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.