Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)
The Voice | Issue 4 - Fiscal Year 2018
By Dennis May, Acting Director
Greetings! The Center for Minority Veterans recently said farewell to longtime Center Director, Barbara Ward, who retired from VA in July. I’m honored to serve as Acting Director pending the appointment of a permanent Director. I, along with the entire CMV staff, look forward to continuing the momentum and build on the tradition of excellence Ms. Ward established during her tenure.
I recently had the opportunity to spread the ‘good news’ about VA and our efforts to support minority Veterans at the American G.I. Forum’s (AGIF) 70th Annual National Convention in San Antonio, TX, as well as the Blacks in Government (BIG) National Training Institute (NTI) in New Orleans, LA. As the keynote speaker during the AGIF President’s Dinner, I was proud to discuss CMV’s partnership with AGIF over the past several years. Working together, we’ve educated thousands of Veterans about VA benefits and services and ensure those Veterans position themselves to take advantage of those benefits. We look forward to collaborating with AGIF as well as other Veteran Service Organizations and affinity groups in support of all Veterans, their family members and caregivers in the months and years ahead.
During the BIG NTI, I was honored to network with the 2,000+ conference attendees culminating with my participation on a panel discussion during the Military and Veteran Emphasis program. I discussed CMV, the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans as well as the Minority Veteran Program Coordinator program our office oversees. I fielded several questions from Veteran attendees and ensured our office followed up with those Veterans to address their individual concerns. These activities are at the core of CMV’s mission of disseminating information and serving as a resource to improve the lives of minority Veterans. I admit I get energized every time I get to stand before an audience of Veterans and other stakeholders to share all the great things VA is doing for Veterans!
I’m excited about the future for the Center and VA’s support to the minority Veteran community. Planning continues for the first-ever National Minority Veterans Summit to be held sometime next year (more details to follow as the plans materialize). Several congressional offices as well as each of the VA administrations are taking part in summit planning activities. Several Advisory Committee members will join the committee to replace departing members over the coming months. As soon those new members are confirmed, we’ll be sure to send the specifics and post them to our website. They’ll have some big shoes to fill, but we believe they’re up to the challenge.
In the meantime, I encourage each of you to sign up for our weekly GovDelivery email blast that contains information of interest to the Veteran community. Go to our website and follow the prompts to sign up.
“One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions”
“Each year, Americans observe Hispanic Heritage Month… by celebrating the contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central American, and South America,” (Hispanic Heritage Month.org).
The CMV highlights on Hispanic and Latino Veterans and their accomplishments in this issue of the newsletter. The Hispanic Veterans population is due to increase by 3.8% by 2037 according to the VA Population Projections.
The CMV Celebrates Hispanic Heritage
Written by D’Andrea Jacobs, Program Analyst, Hispanic Veteran Liaison
by Jason Maddy, Iraq War Veteran. The team brought food, water, first aide medical items, and generators to Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria in the aftermath of the devastating natural disaster. This hero, husband, and father served his country not only as a service member, but also continues to devote his time to better the livelihood of others.
Jose Lebron, a native of Puerto Rico , served in the United States Air Force as Security Forces– his specialty being a military working dog (MWD) handler. He deployed multiple times in support of OEF and OIF. He decided to remain in San Antonio, Texas after honorably serving and retiring from the Air Force. When presented with the opportunity, he selflessly volunteered with the non profit Veteran Disaster Relief founded.
At the 89th Annual League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Convention in July, I had the honor of meeting Army Veteran, Hector Barajas-Varela, who has advocated for deported Veterans in Tijuana, Mexico since 2013. Many deported Veterans lack access to VA facilities; however, due to the efforts of Mr. Barajas-Varela and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the VA has constructed an exam site in Tijuana for deported Veterans. Mr. Barajas-Varela’s efforts were recently highlighted by Nikki Wentling in Stars and Stripes. The Stars and Stripes article also mentioned the clinic will examine deported Veterans to determine if illnesses or injuries are service connected, which could potentially make the Veteran eligible for government funded healthcare via (VA’s Foreign Medical Program or FMP) and VA compensation if granted a disability rating. In all, the clinic will provide general medical exams, hearing exams, and mental health care. Mr. Barajas-Varela was recently Naturalized and returned to the U.S. but continues to advocate for deployed Veterans.
DC Native Carmen Caban has led an impressive career serving military Veterans over the last 6 years. She serves as a Career Specialist with Wounded Warrior Project and is a self-proclaimed “Millennial Veteran”. She has led many initiatives for female and Veteran empowerment to raise awareness and provide quality service to those in need. A Veteran herself, Carmen has dedicated her time outside of service to educate and provide support for those who are serving, have served or plan to serve in the United States military. Her ability to network and move a room had led her to work with DC’s top influential Veteran advocates and powerhouses. Moving forward, Carmen plans to help reshape the way communities interact and welcome home our heroes.
Written by Dwayne E. Campbell, Program Analyst, Hispanic Veterans Liaison
The Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) in collaboration with the Phoenix Regional Benefits Office, Phoenix Veterans Health Care System, National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, and the Prescott Vet Center took part in the 89th Annual LULAC National Convention Federal Training Institute in Phoenix, AZ. CMV facilitated two Veterans’ benefits workshop and provided information on VA programs, benefits and services at the Veterans Information Pavilion.
The CMV has partnered with a cross section of Veteran Service Organizations, community based organizations, internal stakeholders, state and local officials on education and outreach activities regarding VA benefits and programs. The CMV is committed to informing the Nation’s 22 million Veterans, their caregivers, families, and advocates, about benefits available to them. This event was in keeping with VA’s ICare advocacy value.
As part of the convention, LULAC hosted the Defenders of Freedom Breakfast to recognize Hispanics who have served our country with distinction. CMV Hispanic Veterans liaison, Dwayne E. Campbell was awarded the LULAC President’s Commendation Medal, for his service to Hispanic Veteran community.
Written by D’Andrea A. Jacobs, Program Analyst, Hispanic Veterans Liaison
While the city of San Antonio celebrated its 300th Anniversary, the AGIF celebrated its 70th Anniversary during the 2018 National Conference. Veterans were honored at a luncheon, a reception, and a Commanders’ Banquet featuring CMV Acting Director Dennis May as a keynote speaker. The theme for this year was “Seven Decades of Serving Veterans and their Families” and the Conference honored Carlos for his 46 years of service to Veterans with AGIF’s National Veterans Outreach Program.
Blacks In Government, New Orleans, LA
Dennis May, Acting Director for VA’s Center for Minority Veterans participated in Blacks in Government’s (BIG) National Veterans Forum sponsored by BIG’s Military Veterans Emphasis Program (MVEP), recently held in New Orleans, LA. In addition to providing information regarding CMV, Mr. May fielded questions from Veteran participants on various VA benefits and services. Also on the panel were fellow VA employees Dr. William Ron Hill, Suicide Prevention Program Manager/Psychologist, Southwest Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, New Orleans, LA.; Dr. Jacob Firestone, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Clinical Supervisor, Southwest Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, New Orleans, LA and Mr. Tim Green, Office of Strategic Outreach Director, Department of Labor, Washington, DC.
Mr. May’s presentation during the Veterans Forum was part of CMV’s outreach efforts during the National Training Institute, where over 2,000 attendees from across the country assembled. Ms. Denise Wright, CMV’s Senior Program Analyst and Manager of CMV’s Minority Veterans Program Coordinator program responded to individual Veteran concerns and disseminated information on CMV as well as VA benefits and services.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, San Antonio, TX
July kicked off the NAACP 109th annual convention in San Antonio Texas. CMV in collaboration with VBA and NCA conducted outreach to Veterans and family members. We had the honor of meeting 91 years old WWII Veteran Mr. Terry Beason (pictured). Barbara Sapp-Davis, MVPC at Michael E. DeBakey VAMC also serves as a Vice Chair for the National Board of Directors Veterans Affairs Task Force. Ms. Sapp-Davis served as the Mistress of Ceremony for the 43rd Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Luncheon which was well attended. The guest speaker was the Honorable Marc Carter, former military officer who started a court to help Veterans in the criminal justice system.
American GI Forum Conference, San Antonio, TX
Herman Montalvo, Minority Veterans Program Coordinator (South TX VHCS), meets with Dennis May, CMV Acting Director, during AGIF’s 70th Anniversary National Conference.
Raymond “Ray” Kaloplastos from the San Antonio Vet Center, assists a Veteran with benefits materials.
D’Andrea “Dee” Jacobs (CMV) provides VA pamphlets to a Vietnam Veteran as he talks about his time in service.
CMV Events Assisting Veterans
- 5th - Veterans Benefits Fair at National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency (NGA); Springfield, VA
- 6th - DMV2GO Outreach at Joint Base Myers Henderson Hall; Ft. Myers, VA
- 8th - Burial, Survivors, & Death Benefits Workshop w/ Fleet Reserve Association Branch #4; Ft. Washington, MD
- 9th - Town of Indianhead Annual Car Show w/ Health Fair & 9/11 Memorial; Ft. Washington, MD
- 14th - CBC 30th Annual Veterans Braintrust Forum ft. keynote speaker VA Secretary Robert Wilkie; Washington, DC
- 15th-16th - Nottoway Tribe of Virginia’s 2018 Powwow Outreach in Surry, Virginia
- 21st - CMV Outreach at Medical Group; Joint Base Andrews, MD
- 24th - 2018 LULAC Federal Training Institute and Partnership (FTIP) hosted by Department of Transportation, Federal Aviatation Administration, and Department of Labor; panelist: Dennis May Washington, DC
Annie Artis - Orlando VA Medical Center
Congratulations to EllaMay (Annie) Artis, MVPC at Orlando VAMC. Mrs. Artis will received the Orlando Business Journal’s prestigious 2018 Veterans of Influence Recognition award! This award recognizes military Veterans who have made a significant achievement in their careers in the past year, have a strong record of innovation or outstanding performance in their work and are actively involved in their community. Mrs. Artis has been instrumental in leading the Orlando VAMC’s Outreach Program that includes assisting more than 100 Veterans gain employment as well as access to healthcare.
Written by Juanita Mullen, Program Analyst, American Indian/Alaska Native Veteran Liaison
During the 4th Annual National Gathering of American Indian Veterans from July 19-22, 2018, the staff of the Trickster Art Gallery put together “Emergency Smudge Kits” for all the Veterans in attendance at the gathering. We can self – cleanse ourselves and our rooms/homes with these kits. What is SMUDGING?
Smudging is a traditional Native American method of burning sacred herbs to produce a smoke cloud which is used in various cleansing or prayer ceremonies and purification or healing rituals. During the Smudging ceremonies and rituals, the smoke may be fanned over the person by a Shaman, Medicine Man or the healer either using the hand, feathers or a fan. Smudging is the ritual cleansing of the mind, body and spirit. The dried herbs were then tied into easily portable bundles called ‘Smudge sticks’ and were included in the contents of medicine bags. The smudge sticks used in Native American smudging rituals include herbs such as Indian tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar (often referred to as Juniper).