An Open Letter to DAV
It seems like a long time ago now, 1994, that I became National Adjutant of DAV
at our 73rd National Convention in Chicago. It was a time when wars were fought
conventionally, with opposing forces uniformed for recognition. Now conflicts are
waged, to greatly understate it, in unconventional ways. In 1994 this Organization
was in some financial and leadership difficulty, which we can now say with pride
has been completely overcome, and we are at a pinnacle of success.
You, loyal reader, are acutely aware of the enormous toll our worldwide conflicts
have taken in terms of the severity and volume of disabling illnesses and injuries
borne by those who have served, as well as the advances in medicine and health care
which have enabled so many to survive what in the past would have meant certain
death. And as a result, DAV has had to rise to the challenge, which I am proud to
say we have done. Not only have we continued to improve and strengthen the services
rendered to our membership but also those we provide to all disabled veterans and
their families through our nation-wide National Service Officer corps. As you already
know these men and women, disabled veterans themselves, are accredited attorneys-in-fact
recognized by the federal government to represent the veteran at no cost.
All of that brings me to this point: after nearly 47 years of full-time continuous
service, first as an NSO, and now as its corporate and institutional leader, I have
announced my retirement as DAV’s National Adjutant on May 31, 2013, and National
Commander Larry A. Polzin has appointed National Headquarters Executive Director
J. Marc Burgess to the position of National Adjutant, effective June 1. I will,
of course, continue to be actively involved in support of the Organization in any
way that I am called upon. I look forward to many years of attendance at our Mid-winter
Conferences and National Conventions.
I believe this to be an ideal time to pass the torch of leadership to a new generation
of men and women, welltrained for their positions at our National Headquarters in
Cold Spring, Kentucky, National Service and Legislative Headquarters in Washington.
D.C., and our National Service Offices in every state, the District and Puerto Rico.
Never have I been more confident that the experience and dedication they possess
will stand the nation, the Disabled American Veterans, and you, our members, in
This DAV—apolitical in every aspect of its functionality save one—is emphatically
not apolitical in representing the interests and welfare of America’s wartime disabled
and their families. We are most assuredly a “special interest” registered lobby
in that cause. Because of the unwavering support of the citizens of this great nation
and people like you, we have sustained this representation since our founding in
1920. I am one of a small group of seven members who have served as National Adjutant,
and I am humbled thinking of that singular honor.
I am very aware that many readers of this publication, possibly because of the severity
of their disability, have never attended a Chapter meeting, or a Department gathering,
or a National Convention. My thoughts and those of all our members, I know, are
with those comrades in arms always. They are the living core of DAV’s reason for
being. We shall never forget them and what they have sacrificed for their country.
To the rest of us, more fortunate, it is especially important that we remain as
active as we are able in our monumental cause: one that must remain paramount in
the incredibly challenging years ahead. If what we have seen before is just prologue,
let’s consider our recent history. Since I became Adjutant the World Trade Center
was attacked twice; the destroyer USS Cole was attacked (its survivors were honored
at our Washington Headquarters); the second Iraq War began; the stock market fell
precipitously, twice; the first African American President was elected; the Euro
became the official currency of most of Europe; Saddam Hussein was executed; Osama
Bin Laden was killed; and, as we pass through 2013, it appears that we may be on
the road to economic recovery. In my judgment the next decades will be as equally
momentous as those in the recent past.
As a congressionally chartered United States corporation, we are the largest and
most respected group in the world devoted by law solely to support the needs of
disabled veterans and their families. I firmly believe, and I’m sure you’ll agree,
that the need for our services will increase in the aftermath of our participation
in world conflicts.
As I soon will end my years of employment, which have been dedicated to the fulfillment
of all those exquisitely important purposes, my heart will continue always to be
so dedicated. I will be passing our great national institution into the hands of
focused men and women who share our commitment. I’m confident in the conviction
that will be the singular objective of each of them. I have sought over the years
to instill in all who have been with me on this journey a sense of compassion and
tolerance, leadership, impartiality, fairness, equality and, most importantly, integrity
in all aspects of our service. I hope that this has been the hallmark of my tenure,
and, in the long run, the reason for it.
In retrospect I am humbled by the great amount of confidence and responsibility
you placed in me by granting me the opportunity to serve you. I certainly hope that
I have lived up to most of the expectations that you have held for me.
I have met and enjoyed knowing so many of you, and to all the rest, I hope at some
future time our paths may cross and that I will be able to meet you as well!