March Update: from Remember My Service President, Sharlene Wells Hawkes
This week, the Texas Edition of the Vietnam 50th Commemorative Gift went to print, which means it will be ready for distribution on Memorial Day. That right there is great news! But here’s the part I really love. There is an important new change to the dust jacket that acts on the repeated message from Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Sec. Robert Wilkie, about finding the veterans who are not in the VA system so they can get the help they deserve. At the top of the information for veterans on the dust jacket, Texas chose the headline “We Care About You!”
Before I give you the link so you can see exactly what’s on this dust jacket that makes it so important, I’ll explain a bit more about what Sec. Wilkie has referenced in speeches, meetings, and television interviews the last few months.
In November, he spoke at the National Press Club, where he shared very sobering statistics: “I need help in finding those veterans who are not in our system. Twenty veterans a day take their lives. Fourteen of those twenty are outside our VA system… we have to get those people into our system.” In February, I was at the Washington, D.C., meetings for the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, where Sec. Wilkie shared the exact same message. At the end, he added, “The vast majority of those are Vietnam veterans.”
This is tragic! We cannot allow this travesty in our communities, states, and nation. Americans already behaved shamelessly 50 years ago, when we allowed our military to be treated with such disdain—whether they were returning from Vietnam, or serving in the ROTC, or serving in Germany, they were not treated with any of the respect we have learned to give our military today. So it is on us, the average American citizen, to do something about finding those veterans who are not in the system. We need to show them that now they can proudly step forward as warriors who served their country, and that they deserve all the care and benefits abundantly available.
The Texas Edition, specifically the dust jacket flap ( click here to see the dust jacket—look on the left-hand side), is all about outreach. Outreach to the 52% of veterans not in the system, a great majority of them Vietnam veterans, to give them the specific information they need so they don’t have to sift through all the choices online. The message on the back flap that starts with “We Care About You!” is to all Texas Vietnam veterans (and to anyone in the military, past or present, nationwide) with very specific information on how they can get 24/7 immediate attention by phone, text, email, chat, you name it. We even put in the White House VA hotline. Moving forward, we will be adding this information to all new state editions as they go to print!
Thank you to the Texas Veterans Commission (Tom and Cruz especially), the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation (Beth Creasey!), Office of the Governor, and the 2019 Texas Inaugural Committee for your hard work on this gift to meaningfully recognize and honor your Vietnam veterans! We are so pleased to include this new information that will have a lasting impact on Vietnam veterans and their families.
Our Sisters that Served in Vietnam, Welcome Home!
The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 110-181 sec 598) empowers the Secretary of Defense to conduct a program on behalf of the nation that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. This law also authorizes the Secretary to coordinate, support and facilitate federal, state, and local governments commemorative programs and activities. On May 25, 2012 ,”The United States of American Vietnam War Commeration” was formed by presidential proclamation on May 25, 2012, being Memorial Day 2012 through Veterans Day 2025. Under the current administration in 2017; March 29th was named as Vietnam War Veterans Day (Presidential Proclamation Regarding Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017).
Along with Vietnam War Veterans Day on the 29th, March has been designated as Women’s History Month. The Department of Veterans’ Services would like to take this opportunity to recognize all of our women veterans and pay special tribute to our Women Veterans that served in Vietnam.
During the Vietnam Conflict, men and women played different yet equally important roles. Approximately 7500 women served in Vietnam as nurses and administrative support staff while many more chose to volunteer with humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross to support our nation.
In 2017 the Women Veterans’ Network gave the Deborah Sampson Award to LTC Jay Barrett (Ret. USA) who served with the 82nd Airborne as a nurse. Today, Jay continues to serve the veteran community through her work with the Veterans Administration as a Nurse Manager for Women’s Health in Jamaica Plain and Brockton VA facilities.
Athough, women were not authorized to serve in combat roles women were often found on the front lines providing critical services to our forces. Today, those rules have changed; in March 2016, Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense at the time, approved final plans from military service branches and the U.S. Special Operations Command to open all combat jobs to women, authorizing the military to begin integrating female combat soldiers “right away”.
Men that served with these brave women in country in Vietnam have stated “the nurses that served in Vietnam were the bravest women they have ever seen.”. We recognize the women that served in Vietnam and Korea and before and thank them for their service and blazing a trail for all women veterans since to follow.
Below are the names of the women who paid the ultimate price during the Vietnam War. Their memory remains immortalized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC., they include:1st Lt. Sharon Ann Lane, 2nd Lt. Pamela Dorothy Donovan, Col. Annie Ruth Graham, Mary Therese Klinker, 2nd Lt. Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba, 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones, Eleanor Grace Alexander, 1st Lt. Hedwig Diane Orlowski; these are the names of the fallen that appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. They are not forgotten. Forever grateful for their service and sacrifice.
What Is Whole Health And Why Is It The Hot New Thing at the VA?
For years, when I go to the doctor’s office, someone asks me “What’s the matter with you?” or something similar to that. I guess they assume I am there because I have something wrong with me. But what would it be like if someone asked me “What matters to you?” Rather than telling them about my aches and pains, I might tell them I would like to get back to skiing or that gardening makes me happy and lately I haven’t been able to do it as much because my knees and hip hurt. That is the very heart and soul of what makes Whole Health so important. The focus is on me, what is important to me in my life, what may get in the way of participating in what is important to me, and various ways to work towards being able to do it. How can I take charge of my life? How can the clinicians I work with help me to realize my goals?
Here at the VA, we are asking those very questions. We are looking at eight components of health and wellbeing, identifying those where we are very strong and those where we have challenges. These area include Working your Body (energy and flexibility), Surroundings (physical and emotional), Personal Development (personal life and work life), Food and Drink (nourishing and fueling), Recharge (sleep and refresh), Family, Friends, and Coworkers (relationships), Spirit and Soul (growing and connecting), and Power of the Mind (Relaxing and Healing). What does this mean? Let’s look at our surroundings, for example. Are they cluttered, with harsh light, too noisy, too disorganized? If this causes me distress and makes it difficult to concentrate and stay focused, I might work on creating a soothing, organized place to do my best thinking. The whole health model is a holistic look at the many areas of life that can affect your health — your work environment, relationships, diet, sleep patterns, and more. (The Components of Proactive Health and Well-Being helps illustrate how these areas are all interconnected.
Important to Whole Health is also the inclusion of both conventional medical help as well as complementary approaches to health, such as yoga, acupuncture, massage, tai chi, and more. For example, if my goals include getting in better shape and losing weight so that my knees and hip don’t hurt as much and will help me to get back to skiing and gardening, my provider might suggest I look at the use of yoga. This video might be my inspiration.
In the upcoming months, we all have opportunities to explore various health and wellness activities. Some of the highlights include: VA Boston Wellness Fair on June 6th from 10-2 at the Brockton campus by building 23/Gym, Bedford VA Wellness Fair on June 22nd from 10-2 on the Oval (2nd Annual Women Veterans’ Health Fair “Innovative Care for Exceptional Women), Women’s Yoga group at VA Boston on the JP campus (for a full list of classes and events: VA Boston and VA Bedford) or the Healthy Living program at VA Central Western MA (VA Central Mass).
Learn more here learn more about this whole health approach.