryer was donated to our organization as a tribute to her late father. And fortunately, we still had someone who knew how to operate and maintain it. Because Will Rogers believed so much in our hospital program, he had become Ed’s right-hand man in frying turkeys. Despite the loss of our dear friend Ed Stout, TAVV was still in the turkey business. Will stepped up and became the new “head turkey.”

Well, as you all know, we lost Will last month after a prolonged illness. Once again, TAVV’s Turkey Fry Program is without a leader. Until Will’s successor comes forward, we’ll have to do the best we can to soldier on. And because it’s what Will wanted, I’m asking for your help in keeping our turkey fry program alive. Let’s make sure that Will’s last wishes are honored. TAVV has already received several memorial donations from his friends and family towards the annual turkey fry, all the more reason to continue what Ed and Will began.

In this newsletter column last month, I asked that TAVV members attend our August meeting to discuss the future of our monthly hospital visitation program. With so few volunteers, we’d been having to cancel the visits all too frequently. Well, I’m happy to announce that the meeting was well attended, and that our hospital program will continue for the foreseeable future. There are no guarantees, but we’ll keep it going for as long as we can. And even if we do decide to discontinue the monthly visits, we’ll maintain our holiday Turkey Fry events in memory of Ed Stout and Will Rogers. This holiday season, we’ll be frying Thanksgiving turkeys at the Kerrville VA hospital on November 21 and Christmas turkeys on December 19. Please mark your calendars and plan on participating. My thanks to all of you who took part in the hospital discussion and especially to those 5 members who volunteered for our next monthly visit. Ed and Will will be with you in spirit.

See you on Thursday. 

 

Semper fi!

 

Don Dorsey, President

 

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets 2nd Thursdays of the month - 7:00 pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.

Regroup, Adapt, and Move Forward

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

In 1986, not long after TAVV became a State-chartered veterans group, we embarked on an ongoing project that would soon become the cornerstone of our organization, the VA hospital visitation program. Learning that, because of its small size and its out-of-the-way location, the Kerrville VA Medical Center was being neglected by outside support, TAVV - with no second thoughts and without opposition - quickly adopted the facility. And since that time, almost every month we’ve fielded a team to travel the 200-mile round-trip journey to visit, feed, and entertain the patients. Throughout the years, our fundraising efforts were always directed towards our VA hospital support program, and on many special occasions we were able to present the Kerrville hospital with recreational amenities for the enjoyment of all patients. And during the fall holiday season, we made sure that Thanksgiving and Christmas were memorable occasions for everyone. Thanksgiving was always a turkey-and-trimmings feast, and at Christmas time, each and every patient in the hospital received several gifts from our own Santa Claus. Those were fun and productive times for TAVV, and for years as many as 30 and 40 of our members and their families would caravan through the scenic Texas hill country to bring joy and comfort to our hospitalized veterans. Although books, games, bingo, and food were always staples at every visit, we occasionally brought in choirs, local celebrities, country musicians, and even cloggers, anything at all to relieve the patients of their boredom. Entertaining those folks was our goal, and we were willing to do whatever possible to make their stays bearable. TAVV was taking care of its own at a time when few organizations were visiting VA hospitals, and our group quickly became an all-time favorite of the patients. In those days, our members looked forward to that one Saturday each month when they could share experiences with veterans of other generations. Any inconvenience was insignificant. Wives were supportive, and their kids grew up learning to respect veterans.

It’s been almost 30 years now since we began that very successful program. In time, TAVV became a model for other groups, and now many different civic and veterans organizations are making similar efforts to ensure that hospitalized veterans are not forgotten. But for us, tens of thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of volunteer man-hours later, things have changed. As our members reached retirement age, I had hoped that they would be able to find more time to give to our veteran causes, but that never happened. While some wives have become less supportive of TAVV, some members have become more sedentary, preferring instead to stay close to home, making time only for grandkids and personal projects. Other TAVV members still work and, given their schedules, just don’t have the time or energy to devote to outside activities. And then there are those dreaded health issues. Most of us are nearing 70 years of age now, and good health has become a rare commodity. Now, TAVV struggles to find even two members well enough to travel and willing enough to sacrifice one Saturday a month. TAVV Kerrville cancellations have become all too common, leaving the hospitalized veterans disappointed and our organization somewhat embarrassed. Having to again cancel this month’s visit was the last straw for me. It’s time to reevaluate our priorities. As in battle, attrition has become our enemy. We just can’t continue at this pace. There are other ways to serve our veteran community, and maybe it’s time we consider those options.

I’ve been avoiding this discussion for some time now, in hopes that the situation would change. But it appears that our hospital visitation program has reached its natural conclusion. I can no longer, in good conscience, set these hospitalized veterans up for a fall. I will not continue to schedule a Kerrville visit only to later cancel when our volunteers, for whatever reason, fail to follow through. Folks, we have no reserves to take up the slack, and it’s just not fair to disappoint those VA patients who look so forward to our visits. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have Ron Welfel and the Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association to alternate visits with us, but evidently their generous and selfless support hasn’t been enough. Though it bought us a little time, we’re just not capable of holding up our end of the shared arrangement. It appears that it’s time to pass the mantle. TAVV has every right to be proud of its achievements and its legacy, but as per our performance, our service to this program has run its course. TAVV was conceived and built on the idea that no one can do more for veterans than the veterans themselves. That hasn’t changed. We still have life and purpose. What we lack is commitment and attainable goals. We’re a service organization, and veterans are whom we serve. We’ll regroup, adapt, and move forward, as failure has never been a TAVV option.

 

Semper fi!

 

Don Dorsey, President

 

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets 2nd Thursdays of the month - 7:00 pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.

to live in fear is not what America is about

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

By the time you read this column, Independence Day will have passed, and hopefully without a national incident. These are scary times, folks, but then we’ve been down that road before. Get used to it. It’ll likely get worse, as dealing with threats is becoming an American way of life. It’s hard to comprehend that America, as a world beacon for liberty and freedom, could ever be viewed with such scurrilous contempt.

As I write, the television is blaring with news of the potential danger to Americans internationally this Fourth of July weekend from radicalized agents of ISIS. What better day to make a statement against freedom than to hit the infidels on their official day of independence? Well … vigilance is always prudent, folks, but to live in fear is not what America is about. Or is it?

As ISIS threatens our nation from the outside, there are personal fears being exploited by political factions here within our own borders. You can get used to that too, folks, if you wish, but please don’t be motivated by the propaganda. Fear sells, and politicians and their minions know it. As the presidential race gears up, soon it will be the season for treason, as some would have you believe. Don’t be paranoid; be smart. And knowledge is our only real defense. It appears to me - and this is my column - that most Americans will believe whatever reinforces their already existing belief systems. Therein lies the problem. A closed mind allows no room for change. And the world, my friends, is changing. I won’t get into specifics, but here in our country, you can see dissent at every turn, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court rulings. Though you may not agree with opinions contrary to your own, dissent is still a corner-stone of American democracy. And it’s there for everyone. As you become overwhelmed with propaganda from well-meaning friends from both sides of each issue, you’d best arm yourself with facts.

From my own experience, I find that most Americans are lazy, preferring instead to regurgitate what has already been said, even when it isn’t true. And even worse, when corrected, they fail to inform the previous recipients of that bogus information. That’s evident from the onslaught of erroneous chain emails that continue to circulate the internet, never to be disputed, never to be deleted. In politics, gossip works. But before you sell yourself short, folks, do your own research. With computer access so easily available, you needn’t rely on the misinformation of others. Be different; be informed. God, gays, cops, guns, immigration, racism, abortion, health care, activist judges, courts, Constitution, and Confederate flags are all currently hot-button issues, often pitting friends and family members against each other. Pick your poison, folks, but be aware that polarization is a bigger threat to our way of life than is ISIS. Even wars these days do little to unify our people. There’s more to being an American than simply waving a flag. Veterans know that.

Those of you who know of and who disagree with my political persuasion will see this month’s column as political. It isn’t. Personally, I’m anti-political. But TAVV, as an organization of veterans and those who support them, is non-political. I strive to keep it that way. With national politics ramping up, perhaps you should instead see this column as a preemptive strike against politics as usual. Distortion and disinformation have become the rule. Doubt everything, folks, then pursue the truth. To be informed is not an affront to American values. Freedom is about choices. And information is key. Explore your options. Then choose not to be used. 
See you on Thursday.
Semper fi!

Don Dorsey, President

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets Thursday, July 10, 2015 - 7:00 pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.

Brave people die. And civilians … well, they go shopping.

Semper Fi

Observations from Don Dorsey.

Beginning as a tradition during the Civil War, ladies and schoolchildren in the South regularly decorated with flowers the graves of Confederate soldiers. Although the dates of commemoration varied from region to region, most memorial ceremonies occurred in May. But the sheer number of casualties, both Union and Confederate, meant that burial and memorializing the war dead would soon become of national importance at war’s end. The first known official commemoration of the Civil War dead occurred May 1, 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina where 257 Union soldiers held as prisoners of war had died and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Freed slaves knew of the incident and chose to honor them, calling it “Decoration Day.” Nearly 10,000 people, mostly former slaves, gathered at the burial site. Taking notice, the federal government, in 1865, began a program of creating national cemeteries, but only for the Union dead. By 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union soldiers had been reburied in 73 national cemeteries, located near the battlefields and therefore mostly in the South. The most famous are Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
In 1866, Southern states began establishing special days of Confederate remembrance, with the dates ranging from April 26 to mid-June. Across the South, associations were founded after the war, many by women, to establish and care for permanent cemeteries for Confederate soldiers, to organize commemorative ceremonies, and to sponsor impressive monuments as a permanent way of remembering the Confederate cause and tradition.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization for Northern Civil War veterans, proclaimed that a day of remembrance should be observed nationwide. May 30 was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any battle. Events were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states that year. Initially, the Decoration Day speech became an occasion for angry veterans, politicians, and ministers to commemorate the War, as well as to rehash the atrocities of the enemy. But by the end of the 1870s much of the bitterness was gone, and the speeches began to praise the brave soldiers both Blue and Gray. In 1882, that day of remembrance began being referred to as “Memorial Day,” and by 1890, every northern state had declared May 30 an official State holiday.
By the end of World War II, the name “Memorial Day” had become common. And although originally created to honor fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War, the day by then had come to commemorate all Americans who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces during all wars. In 1967, Memorial Day was declared the official name by Federal law. Then, on June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, moving Memorial Day from its traditional date of May 30 to the last Monday in May in order to create a convenient 3-day weekend. That law took effect in 1971. Changing the date merely to create a 3-day weekend proved to undermine the very meaning of the occasion, contributing in large measure to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day. The extended weekend has become synonymous with shopping, family gatherings, mini vacations, and national media events like the Indianapolis 500 auto race. Obscured by insignificant civilian activities, Memorial Day has lost its true meaning to all but those who suffered the loss of loved ones in battle, military veterans, and active duty military personnel. With less than 1% of our countrymen currently participating in the defense of our nation, few Americans these days have any interest in the commemoration of battlefield casualties.
Wars are fought. Brave people die. And civilians… well, they go shopping.
Although I wrote the above a few years ago, its historical significance is timeless. With Memorial Day now behind us, I hope that each of you took time to honor our fallen comrades. My thanks to Julian Calderon, Ron Dorsey, James Hart, and John Richter for participating with me as the TAVV Honor Guard at the DAR Memorial Day Ceremony at the State Cemetery here in Austin. Our Combat Cross Ceremony was performed indoors to a packed crowd, which included several Vietnam Gold Star Families as guests of honor. Also, I’d like to thank member Tim Hardy for laying our TAVV wreath at the annual Pflugerville Cook -Walden Memorial Day ceremony. Tim, a Desert Storm veteran whose now deceased father served on a river patrol boat in Vietnam, was honored to participate. And as our Vietnam-era ranks dwindle, it’s good that we’re able to pass the mantle of respect to our younger generation of warriors. Honoring our fallen comrades is not only a privilege, it’s also our sacred duty as American veterans.
See you on Thursday.
Semper fi!

Don Dorsey, President

The Austin Chapter of Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans (TAVV) meets Thursday, June 11, 2015 - 7:00 pm at VFW Post 856 — 406 E Alpine Rd - Austin, Texas 78704.

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