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113th National Convention


The 113th VFW National Convention was held July 21-25, 2012 in Reno, Nevada. The National Council of Administration Meeting was held Saturday, July 21. Although convention expenses are yet to be factored, the Finance Committee projects an approximate $400,000 to $500,000 surplus for this fiscal year, but pointed out that inadequate annual dues and national support of departments and reduced non-member and member contributions were all too low and are cause for concern for the long-term outlook. They voted to replenish the Emergency Relief Fund and the Charitable Contributions Fund, contingent upon a budget surplus. On Sunday, July 22, local Pastor, Patrick Stepanek delivered a Memorial Service. 19-year Army veteran, Stepanek who served with the 1st Bn., 37thArmor Regt. discussed core values instilled by the Army: loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity and personal courage and declared that veterans should be examples of liberty to the young. Ladies Auxiliary National President Gwen Rankin and VFW Commander-in-Chief Richard

De Noyer participated in the traditional symbolic tribute to departed comrades. Rev. John Holland, VFW’s national chaplain, conducted the memorial ritual. Ladies Auxiliary National Soloist Juanita Bohlman performed moving renditions of “Sleep Soldier Boy,” “I Won’t Let Go” and “Somewhere.” Nevada Army National Guard 1st Lt. Todd Brown, chaplain for the 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion based in Reno, delivered the invocation. VFW Department of Nevada Chaplain Charles Jamison provided an inspiring benediction. As is tradition at VFW’s Memorial Service, Gold Star Families were recognized and honored.


Monday, July 23, the Joint Opening Session was held. President Barack Obama addressed about 3,500 attendees discussing various issues of importance to veterans, including: new employment and transition assistance for returning vets, VA health care, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Afghanistan War and creation of a medals database. He announced his signing of the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act (H.R. 4155), a bill that will make it easier for veterans to find jobs using skills acquired in the military by streamlining the certification process. He covered several matters regarding VA health care, including a denouncement of the idea of vouchers replacing the existing method of obtaining medial care. He announced that more than 30,000 U.S. troops will be home by the end of summer and the transition to Afghan control will be complete in 2014. In concluding his 32-minute speech, Obama said: “We have a solemn obligation to all who serve—not just for the years you’re in uniform, but for all the decades that follow.”


Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, received VFW’s Eisenhower Award. Various other awards were presented. Additional speakers were: Richard Cesler with the Washington State Veterans Cemetery; Reno Mayor Bob Cashell; Sparks Mayor Geno Martini; Hsiao-hui Chin, deputy minister for Taiwan’s Veterans Affairs Commission; and Ekaterina Gennadievna Preizzheva, co-chair of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. VFW representatives annually travel to Moscow to monitor the progress being made by the commission.


Tuesday, July 24, the Business Session was held. Republican nominee Mitt Romney discussed the state of U.S. national security and foreign policy. Romney made the case for an “American Century.” He said a “strong and confident America” is the only way to a just and peaceful world. Romney further noted that he is an “unapologetic believer” in America’s “greatness”. The presidential hopeful closed by saying that his plans for foreign policy would be “firm,” and that he would advance America’s leadership in the world. “The surest path to danger is always weakness and indecision,” he said to rousing applause. “We must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might ... The 21st century can and must be an American Century.”


Also speaking was VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who outlined three major VA issues: access to VA benefits and services, eliminating the claims backlog, and ending veterans homelessness by 2015. Shinseki said. “Veterans who previously had no access are now enrolling and submitting claims.” Also, construction of three new hospitals—in Denver, Orlando, Fla., and New Orleans—is under way. On Aug. 6, a VA hospital will open in Las Vegas, making it the first to open in 17 years. The proposed VA budget for 2013 is $140.3 billion. Shinseki underscored the importance of prevention when it comes to homelessness. He said that education at higher-learning facilities is crucial in getting vets off the streets. He stressed the need for aid in training and college degrees. In closing, Shinseki said VA continues to work with DoD to create “fully operational integrated electronic health records by 2017.” This will improve the transition from military to civilian life.