Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)
The Voice | Issue 3 - Fiscal Year 2018
By Barbara Ward, Director
The Advisory Committee for Minority Veterans conducted its annual site visit at the St. Louis VA Medical Center. Senior leaders from VHA, VBA and NCA provided briefings and facility tours for committee members and also participated in the town hall meeting. Although I have participated in numerous town hall meetings, it is such a humbling experience to listen to the stories of minority Veterans as they share their experiences in utilizing VA services and benefits. Advisory committee members were extremely attentive as they listened to the frustrations and concerns expressed by several minority Veterans who sought answers and assistance to longstanding challenges they faced in accessing services and benefits. As the town hall meeting concluded, local senior leaders and their staff immediately met with concerned Veterans to provide support and assistance thus demonstrating their passion to serve our Veterans. The advisory committee is busy drafting their recommendations for the annual report due to Congress in September. The Center will start accepting applications from minority Veterans who are interested in serving on the committee due to several vacancies created as existing member terms of service end. Applications may be downloaded from our website. The Center for Minority Veterans is collaborating with members of the Congressional Tri-Caucus and Native American Caucus to plan VA’s 2019 National Summit for Minority Veterans. The planning committee includes representatives from several Veteran Service organizations and VHA, VBA and NCA. Committee members have participated in two meetings and are currently seeking VA representatives and community advocates to serve on six sub-committees. The summit was a recommendation made by the Advisory Committee for Minority Veterans and will be the first summit in VA’s history to focus on minority Veterans. The dates and location of the summit have not been determined at this time. The Center remains excited about supporting the work of the advisory committee and collaborating with key VA partners in planning the 2019 summit. As Memorial Day approaches, CMV staff and minority Veteran program coordinators will be quite busy participating in targeted outreach programs nationwide.
“To care for those who have borne the battle.” If that doesn’t motivate you to give your absolute best when you walk through the doors of your VA facility, you’d better check your pulse! I admit, I’m an unabashed “VA Cheerleader”. After a 26-year Air Force career, one of my first post-military job interviews was with the VA Central Office here in Washington, D.C. When I read President Lincoln’s charge engraved on the wall outside, and walked through those hallways for the first time, I resolved in my mind “This is the place I want to work!”
After establishing the federal government’s first-ever Veterans employment office, and helping thousands of my fellow Veterans navigate the daunting federal hiring process, I was fortunate enough to spend time as part of the Central Office Human Resources Service, and now serve as Deputy Director for the Center for Minority Veterans. The common thread in all of my VA experiences has been the opportunity to work with some of the finest VA employees in the department and most importantly, to directly assist Veterans!
In my new role I recently had the opportunity to take part in two events that underscored this direct support to Veterans. In March I spoke with the Veterans and Community Oversight and Engagement Board (VCOEB) in Los Angeles. We discussed the ways the VCOEB and the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans and the Center for Minority Veterans could collaborate in helping eliminate homelessness in the greater Los Angeles area. In April, I joined the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans site visit to VA facilities in St. Louis, MO and took part in a Veterans Town Hall for St. Louis area Veterans. These trips were both eye-opening and inspiring. To see first-hand the hard work and dedication of VA employees ‘at the tip of the spear’ made me even more proud to call myself a member of this team! Whether providing world-class health care and benefits, or providing the final memorial services to our Veterans, I saw the kind of “I-CARE” spirit that lets me know the VA is in great hands. During the town hall, several Veterans expressed frustrations and challenges they encountered in their VA experiences. I was happy to see that EVERY Veteran who expressed a concern was provided one-on-one assistance THAT DAY.
All of this brings me back to my original point: are YOU motivated to give Veterans your absolute best in all of your daily activities? I would urge each of us to do a quick self-examination at the start of each work day: “What can I do to help Veterans today?” If you’re a supervisor or leader, I would ask you to take one step further and ask yourself, “What can I do to help my team help Veterans today”. It’s really not complicated. With Veterans making up a third of our workforce, we don’t have to look far to see a Veteran. In essence we have an opportunity to help our fellow employees who are also Veterans.
It just doesn’t get any better than that!
Written by Ronald Sagudan, Program Analyst, Asian Pacific Islander Veterans Liaison
Let the celebrations begin!! May is officially Asian Pacific American Heritage Month; a great time when our country comes together to highlight and recognize the many different Asian Americans’, Native Hawaiians’, and Pacific Islanders’ cultures and contributions.
For over two hundred years, men and women have been coming from all over the Asian countries and the Pacific Islands voluntarily taking the Oath of Enlistment to “solemnly swear or affirm [they] will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.“ The first known Asian Pacific American military service came when Filipino Americans, also known as “Manilamen,” served under Major General Andrew Jackson? Filipinos initially served on ships Captained by Frenchman Jean Baptiste Lafitte who later would join forces with Major General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Many of these Filipino men would later join the US Army and thus began the service to our country.
As a nephew and grandson of World War II Veterans, I heard these battles stories first and second hand. It was then I learned the about all the atrocities of war and the ugliness of the battles. It just made me speechless in what I learned and left me in complete awe because many were not soldiers. They were mostly farmers and students, not trained like their military trained enemy. So when my forefathers said the President of the United States called the Filipinos to arms, they answered the call to defend our country. They all stood tall and raised their right hand. They took the Oath of Service and asked to defend the Commonwealth of the Philippines Islands and the United States.
US Navy Admiral ,Harry Harris ,said it best: “America’s greatest asset is not our assembly lines or weapons systems, or even our great ships, submarines, and airplanes … it’s our people” (US Navy Admiral Harris, who is of Japanese American decent). Admiral Harris was recently the commander of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the 24th commander since Jan. 1, 1947.
Last month, the state of Hawaii laid to rest one of its favorite sons: Daniel Kahikina Akaka, 93. He passed away on April 6, 2018. Akaka was the first NativeHawaiian to serve in the U.S. Senate. He was a Veteran and a strong advocate for Veterans. He was one of the main sponsors for both the Center for Minority Veterans and Pacific Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some Veterans Affairs’ legislation include directing the Army and Navy to review the service records of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who received the Distinguished Service Cross during WWII to determine whether they should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor (President Clinton approved Asian Pacific American WWII Veterans to receive the Medal of Honor), established the Native American Home Loan, provide VA home loan benefit for National Guard and Reserve, improved benefits for survivors of Veterans who die of service related conditions, and services for Veterans with MST.
Did you know?
- In 1911, José NIn Nísísísperos was the first Asian peros recipient to receive the Medal of Honor?
- In 1915, Second Class Telesforo Trinidad received the Medal of Honor, and is the only Asian American sailor to receive the award during peacetime?
- In 1996, 21/24 of the Medal of Honor recipients were JapaneseJapaneseJapanese---American who served with the 442nd Reginmental Combat Team or the 100th Infantry Battalion?
- Corporal Magdalena Leones was the only Asian Pacific American woman in WWII to ever receive the silver Star?
Written by Juanita Mullen, Program Analyst, American Indian/Alaska Native Veteran Liaison
The guide “Tribal Nations and the United States: An Introduction” developed by the National Congress of American Indians seeks to provide a basic overview of the history and underlying principles of tribal governance. The guide also provides introductory information about tribal governments, American Indian and Alaska Native people today. The purpose of the guide is to ensure that policy decision makers at the local, state, and federal level understand their relationship to tribal governments as part of the American family of governments. Additionally, this guide provides the information necessary for members of the public at large to understand and engage effectively with contemporary Indian Nations.
Written by Dwayne Campbell, Program Analyst, Hispanic Veteran Liaison
“Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.”President Ronald W. Reagan
As we reflect on our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, let us celebrate and honor the important role Hispanic Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have played in the history of this nation through their brave actions as they served our nation proudly. Arlington is a fitting place for the eternal rest of our fallen Hispanic heroes.
Captain Maximiliano Luna– the only Mexican American officer in the First Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (the Rough Riders). His name is the first listed on the Rough Riders Monument.
Private Felix Longoria– Refused burial in Texas and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery after the intervention of the American GI Forum and the assistance of then Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Colonel Louis Gonzaga Mendes, Jr.– Jumped into Normandy in June of 1944 and received a Distinguished Service Cross for leading an attack that captured the town of Pretot, France.
Major Humbert Roque Versace, Jr.– A West Point Graduate and a Medal of Honor Recipient for heroism in captivity during the Vietnam War.
Rear Admiral Henry Gabriel Sanchez– A USNA graduate who commanded a F4F Squadron onboard the USS HORNET during World War II.
Captain Carlos De La Mesa– A native of Spain who was wounded at Gettysburg, while serving with the Spanish Company of the “Garibaldi Guard” of the 39th New Your State Volunteers. He was the grandfather of Major General Terry De La Mesa Allen, and the great grandfather of Lieutenant Colonel Terry De La Mesa Allen, Jr., who is also buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Brigadier General Bernardo Carlos Negrete– Completed high visibility combat tours in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and Operation Desert Thunder in Kuwait.
Captain Maria Ines Ortiz– Was killed by a mortar attack in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. She was the first Army nurse killed in combat since the Vietnam War.
Air Force Lieutenant General Elwood Richard “Pete” Quesada– As a junior officer, he was part of the team that developed and demonstrated the air-to-air refueling. In addition, he served as the first administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from 1959 to 1961.
The Borinqueneers- A plaque honors members of the 65th Regiment, which fought bravely in the Korean War and was comprised almost exclusively of soldiers from Puerto Rico. The Plaque reads “Dedicated to the men of the 65th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army for their Valor and Patriotism during the Korean War 1950-1953”.
We as a nation would not have the freedoms we hold so dearly today without the blood, sweat, and the ultimate sacrifice of our country’s fallen heroes– let that be a powerful reminder as we reflect this Memorial Day.
As the Orlando VA Medical Center’s MVPC representative, I attended the Kappa Epsilon Psi Military Sorority, Inc. on April 27, 2018. Kappa Epsilon Psi Military Sorority, Inc. is an organization of Elite professionals which currently has a membership of over 1,000 Minority Women Veterans and is growing. Their vision of “Revolutionizing the face of the American Veteran and include the influ-ences and diversity of women, who have served and continue to serve with honor in service to our nation and communities. To UNITE this illustration of sisterhood throughout the nation and abroad through works that exemplify the customary principles on which all branches of the service were founded. To provide innovative agendas that enhance opportunities to MENTOR women of all ages regardless of race, color or creed.” This event provided me the opportunity to engage with over 600 Minority Women Veterans. The event was incredible as we heard from Judge Shannon Holmes who is a former JAG officer and Dr. Stacia Pierce who provided phenomenal tips on moving forward, changing our situation and outcome with the power of journaling! I was touched as I sat in a room of like-minded people who were all empowered by the speakers, especially Dr. Stacia Pierce. This event also connected the OVAMC with Veterans who are in the area, but were not engaged with the VA system. I am looking forward to future events that they are conducting in the area.
- 14-16: Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) at the Sheraton Pentagon City; Arlington, VA
- 15: Lunch & Learn at the Combat Veterans Group; Washington, DC
- 16-20: Outreach at the Menominee Tribal Veterans Pop Wow at the Menominee Indian Reservation; Green Bay, WI
- 16: Lunch & Learn at the Vietnam Veterans Group; Clinton, MD
- 23: Lunch & Learn at the U.S. Department of State– Veteran Employees Affinity Group; Washington, DC
- 24: Outreach at the HUD Memorial Day Program and Benefits Fair; Washington DC
- 28: Gary Patriotic Memorial Association Memorial Day Festivities; Gary, IN
- 28: National Cemetery Council of Greater Houston’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the Houston National Cemetery; Houston, TX
Written by D’Andrea Jacobs, Program Analyst, Hispanic Veteran Liaison
I had the pleasure of being a guest at The American Legion’s Women and minority Veterans Program celebration of Women’s HERstory Month to honor Women Veterans. Upon entering the room, women Veterans were greeted and escorted by American Legion male staff members onto the red carpet. Each of us were interviewed– asked about our time in the military, the branch we served, and about our jobs within the service. From there, we were each seated at nicely decorated roundtables for the ceremony. Each table had an arrangement of beautiful flowers, and a gift bag for each honored guest. After being seated, and following the conclusion of the interviews, a strong, but feminine voice is heard quoting Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman. Each verse was reed by a different woman as she entered the room, and some were dressed in her military service uniform. Each woman reached to podium as the next walked in with the next verse. Finally, upon the last verse, Verna Jones, Executive Director of American Legion, entered the room. The display ended with a standing ovation from the crowd. I felt that the ceremony was successful in honoring women Veterans.