PO Box 20425

                                                                                                                                                                                    Tallahassee, FL 32316-0425

                                                                                                                                                                                    14 May 2007

Greetings to my fellow members of Vietnam Veterans of America, Big Bend Chapter 96 and to our fellow veterans and friends in all walks of life:


I apologize in advance for the length of this letter, but believe me… as long as it is there is still much, much more that needs to be said.


I come now before you with a call to arms to rescue our Chapter from itself, mostly from what I'm going to call our cpwptbloto (current people who pretend to be leaders of this organization) but also from ourselves as a total group of members and supporters who have somehow slowly sunk down into almost total silence about who we are, what makes us different from other organizations, and what we expect from our leaders.


Our shared mutual failures as members and leaders… or as cpwptbloto… have brought both our rank and file members and our cpwptbloto to a very low point in the history of Chapter 96, and I truly feel that we must clean house, clean it now and well, or what's left (if anything) is soon going to be a mere ghost shadow which is operated in our names as members, but in our names only, without our knowledge or consent, without anyone ever telling us anything about what's going on in the organization and without us being hardly if at all able to ever do anything about that.


Now before I go on into what I see as a description of their greater failings, I must at least briefly and to a small degree defend the folks whom I'm calling cpwptbloto… and this is not a pretense at a defense.  I sincerely mean this.  They have helped keep the doors open and they have, at least as they have the light to see the light, actually improved some things about the Chapter, particularly in sending out at least some kind of a meeting notice every now and then where for years on end there had been none at all.


I take full responsibility for what I'm saying in writing this, but I'm not writing it just for myself, but rather as part of a concerted effort of a group of past and present leaders of the chapter to spark a kind of “rebirth” of spirit and activity in the chapter.  Some of us walked away from active participation years ago.  Some of us stayed involved and were overwhelmed with a situation in which entropy took over, cutting corners became routine, and some pretty poor adherence to the “official rules” of VVA, its National Constitution, resulted.


But what is different now and angers me… and I do mean angers me… is two main things.  First, some people who have recently become involved as Chapter leaders (or I would say cpwptbloto) want to completely give in to entropy and formally adapt to the lack of participation to such extent that there would never again be any expectation that they should communicate with any Chapter member or members outside of their own little group about anything… and they will have in effect given themselves full legal authority to act on behalf of the members of the chapter without ever consulting those members beforehand or informing them afterwards of anything, ever, in perpetuity.  But secondly… and a careful distinction must be made… all or almost all of Chapter 96’s leaders are and have been American Legion members for a long, long time; but those who I call cpwptbloto are so totally awash in a sea of personal politics in the American Legion that I get the very distinct impression they have just converted VVA Chapter 96 into their clique's own little American Legion outpost and power base from which to conduct political operations within the Legion.  VVA, instead of having its own distinct identity and purposes, in their hands is rapidly becoming little more than a pawn to those American Legion activities.


Now don't take what I'm saying wrong.  I'm not… we're not, as a group of “reformers” for Chapter 96, in any way disaffected with the American Legion in general or Post 13 in particular.  We just want VVA to have its own clear and distinct identity.  I don't think that we have need for (as is the case now) a prevailing majority of VVA Chapter 96’s cpwptbloto to be people who very much appear to be more concerned than in anything about VVA, about the American Legion, and particularly in working to regain a political toehold in Post 13 after one highly unsuccessful attempt to gain major elective office there last year was followed by their disorderly retreat to the Post at Quincy.  These folks didn't just lose an election at Post 13 in normal, friendly fashion.  Some of them caused a ruckus and left a bad odor behind.  They, and particularly the one who is currently serving as Chapter 96’s Treasurer, Don Tobin, have continued on in that mode and have ticked off most if not all of the veterans organizations who have long used the Hootch as their meeting place.  This was partly done by raising the “rent” for use of the Hootch, but even more so was a result of VVA's Treasurer collecting the rent like a rabid “repo man”… and my point is that this was done in VVA's name, but I am pretty damn certain that it was done not in any true interest that VVA Chapter 96 has ever had but rather as part of a grand scheme that I'm certainly not privy to but can read by unmistakable inference, to clear our veteran “users” out and make the Hootch available for routine commercial rental.


Routine commercial rental for whom, though?  That is the question.  The whole situation seems fraught with potential peril for Chapter 96.  Post 13 owns the Hootch.  We built it and leased it from Post 13 for a term of 20 years.  That lease ends with no pre-agreed renewal option, on 1 September 2007, which is exactly 121 days… roughly 4 months to the day from the most recent VVA Chapter 96 board meeting, at which Rick Clevenger again, as he has done for some time now, tried to get the Chapter 96 board to open lease renewal negotiations with Post 13.  Again that was voted down resoundingly, on the basis that the Post 13 leaders were subject to change in June, and it would be better to open negotiations after the Post 13 election.  Better for whom?  Certainly not for VVA Chapter 96.  There is a clear conflict between the interests of VVA Chapter 96 and its members, and the political ambitions within Post 13, of VVA Chapter 96’s cpwptbloto clique.  They basically want to wait till July to even open lease renewal negotiations, and in my opinion are pinning VVA Chapter 96’s hopes of success… of continued existence, really… to the tattered coat tails of their personal Post 13 ambitions.


Their “plan” is a bad gamble for Chapter 96 at best.  My analysis leads me to believe that Post 13’s current leaders are quite amenable to renewing the lease.  They want to study the situation and discuss it, of course.  Any responsible leaders of any responsible organization would do just that.  And such review and analysis takes time.  Boe Boeve (who negotiated the original lease on Chapter 96’s behalf), Rick Clevenger (who coordinated building the Hootch), Ken Ganey, and I, all of us past Chapter 96 presidents, (and we kept current Chapter president John Petriello informed) took it upon ourselves to go to a Post 13 membership meeting a week later on 10 May, and from the floor, move that Post 13’s members ask Post 13’s leaders to begin work that could lead to a renewal of the lease.  This motion passed (unanimously, I believe) and Post 13 Commander LeCroy has committed to appoint a committee and to work to get a draft together by the time of the Post's next meeting of members in June.  The only criticism brought up was… of course VVA CHAPTER 96’S SHABBY TREATMENT OF DAV, THE PURPLE HEARTS, AND OTHERS, AS USERS OF THE HOOTCH.   The worst thing going in that regard, is the absence of any officially recognized (by Chapter 96) representation in the lease negotiation process.  What is going to happen next is going to be downright interesting too.  Rick Clevenger and Ken Ganey who are both current VVA Chapter 96 board members, will be out of town during the next VVA Chapter 96 board meeting.  The cpwptbloto clique has a working majority on the board even when Rick and Ken are present, though, so that hardly seems to matter.


But what is needed is quite clear.  VVA Chapter 96’s members need to start taking a sudden, active and intense interest, and getting involved in what's going on.  Those of you who possibly, reasonably, can, should plan to attend both of the next two VVA Chapter membership meetings, on 17 May and 21 June.  The board meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. and the membership meeting at 6:30 p.m. on 17 May and the ANNUAL MEETING AND ELECTION will begin at 7:00 p.m. on 21 June.  If you live too far away, or are too ill… well… don't kill yourself trying, but if you can, please attend and try to get a grasp on what's really going on.  I can see a great bit of it, but I can't quite see it all.  There's stuff here that just doesn't all meet the eye, but there's a really bad odor in the air.


There's a “new set” of Chapter 96 bylaws that may or may not be in effect, which let just a handful of cpwptbloto run Chapter 96 as if they owned it.  Those bylaws are in open conflict with the VVA National Constitution ON NUMEROUS IMPORTANT POINTS, but I'm telling you folks… I think there is a widespread effort afoot to amend those protections to members' rights out of the Constitution itself at the upcoming National Convention.   That I only suspect.  But I know for a fact that the VVA Florida State Council is behind an effort to do away with the restriction of VVA membership to Vietnam era veterans, and to open it up to all veterans.  Among other things that would put VVA in direct competition for members with the American Legion and VFW.  You can see a proposal about that on the VVA Florida State Council web site at: http://vvafsc.org/Proposed_VVA_Constitution_Amendment_Change.pdf   That sort of fundamental change in VVA isn't “mission creep”.  That, so far as I'm concerned, is outright betrayal of the purpose and intent of VVA as an organization.  But as members you still have the power to re-elect or not re-elect Chapter 96’s cpwptbloto to office… IF you will just show up at the ANNUAL MEETING on 21 June and vote.  One step at a time, from there, we as members of Chapter 96 can meet and discuss and see what we all (or at least most of us) agree on as our Chapter's course of action among these many swirling currents and eddies of politics both within the Chapter and extending far above it.


I believe that as written and “passed” (and I put the term “passed” in quotes quite purposefully in that I don't believe, for a number of reasons… chief of which is that if they did there is at least one violation of members’ rights under Chapter 617, Florida Statutes, involved… I don't believe that those bastard bylaws were anything like really “passed” at all), those bylaws, combined with who specifically controls the Chapter 96 board of directors right now, what their personal priorities are, a true crisis over Hootch lease renewal, the physical condition of the Hootch (the roof is leaking), the inactivity of members… any or all of those factors could combine and effectively kill VVA Chapter 96 dead, dead, dead, in just a matter of a few more months.


Or, as many of us who can, may rise to the occasion, assert our rights as members, clean house and start over.  We can't turn back the clock to 1990.  We're older.  Some of us have died.  Others are seriously ill.  But those of us who are still kicking, can still kick… and we need to do so NOW!


Those of us who are trying to spark this rebirth in Chapter 96, we aren't perfect.  We contributed to the current situation just like everyone else.  But we are attempting to reform ourselves as well.  We still won't be perfect, and we may fall flat on our faces here and there, but the difference is… we want to make this a healthy, active Chapter where members participate fully once again, not just let it continue to shrivel up and act as if the entire membership had just up and died!


We don't actually have a “slate” yet.  We do have an “agenda”, however, and that is to contact and try to re-involve every living past member of Chapter 96 all of the way back to 1983, no matter where they may currently reside on this planet; involve anew every potential member who we can find; and rebuild old and build new friendships that can help us give Chapter 96 a “rebirth”.  I've talked about running for President again, Rick Clevenger has talked about running for Treasurer.  Nobody so far has been dumb enough to talk about running for Secretary, but maybe we can find some such foo… er, I mean, nice person… maybe a Marine (that way you get short, concise, minutes… if you can read the scribbles <G>)  Regardless of who wins the election, I am personally committed to reviving the Free Fire Wire or some similar Chapter news organ, either in electronic or paper form, or both, and I fully intend to do that no matter who is elected to what.  No matter what anyone thinks the Free Fire Wire was never a one-person operation “back when”.  It took about 6 to 8 of us working pretty hard and another couple more helping, to put out the Free Fire Wire, so, unless a similar group revives, the new “Chapter 96 news” may be “the Free Fire Lite”, but there will be SOMETHING!


For this text, old and “new” bylaws text, National Constitution text, refer on the World Wide Web to: http://anhaica.org/VVA96/index.htm   Any significant new developments will be posted there too, as updates… including, if the guys I've called the cpwptbloto clique choose to respond we are giving them over 30 days before the Chapter election to do so, and Ill even post their response at the same web location if they want me to, if and when they provide it.

But one more thing before I go...  If you plan to attend the VVA Chapter 96 Annual Meeting on 21 June, you had better bring a copy of your DD-214, and maybe even $20 with you.  The membership records are poorly kept, DD-214 copies have been worse kept, the officer responsible (the Secretary) has stated that until the board meeting on 3 May when several of us turned in new copies, he had never so much as had his hands on a DD-214 at Chapter 96, ever... and worst of all accusations are being hurled in various directions about WHY the DD-214s are missing, unverified, etc.  There was an attempt back in April to have an Annual Meeting, but it broke up when Rick Clevenger absolutely insisted that candidates' DD-214s be certified as already "on file" or provided anew (as is clearly required by the VVA National Constitution)... at which point most of the cpwptbloto clique said that they didn't have to do that and walked out of the door, breaking up the meeting.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Richard White

                                                                                                                                                                                                VVA LMP # 61


P.S.  Calling Rambear… Calling Rambear.  Rambear, no matter where you are, please come home…  We miss you!