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Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)


The Voice | Issue 4 - Fiscal Year 2020

VA Center for Minority Veterans Newsletter

In this Section: Newsletter Index  |  Subscribe for Updates
On this Page: Executive Director’s Corner  |  Office of Rural Health Newsletter  |  Hispanic Heritage Month!  |  Native American Highlights  |  Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans Status  |  Upcoming Collaborative CMV Events for Veterans  |  Minority Veteran Program Coordinators  |  Special Birthday Highlight |  In Memory of Ms. Elizabeth B. Barker-Johnson
“During the COVID-19 crisis, VA is asking Veterans to lead their neighbors and communities in practicing social distancing. It’s tough, but it’s what we need to do to defeat this virus.” Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge, Veterans Health Administration
Executive Director’s Corner

Stephen Dillard, CMV DirectorThe Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Minority Veterans is Proud to Serve Our Veterans and Their Families: Servicing the Needs of Our Veterans from a Virtual Outreach Platform

At the VA Center for Minority Veterans (CMV), our Veterans and their families’ wellbeing is our paramount concern.

I hope this message finds you and your families doing well. At the Center for Minority Veterans, we are making sure our virtual outreach platform can effectively engage, inform and educate our internal and external partners so that we can collaborate effectively to better serve our Veterans.

At CMV, the ’Veteran Comes First’ philosophy is based on a deep respect for the men and women who dedicated themselves to the defense of our nation. We are working daily to carefully understand the demographics of our minority Veterans cohorts so that VA can better provide benefits and services to minority Veterans, assess their needs, and anticipate future needs.

Based on CMV and internal VA partners research, out of the 18 million Veteran population, 9 million Veterans are enrolled in VA health care. Minority Veterans currently make up 23% of the total Veteran population and this number will increase to 34% over the next 20 years. In addition, we are proud to share that among the 574 federally recognized tribes, military service by Native Americans and Alaska Natives is 5 times the national average.

To fortify our mission, CMV is a steadfast partner with the Office of Health Equity (OHE) to ensure that all Veterans receive care they need to achieve equitable health outcomes. This is done by sharing information and participating as a member of OHE Coalition Committee.

Since COVID-19 has established the “Rules of Engagement” for 2020, at CMV, we are extremely committed to increase our outreach engagements and set new milestones and benchmarks as indicators that we are impacting the lives of Veterans and their families via our virtual outreach platform. CMV’s daily, monthly and quarterly agenda will specifically support the following VA programs and services in order to sustain our Veterans and their families’ wellbeing:

  • CMV will continue to support VA’s HUD-VA Supportive Housing program which provides a safety net for Veterans as it is providing critical food, heat, and health assistance. VA has dropped overall Veteran homelessness by 45% through outreach efforts to provide health and rehabilitative services, employment assistance, transitional housing and supportive services.
  • Support VA’s Office of Transition and Economic Development and their partners to engage and outreach to all active duty Service members early in the military life cycle to help with their transition to civilian life.
  • To support the programs and service methodology for which the electronic health record, telemedicine, patient-centered medical homes, primary care and mental health will afford VA to improved accuracy of data. VA continues to move forward toward better equality for minority Veterans.
  • Support the VBA Outreach and Engagement Office to provide our minority Veterans with significant information on “Blue Water Navy Act of 2019 and other relevant VBA programs and services.
  • Support the Office of Health Equity, which is VHA’s major resource for research and recommendation of policies and procedures to eliminate Social Determinants of Health disparities, like housing, food, education, poverty, employment and COVID-19 which have been determine to impact the health of minority Veterans.
  • CMV will continue the collaboration with our external and internal partners to increase the utilization rate of VA benefits of American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans and sustain and increase the VA benefits utilizations rate of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Veterans which is currently the highest (i.e., 59.9%) among minority Veterans as of FY 2017 data.

However, in order to implement, achieve and sustain the volume of outreach to our Veterans and their families during this pandemic, CMV is sending a clarion call to our Veterans Service Organizations, stakeholders, internal and interagency colleagues in order to collaborate with CMV to service the needs of our Veterans who have “Borne the Battle.”

We are honored and privileged to collaborate and continue to collaborate with you and your networks.

Thank you for your service to our Veterans!

Office of Rural Health Newsletter

This issue of “The Rural Connection” focuses on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to provide innovative health care technology options for Veterans. It highlights the innovative ways VA is working to increase access to care for rural Veterans.

Hispanic Heritage Month!

Hispanics * Be Proud of Your Past * Embrace the Future - National Hispanic Hispanic Heritage Month September 15-October 15 2020

“Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past and Embrace the Future”

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

Did You Know…?

The Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2019, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority. Hispanics constituted 18.5% of the nation’s total population.

  • Richard E. Cavazos the U.S. Army’s first Hispanic four-star General
  • Sixty men of Hispanic heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor
  • Hector Perez Garcia, M.D. Founder of the first Congressionally Chartered Hispanic Veterans Service Organization – American GI Forum
  • Everett Alvarez, Jr. was one of the longest-held American prisoners of war in American history. He was interned in North Vietnam from August 5, 1964 until his release on February 12, 1973.

Hispanic Veteran Highlights

Carlos MartinezRemembering Carlos Martinez, former President and CEO, American GI Forum authored by Gilbert Rodriguez; Texas Insider

The American GI Forum (AGIF) National Veterans Outreach program (NVOP) has lost Carlos Martinez, President and CEO, a visionary and an outstanding leader. The NVOP under his leadership gained National recognition for accomplishments and will continue to honor the work and legacy of Carlos Martinez for his years of service and dedication of service to Veterans and their families. For 48 years he set the standard for servicing Veterans.

Mr. Carlos Martinez was associated with the organization since its founding and has been its President and Chief Executive Officer since 1974. Under his leadership the organization uniquely blended social service needs with sound business practices, and the organization prospered from a single service office to a multi-corporate structure encompassing several separate sub-corporations.

Mr. Martinez’s experience of years with community-based initiatives specifically in Veterans’ services earned him a unique perspective that attracted national attention. He served as a Member of the VA’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans, and the Advisory Committee on Veterans Readjustment. He has also performed past service on the U.S. Department of Labors’ Veterans Employment and Training advisory ’ Blue-Ribbon Advisory Committee on the State Veterans Homes. Martinez was an inaugural Member of Bush Institute Military Service Initiative Advisory Council. He was currently serving on the Board of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

Four weeks prior to his passing Carlos lost his wife Rita of 45 years to COVID-19. They leave two daughters and four grandchildren.

“Carlos Martinez will be missed. I had the honor of having served on the NVOP Board of Directors a total of 18 years. He was a good friend and the American GI Forum, a National Veterans Organization as well as Veterans throughout the Nation have lost a strong voice and advocate.” Gil Rodriguez, CEO, American GI Forum of Texas, Inc. and Managing Editor.

View additional information and photos. Visit Mr. Martinez’ In Memoriam page.

Capt. Humbert Roque “Rocky” VersaceHumbert Roque Versace, By Tony (The Marine) Santiago

Captain Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace (July 2, 1937–September 26, 1965) was a United States Army officer of Puerto Rican-Italian descent who was awarded the United States’ highest military decoration - the Medal of Honor - for his heroic actions while a prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War. He was the first member of the U.S. Army to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions performed in Southeast Asia while in captivity.

On May 12, 1962, Versace began his first tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an intelligence advisor. In May 1963 he volunteered for a six-month extension of his tour, planning to attend seminary at the conclusion of his service and join the Catholic priesthood, hoping to return to Vietnam as a missionary working with orphans.

Less than two weeks before the end of his tour, on October 29, 1963, while visiting a Military Academy classmate in Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group in the Mekong Delta, Versace accompanied several companies of South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense (CIDG) troops who had attacked to remove a Viet Cong command post located in the U Minh Forest, a VC stronghold. A VC Main Force battalion ambushed and overran Versace’s unit, wounding him in the process. He was able to provide enough covering fire so that the CIDG forces could withdraw from the killing zone.

A second government force of about 200 men operating only a few thousand yards from the main fight learned of the disaster too late to help. U.S. authorities said the communist radio jammers had knocked out both the main channel and the alternate channel on all local military radios. Versace was captured and taken to a prison deep in the jungle along with two other Americans, Lieutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant Dan Pitzer. He tried to escape four times, but failed in his attempts. Versace insulted the Viet Cong during the indoctrination sessions and cited the Geneva Convention treaty time after time. The Viet Cong separated Versace from the other prisoners. The last time the prisoners heard his voice, he was loudly singing “God Bless America.” On September 26, 1965, North Vietnam’s “Liberation Radio” announced the execution of Captain Humbert Roque Versace. Versace’s remains have never been recovered. His headstone at Arlington National Cemetery stands above an empty grave and can be located in the Memorial section MG-108.

Upon learning of their son’s fate, Marie Teresa Rios Versace and her husband, Colonel Versace, tried to find out what they could about the circumstances. She went to Paris in the late 1960s, trying unsuccessfully to see the North Vietnamese delegation as it arrived for peace talks. Rios Versace expressed her frustration and anguish in poems.

Captain Humbert Roque Versace, Medal of Honor recipientNominations to award Versace the Medal of Honor were initiated in 1969, but the nomination failed and he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star instead. The quest for a Medal of Honor for Versace languished until the “Friends of Rocky Versace’ reinitiated the crusade once more in 1999. Language added by Congress in the 2002 Defense Authorization Act ended the standoff and authorized the award of the nation’s highest military decoration for combat valor to Versace.

On July 8, 2002, in a ceremony in the White House East Room, Versace was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush for his heroism, the first time an Army POW had been awarded the nation’s highest honor for actions in captivity. Present were his surviving siblings, Dr. Stephen Versace, Richard (former coach of the Indiana Pacers), Michael and Trilby Versace. On November 7, 2008, the Department of the Army announced the revocation of Versace’s Silver Star because it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Graciela Tiscareño-SatoGraciela Tiscareño-Sato

Ms. Tiscareño-Sato was honored by The White House as a Woman Military Veteran Leader Champion of Change in March 2014.

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, School of Environmental Design, where she earned a degree in Environmental Design/Architecture while completing the Aerospace Studies program as an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program (AFROTC) scholarship cadet. She was commissioned as a Distinguish Graduate and second lieutenant atop the Campanile on the Berkeley campus.

After Berkeley, she joined the active duty Air Force and completed Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather Air Force Base (AFB) in Sacramento. She graduated in the top 15% of her class of 25 students as the only woman in the class. She then trained in the KC-135R refueling tanker at Castle AFB in California before reporting into the 43rd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington.

Her first deployment was to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. On that trip, she was a member of one of the first few aircrews to patrol and enforce the Southern NO FLY Zone in Southern Iraq after the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm. Flying two or three sorties a day over and near the city of Baghdad to prevent Saddam Hussein’s air forces from targeting Iraqi civilians earned her crew the prestigious Air Medal. This medal is awarded for “Meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight; Per twenty-five (25) operational flights during which exposure to enemy fire is probable and expected.” In other words, combat sorties. This happened 10 months BEFORE Congress lifted the Combat Exclusion Law that barred women from being assigned to combat duties. During her keynote presentations, Graciela tells the story of how this Air Medal almost didn’t happen for her crew because of this technicality.

During her military career, Graciela lived on or visited four continents and flew for thousands of hours. As an instructor, she taught Global Positioning Systems, navigation systems and more in the classroom and in the cockpit. Her favorite rendezvous for refueling was with the SR-71 Blackbird as it came out of its high-altitude missions over the Earth at supersonic speeds. She was one of very few women that served on the NATO Battlestaff in Vicenza, Italy during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Later she led a multi-service group of communications technicians at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador in counter-narcotics operations.

Her last mission abroad was planning and leading a two-week CAPSTONE mission to Asia Pacific theater to introduce newly – minted generals to their new posts in Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan and more. She spent almost ten years on active duty as a navigator and instructor, eventually also becoming a wing contingency planning officer. During her active duty service, she earned a Master›s degree in International Management, with an emphasis in Global Marketing, from Whitworth University in Washington. She speaks English and Spanish fluently.

Graciela is the Founder of niche publishing, marketing and communications firm, Gracefully Global Group, LLC. She is the author of the award-winning entrepreneurship book Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them, which highlights Hispanic entrepreneurs innovating in the green economy. In between military service and entrepreneurship, she spent nine years in global marketing roles at Siemens, where she applied her military career lessons in a global, multicultural, corporate environment. Her thought leadership pieces have published in the U.S. and Europe including American Careers, Huffington Post, Fox News, Hispanic MBA, Communications News and many other publications.

Native American Highlights

Charles Shay visiting the Charles Shay Indian Memorial at Omaha BeachMr. Charles Shay - Juanita Mullen, CMV Native American/Alaska Native Liaison with excerpts from Emily Burnham (June 30, 2020) | View the Original Article on Bangor Daily News

A new bronze bust of a Penobscot Nation tribal elder and World War II Veteran, Charles Shay, who is credited with saving soldiers’ lives at D-Day was installed at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

The bust of Charles Shay, now 96, was installed on July 4, 2020 at the Charles Shay Indian Memorial at Omaha Beach, a park that also features a turtle sculpture, sculpted by Shay’s nephew, Tim Shay. The turtle sculpture, unveiled in 2017, is a sacred animal in the Penobscot tradition, representing wisdom and longevity. Many Indigenous people refer to North America as Turtle Island.

The Charles Shay Indian Memorial at Omaha BeachAn official unveiling and dedication of the bronze bust was originally planned for June 5 of this year, one day before the 76th anniversary of D-Day, but due to the coronavirus pandemic and in lieu of Shay’s advanced age, it has been rescheduled for June 5, 2021, the day before the 77th anniversary of D-Day.

Shay was the only U.S. World War II Veteran to attend the 76th anniversary ceremony earlier in June, with travel from the U.S. to France and other European Union nations still mostly prohibited due to the pandemic, according to the Associated Press. Shay now lives in Picauville, a village just a few miles inland from Omaha Beach.

Shay served as a combat medic during World War II, and was present at the storming of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He is credited with saving the lives of a number of soldiers, pulling them from the sea and saving them from drowning. He also treated fallen soldiers at the battles of Aachen, Huertgen Forest and at the Battle of the Bulge, and was held as a prisoner of war by German forces until being freed on April 12, 1945.

Shay also served in the Korean War, and was later awarded the Bronze Star and the Silver Star, as well as the French Legion of Honor in 2007.

Shay made annual pilgrimages to Omaha Beach starting in 2007. After many years living in Austria and then another 15 years living on Indian Island, Shay moved from Maine to Normandy in 2018. He resides with Marie Legrand, a longtime volunteer with World War II Veterans who come to visit Omaha Beach, and who spearheaded the effort to commission the bronze bust of Shay.

Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans (ACMV) - Status

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Center for Minority Veterans (CMV), is in the process of reviewing qualified candidates to be considered for appointment as a member of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans (“the Committee”).

Nominations for membership on the Committee must have been received no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on July 15, 2020. Any packages received from that date will be carried over into consideration for FY 2022 ACMV.

For further information, contact Mr. Ronald Sagudan and Mr. Dwayne Campbell, Center for Minority Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave. NW (00M), Washington, DC 20420, Telephone (202) 461-6191 or email A copy of the Committee charter, application and list of the current membership can be obtained by contacting Mr. Sagudan or Mr. Campbell or by accessing the website managed by CMV.

Upcoming Collaborative CMV Events for Veterans
  • September 10, 2020
    Veterans Listening Event
    Veterans Experience, and Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, and Rally Point
  • September 21-25, 2020
    2020 Historically Black College or University (HBCU) Week
    White House Initiative on HBCUs
  • September 26-27, 2020
    6th Annual National Gathering of American Indian Veterans
    Trickster Cultural Center
  • October 8, 2020
    Virtual Town Hall
    League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • October 14, 2020
    Hispanic Heritage Month Virtual
    VA Central Office
Minority Veteran Program Coordinators (MVPCs)

Former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown implemented the role of MVPCs to assist VA facility directors of their respective facility and the Center for Minority Veterans assess and identify the needs of minority Veterans.

There is a Minority Veteran Program Coordinator (MVPC) located in each state’s Regional Office, VA Medical Center and National Cemetery to educate and assist with your eligibility of benefits and services.

Access a listing of MVPCs by administration and state, who can provide service within your community.

A Special Birthday Highlight

Join in wishing the oldest known, living Native American WWII Veteran, Julia Kabance a Happy Birthday on August 10, 2020

We would like to wish a very special birthday to Mrs. Julia Kabance’s 110 years on August 10, 2020! Julia is the oldest known, living Native American WWII Veteran.

In Memory of Ms. Elizabeth B. Barker-Johnson

Elizabeth B. Barker-Johnson, WWII Veteran
Ms. Elizabeth B. Barker-Johnson
WWII Veteran
Born in Hickory, NC
May 2, 1920—August 23, 2020

Former member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Mrs. Elizabeth B. Barker Johnson passed away early Sunday morning (August 23rd). Her family is thankful that she was able to live long enough to see the 6888th monument and finally receive the recognition she and her battalion rightfully deserved.

In May 2019, Ms. Barker-Johnson, made national headlines when she walked across stage and accepted her diploma from Winston-Salem State University 70 years after graduating from the institution. She was the first woman to use the GI Bill to attend Winston-Salem State University.

On Wed, Aug 26, 2020, the flag at The Women’s In Military Service Memorial flew in honor of Mrs. Johnson’s Service to this country. Remembering her and her contributions for our Country in WWII. The flag will be presented to her family.