Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)
The Voice | Issue 3 - Fiscal Year 2022
May was an extremely busy, exciting and productive month for our CMV team. We closed out the month with a special event hosted by the Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Planning Committee, to include CMV’s own Ron Sagudan, and remarks made by VA Secretary McDonough. In addressing the Committee, Secretary said “AANHPI Americans stand amongst the vanguard in every field of endeavor: Science, medicine, academia, music, the arts, the law, sports, fashion, cuisine, and so many other fields—none more important than in our military and public service” (Secretary Denis McDonough). He goes on to state, “Diversity is always our strength—never our weakness—that’s the truth.” I echo his sentiments in honoring the AANHPI Veteran Community.
Earlier in the month of May, CMV and the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans (ACMV) had its annual site visit in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the first in-person visit for CMV since the travel restrictions were lifted. This particular site visit was the first of its kind- a hybrid. Gregorio Kishketon, CMV’s newest Native American/Alaska Native Veterans Liaison and I visited Phoenix VA facilities in person. The CMV team and ACMV members held the meeting remotly.We visited with Medical Director Alysha Smith of Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, Cemetery Director Randy Heard of the National Cemetery of Arizona), and Director Chris Norton of the Phoenix Regional Office. We learned of the challenges of operating in-person services in the COVID-19 environment. I appreciated the dedication and resiliency of all of the staff and especially the ingenuity of the leadership to keep the trains running under difficult times.
May also saw a number of staff changes. I would like to formally welcome CMV’s new Staff and Presidential Management Council Fellow.
- Welcome Fellows Mark Williams, US Marine Veteran of the US Small Business Administration and Susanna Troxler from the Office of Management and Budget.
- Welcome Carmen Drummond, Army Veteran as CMV’s Senior Program Analyst, Hispanic Veterans Liaison, and Minority Veteran Program Manager and Gregorio Kishketon, US Marine as our Native American/ Alaska Native Veterans Liaison.
- Welcome new detailee Debra Walker, Director of Enterprise Governance, Office of Enterprise Integration.
Center for Minority Veterans staff from left to right; James Albino, Director; Ron Sagudan, AANHPI Veterans Liaison; Carl McPherson, Staff Assistant; Dee Jacobs; Hispanic Veterans Liaison; Mark Williams, Senior Project Manager (detailed); Dwayne Campbell; African American Veterans Liaison; Gregorio Kishketon, Native American/Alaska Native Liaison; Carmen Drummond, Hispanic Veterans Liaison; Wilmya Goldsberry-Morneau, Data Analyst; Susanna Troxler, Senior Project Manager (detailed); and Dennis May, Deputy Director
By Mark Williams, Senior Project Manager (Detailed)
The VA’s Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) is partnering with the VA’s Veterans Experience Office (VEO) to support a series of Virtual Veterans Experience Action Center events in 2022.
Virtual Veteran Experience Action Center (V-VEACs) are state or regional events, that include representatives from Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration, National Cemetery Administration, Board of Veterans’ Appeals, state departments of Veterans affairs and community partners, all working together to offer veterans one-on-one personalized assistance for: VA benefits, VA health care, crisis resources, memorial affairs, community services and peer to peer connection.
Once a V-VEAC is scheduled for their area, Veterans and their family members, service members, caregivers and survivors can select their preferred date and time, and then make an appointment online to connect to the upcoming V-VEAC. A local Veteran Service Officer initiates the appointment by calling the registrant. The appointment is executed over the phone in a virtual environment.
CMV has already participated in several V-VEAC events, mostly serving as part of the Veteran Engagement Team, helping ensure participants are able to connect with the appropriate VA department that can assist the Veteran, family member, survivor, or caregiver with their needs.
At a recent V-VEAC event for Virginia Veterans, the V-VEAC team was able to help nearly 600 receive one-on-one assistance with claims and appeals, filing status updates, healthcare enrollment, state and community services, and crisis resources. “This cleared more fog in five minutes than I’ve had in 10 years,” said one of the Veteran participants. “I’m almost weak at the knees after today.”
CMV is scheduled to participate in V-VEAC in Kentucky, Alabama, California, Michigan and Texas. Visit the V-VEAC website to see if an event is coming to your area.
SECVA Coin Presentation
George Perez, Program Support Assistant: Mr. Perez is a Navy Veteran and has served 26 years as a VA Work Study, Cemetery Representative, or as a Program Support Assistant. Mr. Perez is on the frontline, continuously providing excellent customer service and superior knowledge of cemetery operations. He provides the highly desired continuity that is often absent in a high turnover position, as well as insight to the many changes he has experienced during his tenure. He currently is heavily involved with data collection and data analysis involving site usage at the National Cemetery and the proper reporting into the Management and Decision Support System.
Asian Fest 2022
Mount Trashmore, Virginia Beach with VBA MVPC Brent Williams
By Ron Sagudan, CMV Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian Veterans Liaison
Araw ng Kagitingan, also known as Day of Valor, is a Philippines national day of observance that commemorates the fall of Bataan to Japanese troops during World War II. The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project and the Philippines Embassy in Washington, D.C., hosted a Wreath Laying Ceremony to honor the Filipino and American troops at the World War II Memorial.
Photos by Ron Sagudan, CMV Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian Veterans Liaison
US Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Ray Cabacar donated a portrait of the Philippines President, Carlos P. Romulo, to the Philippines Embassy.
CMV Liaison Ron Sagudan and Philippines Ambassador Jose Manuel del Gallego Romualdez at Romulo Hall
Portrait of Carlos P. Romulo dedication hosted by VFW 5471 and Filipino Veterans Recognitions and Education (FilVets) Program
Input by Ron Sagudan, CMV Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian Veterans Liaison
Mr. Almeda came to the Center for Minority Veterans at the young age of 92 (2009) when he was trying to get assistance with the Filipino WWII Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) that was recently passed by Congress. He was denied. The Center was assisting as much as we could but still [he was still] being denied. Our Center, the Filipino community leaders, and community rallied behind him and all the Filipino WWII Veterans. Good news… he was eventually granted and awarded the one time lump sum payment by SECVA Shulkin at the Congressional Gold Medal presentation October 25, 2017. “Before I close my eyes forever, I want to know that I am recognized as a Veteran of WWII,” Almeda told NBC News. He has always come to [the Center for Minority Veterans] for assistance. He is family now. Mr. Almeda was less than three months shy of turning 105 when he passed away on March 27, 2022.
Read more on Mr. Almeada at Celestino Almeda: Did I Serve? Yes.
By D’Andrea Jacobs, CMV Hispanic Veterans Liaison
In Spring of 2021, I signed up with Guitars for Vets (view original write). I met with my instructor Mr. Robert Grealy every week for 10 weeks. Robert started as a G4V instructor in January 2019. Although he is not a Veteran, he grew up in a very patriotic home environment. His father is a Navy WWII Veteran who served on a command and control ship (USS Ancon) during the Normandy Invasion and was later in the Pacific theater. Thanks to the GI Bill, he was one of the first in his family to go to college and from there, had a distinguished career as a CIA Officer spending most of his career in Southeast Asia. With his upbringing, Robert has always had a strong desire to do something to support the military community and jumped at the opportunity to be apart of G4V when it was introduced to him. He describes G4V as one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. He advises Veterans looking to join G4V to not hold back or put off this opportunity for learning. Each Veteran must get a referral from a VA social worker or primary care physician and submit it in order to start experiencing the healing power of music. During my instruction with Robert, I went from learning nothing about playing the guitar, to playing “Daughters” by John Meyer by ear.
Before I met Robert, I first contacted G4V’s program liaison, Nicolette “Nicky” Rubin, who is also a Board Certified Neuroligic Music Therapist at my local VA Medical Center. She has worked with the program for almost 9 years now. Nicky stated that the G4V program has helped with the demand and need for guitar lessons as she is the only assigned Music Therapist at the VA Medical Center. The target population is rehabilitation, long-term care and hospice Veterans in the Community Living Center. G4V enabled her to reach out to the outpatient Veteran population and introduce them to the available music therapy programs. She advises any aspiring Veteran musician to never give up! “The older we get, the more challenging it is to learn a new instrument. With regular, consistent daily practice, Veterans of ALL ages have been able to master the basics of learning the instrument in the 10 weeks the G4V program offers… Having the goal of performing has helped motivate Veterans as they have that specific project to work towards.” Nicky went on to state that especially during COVID-19 restrictions, Veterans have suffered from isolation, PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues. “Listening to music as well as learning a new instrument has been shown to help decrease anxiety, increase self-esteem, and reduce episodes of panic attacks, nightmares and flashbacks. A research study of G4V students showed a 21% improvement in PTSD symptoms and a 27% decrease in related depression symptoms. The study attributed learning and playing guitar as the primary catalysts for these improvements- and we want to ensure as many Vets as possible have that opportunity.”
At the time I became a part of G4V, the local Washington, D.C. area chapter was only doing virtual lessons due to COVID-19 restrictions. I had the pleasure of meeting both Robert and Nicky in person during G4V’s Open Mic and Graduation ceremony. During this ceremony, I, along with four other graduates, received a generous guitar starter package which included a brand new guitar, case, strings, capo, tuner, stand and instructional book.
*Both Robert and Nicky were interviewed and vetted through Voluntary Service prior to becoming instructors.
By Gregorio Kishketon, CMV Native American and Alaska Native Liaison
From left to right: Gregorio Kishketon pictured with SAU’s 13th President, Dr. Christine Johnson-McPhail (first photo) | Dr. Leslie Rodriguez-McClellon, Chairman- The Honorable James E. Perry, Mr. Gregorio Kishteton, and Dr. Carolyn Carter (second photo)
Good news from Raleigh-Durham, N.C. as we welcome Saint Augustine’s University’s (SAU’s) 13th president, Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail. Also in attendance was the Honorable, James E. Perry, a former US Army First Lieutenant who sat on the Florida State Supreme Court. We were all surprised by Grammy Award winning artist BeBe Winans, when he came on stage and sang two songs. He also took pictures with attendees afterwards. Saint Augustine’s is one of the oldest Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the south, est. 1867. I sit on the Board of Trustees attending the board meeting and partook in SAU’s commencement exercises as a trustee. Finally, I attended a gospel Sunday at the SAU Chapel, built by freedmen.
By Gregorio Kishketon, CMV Native American and Alaska Native Liaison
The first picture is with Marine Veteran William “Billy” Mills, also known as Tamakoce Te’Hila, Gold Medal Winner of the 10,000 meters run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and part of the Oglala Sioux Nation from the Pineridge Reservationand Julie Tayac Yates, who is a member of the Piscataway Indian Nation. The next photos are of 2 recent Pow Wows: the Zotigh Singers, a traditional Native American Indian drum group, and Pow Wow participants at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. I drummed and sang with the Zotigh Singers while at recent Pow Wows to include at the National Museum of the Native American (NMNA) in Washington DC.
Pow Wow participants at Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Zotigh Singers and participants