NO ONE DOES MORE FOR VETERANS
VETERANS RUCK MARCH PAGE 6
THE CA VFW MOTORCYCLE CLUB & THE VFW RIDERS CELEBRATE CAMARADERIE, LOYALTY & SERVICE PAGE 8
No One Does More for Veterans
INSIDE THE ISSUE
MEMORIAL DAY LETTER TO THE EDITOR PAGE 3
VETERANS RUCK MARCH PAGE 6
THE CALIFORNIA VFW MOTORCYCLE CLUB AND THE VFW RIDERS CELEBRATE CAMARADERIE, LOYALTY AND SERVICE PAGE 8
THE ONYX CHRONICLES PAGE 10
LOS ANGELES/VENTURA COUNTY FREEDOM RUN PAGE 11
VFW IN THE NEWS PAGE 12
IN MEMORIAM PAGE 26
SOCIAL MEDIA CORNER PAGE 28
THE CALIFORNIA VETERAN IS THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES, DEPARTMENT OF CALIFORNIA It is an online magazine published four times a year to keep our members informed about important news affecting the VFW and veterans. Click here to Subscribe to our Mailing List to Receive Quarterly Issues of the California Veteran Magazine!
IT HAS BEEN A STRUGGLE, BUT YOUR WORK IS NOT GOING UNNOTICED We have challenged Governor Newsom and his policy choices, which forced temporary Post closures across the state. Through flexibility and collaboration, our annual Voice of Democracy awards ceremony was held, albeit virtually.
STATE COMMANDER John G. Lowe At the beginning of this year, our organization was shut down due to the COVID pandemic. Our Post homes were closed, we couldn’t gather or meet, we couldn’t even work our programs or recruit as we have in past years. We’ve lost friends and family members, we have felt isolated while adhering to safety guidelines, and we have put up with unnecessary governmental restrictions involving our Post homes. We have done the best that we could, it has been a struggle, but your work is not going unnoticed. This 2020-2021 year has been full of unique obstacles for our members, department, and the world. But we, as veterans and VFW members, never backed down from the challenge. COVID-19 has forced us to adjust the way we do things, but we are proud of what we have accomplished this year when faced with an unprecedented global pandemic. The VFW, Department of California has fought hard for the wellbeing of our organization and members over the last 15 months.
Department leaders have met weekly, via Zoom, to discuss issues and concerns of our members. We were able to honor notable birthdays with drive-by parades for many of our members across the state. We have worked to support our country and our values by challenging Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Sacramento City Council for the controversial law change regarding standing for the National Anthem in Sacramento. I applaud our members who held events in support of veterans and our communities this year. The VFW Department has stood firm, from the POW/MIA celebration on the USS Midway in San Diego to the Los Angeles/Ventura County Freedom Motorcycle Run to the VFWCA Ruck March Fundraiser in Tuolumne, CA. While this year has tested all of us, the VFW Department of California has adapted and adjusted to meet the needs of our members and the communities where we live and work. In addition to everything, this is our centennial year, 100 years as a VFW Department. While our celebrations may have been put on hold, our planning has not; as soon as we can gather, we will have one hell of a celebration.
VFWCA.ORG To our Post and District Commanders, we all know membership is the lifeblood of this organization; without membership, we cannot support our veterans, families, or communities. I know each of you will hold a special place in the VFW California history for leading us through this unprecedented year, but to top it off with reaching 100% for your Post and District. Our goal is to have 100 Posts at 100% during our 100th year. As of this writing, we are more than halfway there. This will be an accomplishment that will never be matched, and only you can earn this honor. Show the nation that while California has been shut down and continues to be shut down, we didn’t give up or sit back. As we look towards next year, with new leadership, let us continue to ensure we have the membership strength to accomplish our mission. Let’s look under every rock, knock on every door, make phone calls, send emails and ask everyone you know or meet to renew or join the best combat veterans organization in America. As we wind down this year, it has been an honor to serve as your Department Commander. I look forward to holding events, visiting posts, experiencing camaraderie like before, helping veterans, their families, and our communities again. COVID 19 and California’s unnecessary restrictions challenged us but didn’t stop us from completing our mission. I thank each and every one of you for the work you are doing to make California VFW great again!
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
MEMORIAL DAY LETTER TO THE EDITOR Dear Editor: While we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many people will see Memorial Day as an opportunity to gather, celebrate, and return to a sense of normalcy. However, Memorial Day is an important occasion each year. It is an opportunity to honor the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the U.S. Military. This year, while you celebrate with friends and family, we encourage you to remember what Memorial Day is all about. Take some time to reflect on the freedoms and liberties you enjoy and give thanks to those who sacrificed their lives to protect them. The National Moment of Remembrance is scheduled for 3 p.m. local time each Memorial Day and presents a chance for all Americans to commemorate the fallen by pausing for a minute to remember those who so humbly gave their lives for the betterment of our country. To learn how you can pay tribute not only on Memorial Day, but throughout each year, contact your local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. John G. Lowe State Commander Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of California
STATE SENIOR VICE COMMANDER Dawn “Dusty” Napier
Greetings Comrades! This year has been a challenge for all of us. While our Posts have been basically shuttered for most of the year, and some have really struggled to hold things together, you have shown that nothing can hold us back. We have continued to prove that No One Does More for Veterans. It has been wonderful to witness your resiliency and your ability to continue to serve despite the obstacles in your way. We remain relevant because of all of you, thank you! I also want thank Commander Lowe for his leadership this year. Commander, you were dealt a card deck full of Jokers but turned that into a Royal Flush. You lead us into the virtual world by implementing weekly virtual updates with the Council and extended that to a forum with our Post Commanders to ensure we not only stayed connected but were able to keep all informed. The virtual world of meetings has created increased attendance and we should see a National Bylaws change in the new year defining clearer guidelines on virtual meetings. Comrades, we owe it to Commander Lowe to finish this year strong. We are a team; we are a family and together we can do this. Continue to work membership by focusing on reinstates and new members and utilizing Buddy Checks. It is also important for us to tell our story by any means; through social media and by maintaining a visible presence in our communities. Many of our Posts already use social media. However, it is important that a balance is made between sharing “Canteen” news and telling our story to our members and veterans who may be interested in what we do or may be considering joining our organization. Tell them who you are and what you do. By now everyone should know that we had to cancel our in-person Convention due to COVID restrictions at the hotel and Convention Center. We are working out the details on how we will proceed virtually, so stand by for more information on that. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and I believe we will begin to resume some sort of normalcy within the coming year. Remain focused on the mission, remain well!
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DUE TO THE CONTINUED STATE OF CALIFORNIA COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS, THIS YEAR’S STATE CONVENTION WILL BE HELD ELECTRONICALLY. • JUNE 22 OPENING CEREMONY VIA ZOOM • JUNE 23 BUSINESS SESSION VIA ZOOM • JUNE 24 ELECTION RESULTS VIA ZOOM • JUNE 25 INSTALLATION VIA FACEBOOK LIVE • JUNE 26 FIRST COUNCIL OF ADMINISTRATION MEETING FOR THE 2021-2022 ADMINISTRATIVE YEAR For more information visit www.vfwca.org
Veterans Ruck March Raises Awareness for Veteran Suicide and Homelessness On an overcast April 25, 2021, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Department of California and Keith Dale Wann VFW Post 4748 held a Veterans Ruck March to raise awareness for veteran suicide and donate needed items to homeless veterans. Comrade Aaron Rasmussen and Post 4748 organized a 3 mile “ruck march” with a 22-pound ruck around the township of Tuolumne in which 82 people participated. Among the participants was Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief Timothy Borland, State Commander John Lowe, a Star Wars stormtrooper, and a bagpiper. The event raised $6,200 for the Department Service Office and the items carried in the rucks were donated to the California Veterans Assistance Foundation. Finishing in first place was Derrick Shaw, carrying a 25lbs backpack, with a time of 26.39mins. In second place, came Daniel Rodriguez, completing the march in 27.26mins, with a 23lbs backpack. Third place went to Kurt Bryant, who finished in 28.34mins, with a 31lbs backpack. Major donors and supporters for the event included: • A.M. Ortega Construction of San Diego • Micro Tronics of Sonora • Auto Tech of Sonora • Sonora Vets Helping Vets • McCurley’s National Flooring of Sonora • 49er Church of Columbia • Black Oak Casino • TEDA inc. • Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians • AMOS Screen Printing of Sonora
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
(left to right) Rodger Meier, VFW CA Adjutant, John Lowe, VFW CA Commander, Darrick Shaw, 1st place finisher, Tim Borland, National VFW Jr Vice Commander, and Jamie Franscella, Stormtrooper.
The California VFW Motorcycle Club and the VFW Riders Celebrate Camaraderie, Loyalty and Service
A long and valuable history exists between motorcycles and veterans. Motorcycles were an essential tool in the military for years. They were first used by servicemembers in the conflict with Pancho Villa in 1916. And during World War II, motorcycles were used by messengers and scouts to provide quick and agile transportation. Many of those who rode during their time in the military continue to ride as veterans. Modern communities of motorcyclists often include veterans and servicemembers, as well as their supporters. Motorcycle clubs and Riders groups offer these individuals a chance to connect with others who have had similar experiences. The California VFW Motorcycle Club (VFWCA MC) and the VFW Riders are a celebration of this history.
MOTORCYCLE CLUBS CONTINUE TO BE A HAVEN FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH SIMILAR IDEALS, GOALS, AND EXPERIENCES. FOR VETERANS, THESE CLUBS CAN BE VITAL FOR PROMOTING THE WELLBEING OF ALL MEMBERS.
Established in 2004, the VFWCA MC, operated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of California, is a brotherhood of VFW members dedicated to camaraderie, loyalty, and service. The VFWCA MC was founded by Albert “Papa Bert” Butler. Bert joined the VFW after retiring from serving twenty-four years in the Navy. He served the VFWCA in many ways. Bert served his community as an active member of District 1 and served at the state level as the Department Historian. As a VFWCA member, Bert immediately saw an opportunity to create a unique organization within the department. Bert already had an established love of motorcycles, and wanted to bring likeminded veterans together to create a new community. Reta Butler, Bert’s wife, said, “When you retire you lose contact and that familial feeling.” Establishing the VFWCA MC was Bert’s way of bringing that feeling back to veterans. His goal was to establish a club where new retirees felt welcome and involved. He believed it was an opportunity to build VFW membership and help recruit the younger generation.
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG Following multiple years of campaigning and rallying potential members, Bert applied directly to the VFW National organization. He secured approval to operate the club, and authorization for the club to wear the Cross of Malta. On January 29, 2004, the VFWCA MC was officially born. Motorcycle clubs continue to be a haven for individuals with similar ideals, goals, and experiences. For veterans, these clubs can be vital for promoting the wellbeing of all members. Today, the VFWCA MC operates multiple chapters across the state of California. Club goals include social events and aid efforts, as well as charity rides, fundraisers, and community service. The VFWCA MC is committed to veterans helping veterans, and veterans continuing to serve.
VFW RIDERS PURPOSE The purpose of the VFW Riders is to support the VFW by promoting the public visibility to the VFW, its programs, and the VFW National Home through community service and participation in veteran’s service events, through responsible motorcycling in our community. We will promote motorcycle riding and veteran’s service with an active membership and provide a positive model for motorcyclists and veterans alike.
Joining the club is a lengthy but rewarding process. All club members must be current members of the VFW, who undergo multiple periods of probations and trials to ensure they are good a fit for both the club, and the specific chapter they are joining. But membership in the club provides a unique brotherhood that could not be found anywhere else. “The camaraderie is unreal, just very special,” said Reta. “That was [Bert’s] main focus. If any of them are having problems, they can go to one another. A lot of veterans come back with PTSD or other health issues. The members keep an eye on each other. They have somebody to talk to who is there for them.” As a one-of-a kind organization, the VFWCA MC is evidence of the continued commitment to service and brotherhood for the members. However, the VFWCA MC is not the only way for the motorcyclists in the department to get involved. The VFW Riders are an equally valuable organization within the department. Comprised of VFW members, VFW Auxiliary members, and proven VFW supporters, the VFW Riders are committed to supporting the goals and mission of the VFW.
The VFW Riders Group Organization was officially established at the 111th National Convention on August 23, 2010. Since 2010, VFW Posts across the country have established Riders groups. In California, there are seven established Riders groups, each attached to a VFWCA Post. Each Riders group meets regularly to serve veterans, to participate in community service, to encourage motorcycle safety programs, and more. The VFW Riders have fewer requirements for membership, compared to the VFWCA MC. It is a more relaxed commitment for members to find fellowship and make a difference.
For more information about the VFWCA MC please visit https://vfwca.org/di/vfw/v2/default.asp?pid=88641
The VFWCA MC and VFW Riders provide a community of people who understand the unique experience of serving in the armed forces. They each offer opportunities for the families of veterans to connect as well. Whether you are interested in joining a tightknit brotherhood or participating in more casual rides with fellow VFWCA members and supporters, the VFWCA has a group for you. To learn more about these groups, please visit: https://vfwca.org/di/vfw/v2/default.asp?pid=80025, or contact your local post. Albert “Papa Bert” Butler, the founder of the VFWCA Motorcycle Club.
The Onyx Chronicles By Mia Villaneuva Dwyer
My journey with Onyx began because of a philanthropist here in California wanting to donate a $50k dog to a mobilitychallenged female veteran. Several female Veterans fitting this criteria were interviewed at the recommendation of the California VFW.
the same program and provide life changing service dogs to veterans who are struggling with service connected disabilities. I mistakenly thought Onyx was only to help me with companionship and minor activities of daily living. In addition to those basic things, she impacts my psyche by helping me rationalize self forgiveness, unconditional acceptance, and reminds me constantly that I really am good enough. My life is greatly improved with Onyx. We’ve only been together a week and a half. I can’t wait to see and experience the impact of her presence in the future.
United States Veterans Service Dogs is the service dog organization who breeds, raises, and trains service dogs, at no cost to the veteran, thanks to the Texas VFW and electronic games of skill in many Texas VFW posts. The California VFW does not have the same funding programs. Hopefully, with increased awareness, the California VFW will be able to have
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
Los Angeles/Ventura County Freedom Run
The VFWCA Los Angeles/Ventura County Freedom Run was held on Saturday, March 27. The event was hosted by Post 3935 Port Hueneme, with help from Post 10049 Simi Valley, Post 2323 Granada Hills, Post 2805 Canoga Park, and Post 2805 Auxiliary. Over 70 riders including some from our very own VFWCA Motorcycle Club and VFW Riders joined the event, raising over $1,700 for the VFWCA Foundation. Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys was a major event sponsor. Representatives from Humana were present to provide masks, sanitizers, and other items. Thank you to all who attended and the volunteers who helped make this a great event!
VFW IN THE NEWS
VA ASKING CALIFORNIA IF NET NEUTRALITY LAW WILL SNAG VETERANS’ HEALTH APP INTERNET PROVIDERS HAVE BEEN AGGRESSIVE IN WARNING OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES FROM THE 2018 CALIFORNIA NET NEUTRALITY LAW.
Margo Jarvis takes part in video teleconference at Cohen Veteran’s Network’s on April 22, 2020, in Fayetteville, N.C.
“VA IS CURRENTLY COMMUNICATING WITH THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA TO ENSURE VETERANS ARE NOT UNINTENTIONALLY IMPACTED IN CALIFORNIA AND ELSEWHERE BY THE LAW.” Department of Veterans Affairs
Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs are privately sounding the alarm that California’s new net neutrality law could cut off veterans nationwide from a key telehealth app, according to a government communication between federal agencies obtained by POLITICO. Two internet providers in California have told the VA that the new law could force them to end agreements offering free, subsidized data to veterans participating in the telehealth app called VA Video Connect, according to the email from one VA official, who described the department as having “concerns” about the possibility. Such a cutoff “would be nationwide and not limited to Veterans and caregivers in California,” the official wrote. POLITICO received a copy of the correspondence on the condition that it not identify the parties involved in the communication. The department said in a statement Wednesday that it is examining the new law’s effect on the telehealth app’s operations.
SARAH BLAKE MORGAN/AP PHOTO
By John Hendel, Politico.com
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
“VA is aware of California’s Net Neutrality law and is reviewing to determine whether it impacts the partnerships VA has developed with cellular carriers to assist Veterans with limited data plans connect with their healthcare services,” the department said. “VA is currently communicating with the State of California to ensure Veterans are not unintentionally impacted in California and elsewhere by the law.”
AT&T recently announced it’s ending a nationwide program allowing some mobile customers to stream audio and video for free, blaming the fact that the California statute was going into effect. Barbara van Schewick, a professor at Stanford Law School who favors net neutrality safeguards, questioned whether the carrier really needed to shut down the offering nationwide and accused the industry giant of trying to “score political points.”
Internet providers have been aggressive in warning of unintended consequences from the 2018 California net neutrality law, whose supporters view it as a model for protecting internet users nationwide.
The VA officials’ potential concerns underscore the complications around the state’s new policies and could influence debates about reviving the federal government’s Obama-era net neutrality safeguards. Those FCC rules, which Republicans repealed in 2017, never included such an explicit ban on sponsored data services.
The law prohibits broadband providers from blocking, slowing or otherwise discriminating against various types of internet traffic. It specifically prohibits so-called sponsored data programs, also known as zero rating, in which carriers offer free or discounted data service to certain customers — for example, allowing free video streaming to a carrier’s wireless customers.
The Trump-era Justice Department had joined broadband providers in challenging California’s law, but DOJ withdrew from the challenge following President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
That raises potential concerns for the VA Video Connect app, which aims to help connect low-income and rural veterans with health care services. The VA has coordinated with broadband providers to avoid data charges for use of the app. “Major wireless carriers T-Mobile, Sprint, now part of T-Mobile, SafeLink by Tracfone and Verizon allow Veterans, their caregivers and families to use VA Video Connect without incurring data fees,” the VA website notes in describing its services.
Brendan Carr, the FCC’s senior Republican commissioner, told POLITICO that the VA concerns are a prime example of net neutrality’s problematic consequences. “Cutting off telehealth services to America’s veterans is the unconscionable outcome demanded by these radical net neutrality laws,” Carr said. “This is wrong. And it should serve as a wake up call to the politicians that have embraced these regressive Internet policies.”
WHY ADVOCATES LIKE THE CALIFORNIA PROVISION
Consumer advocates have blasted sponsored data programs, saying they create incentive for broadband giants to impose data caps on their customers. Broadband providers disagree, saying customers enjoy the free offerings.
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
EMPTINESS, ANGER, RELIEF: AFGHANISTAN VETERANS WRESTLE WITH COMING END OF ‘FOREVER WAR’ By Stephen Losey, Military.com
ALFRED V. LOPEZ/U.S. MARINE CORPS
When the news broke that the United States planned to pull its remaining troops from Afghanistan, Marine veteran Peter Lucier’s thoughts drifted to his old platoon mate, Lance Cpl. Ramon Kaipat.
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Dustin Hanson, a section leader with Charlie Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, observes a moment of silence in respect of Lance Cpl. Ramon T. Kaipat, an infantryman who served with Charlie Co., 1st LAR, and 22-year-old native of Tacoma, Wash., during a memorial service in Afghanistan, April 16, 2012.
Kaipat was “an incredibly funny character,” Lucier remembered; a big guy who immigrated from Saipan and was beloved by their platoon during their deployment to Helmand province in 2011 and 2012. But on April 11, 2012 – almost exactly nine years before President Joe Biden would announce the final troop withdrawal – part of Lucier’s platoon was on patrol. They passed a dirt mound that, the previous year, was the site of a patrol base they had used, and was since bulldozed. The Taliban had planted one of their signature white flags on the pile of dirt, Lucier said, laying claim to the patch of land that once housed U.S. Marines. Kaipat approached the flag and pulled it out of the ground, triggering an IED that killed him instantly. He was 22. “This is always a weird time of year for me,” Lucier said. “It’s really surreal because this [withdrawal] is coming on a really important date for me and my unit.”
“ITS ALWAYS BEEN THERE... FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS, IT’S BEEN THIS CONSTANT: SOMEBODY YOU KNOW IS SERVING IN HARM’S WAY. IF NOT YOU, THEN ONE OF YOUR BUDDIES, OR SOMEONE YOU SERVED WITH, OR A NEIGHBOR DOWN THE STREET. IT FELT LIKE, AT A CERTAIN POINT, IT WAS JUST ALWAYS GONNA BE THERE.”
In interviews with Military.com last week, Lucier and other veterans wrestled with the complex – and sometimes contradictory – emotions they felt about the end of a ‘forever war’ that has occupied much of their adult lives. Veterans described feeling everything from happiness, to grief, to anger and confusion – in some cases, many at the same time – as they processed the news. For some, untangling those feelings was difficult. Like Lucier, Army Sgt. Maj. Jason Baker, a public affairs officer who deployed as part of the initial invasion in 2001, described the announcement as “surreal.” “It’s always been there,” said Baker, who was a 25-year-old private first class on 9/11 and when he deployed soon afterward as part of the 49th Public Affairs Detachment to Bagram Airfield. “For the last 20 years, it’s been this constant: Somebody you know is serving in harm’s way. If not you, then one of your buddies, or someone you served with, or a neighbor down the street. It felt like, at a certain point, it was just always gonna be there.”
Army Sgt. Maj. Jason Baker
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG Lucier, who has lobbied Congress to end the war as part of a veterans advocacy group called Common Defense, said he always thought that he would feel relief or satisfaction at the announcement of a final withdrawal date.
Afghan commandos” and saw how American backup helped them was saddened by the news. “I know what it’s like to be in the foxhole, and ... I’ve seen the highs and lows and emotions when their back is up against the wall,” Figueroa said. “And then in comes a U.S. airstrike and takes out a determined enemy. I know what it feels like to feel that sigh of relief and know you have a big brother, a big ally, in your corner backing you up should you start to lose the fight. That feels amazing.”
But when the news actually came, Lucier had a different reaction: Emptiness at first, he said, and then, to his surprise, anger crept in. “And I don’t know why,” he said of the anger he felt. “This is what I wanted.”
But at the same time, another part of Figueroa – the part that became frustrated dealing with red tape, bureaucracy and tribalism when dealing with the Afghan government – felt relieved and happy to hear about the war’s end, he said.
Lucier wondered whether he’s angry that the war didn’t end sooner, or because he thinks the war has been lost for some time, or if he’s upset with those arguing that troops should stay. Or, he said, perhaps he’s angry over the loss of his friend Kaipat.
Figueroa, like other veterans who spoke to Military.com, said Afghanistan’s problems run too deep for U.S. troops to fix.
Every year, when the anniversary of Kaipat’s death rolls around, Lucier said he and the Marines he served with text one another, make Facebook posts, and share stories to remember him. Some members of their platoon send cards to Kaipat’s family in Tacoma, Washington, around that time, and send his mom cards on Mother’s Day.
“Afghanistan has been at war with itself and throughout the region, quite frankly, for hundreds of years,” Figueroa said. “And no amount of [American] money or years spent training and advising is going to change the systematic problems of
“This is one of the times of the year that I reconnect with people who used to be in my unit,” Lucier said. “When you’ve been out of the Marine Corps for, coming up on eight years for me, you lose touch with people. So it’s kind of a time when we all come back together.” YEARS OVERDUE
Joe Plenzler, a retired Marine officer who served as Marine Gen. Joe Dunford’s speechwriter when Dunford commanded the International Security Assistance Force in 2013, said he was excited to hear the news and felt it was years overdue. After 9/11, Plenzler said, the United States had a clear global mandate to hunt down every al-Qaida member in Afghanistan. But problems began when the goal expanded beyond a limited counterterrorism mission to nation building, he said, requiring tens or sometimes even hundreds of thousands of troops to deploy, as well as the significant infrastructure required to support and protect them. “Once it becomes [nation building], it becomes too big to fail,” Plenzler said. “And we saw that happen in both Afghanistan and Iraq.” Felix Figueroa, who deployed with Baker as part of the 49th in 2001 and went back to Afghanistan three more times in subsequent years, said the part of him that made lifelong friendships with Afghans and has “been in the trenches with
Monument to honor soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan in Veterans Memorial Park, City of Napa on March 24, 2013
tribalism, religious radicalism and corruption crippling the country. I feel it’s time that Afghanistan and the Afghans figure it out on their own.”
Porter said it’s clear that much of America – including the public, decision-making officials in the government, and “frankly, people in the military” – had a limited appetite for continuing the war.
The administration’s decision was criticized by some, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said a full withdrawal risks allowing a civil war to reignite and could give the Taliban an opening to overthrow the government in Kabul.
He said he has been particularly disappointed in the lack of a significant debate in Congress on the war and America’s role in Afghanistan.
Some veterans who spoke to Military.com felt that, while a risk of a Taliban takeover exists, a U.S. troop presence would not change the ultimate outcome of Afghanistan – only delay it, at the potential cost of more American lives.
Porter said that as he prepared to board an Amtrak train last year, before the pandemic, someone asked him about a patch on his backpack with the American and Afghan flags side-byside and didn’t recognize the Afghanistan flag. When Porter told him what it was, the man appeared embarrassed and said he probably should have known that.
“If you’re not going to make it better, it’s probably time to go,” Plenzler said. “I don’t see us turning the long-term arc of the trajectory of Afghanistan. It’s gonna go where it’s gonna go, and I think the longer we remain there, the more misery we cause.”
“I think people have been detached for a while,” Porter said. ‘WE’VE MADE A LOT OF PROMISES’
But even if U.S. troops aren’t there, he said, the nation has an obligation to continue supporting Afghanistan in diplomatic and humanitarian ways.
‘WE JUST CAN’T DO IT FOREVER’
Tom Porter, executive vice president of government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a Navy Reserve officer who deployed to Afghanistan, said he understands why Biden chose to withdraw troops, and knew it would eventually happen. But he always envisioned that it would happen because the conditions on the ground had improved to a point to allow a withdrawal.
“We’ve made a lot of promises to the Afghan people, and the Afghan government, when we went in there in the first place,” Porter said. “I’ve communicated those promises when I was deployed there. I hope that we continue our commitment ... [by] helping them keep the gains they’ve made over the years, in terms of national security, their military’s training, the rights of women and girls, [and] the economy.”
But other vets, such as Lucier, felt Afghanistan might never have reached that point. “There’s a very real possibility that the Taliban are going to gain more ground,” Lucier said. “But they’ve already gained an incredible amount of ground, and we’ve shown very little ability to combat that. And we just can’t do it forever.”
Veterans of the Afghan War are not a monolith, Porter said, and their opinions about whether their service there was worth it vary. IAVA surveyed its members last year and found about 60% of those who served in Afghanistan felt their deployment was worth it.
Figueroa also felt that it’s time to pull most troops from Afghanistan – but doesn’t think everyone should go. He would prefer to see a small force of advisers and troops to protect them stay to help Afghanistan maintain security.
Porter, who was on Capitol Hill the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and knew someone who was on the plane that hit the Pentagon, said he felt enormously satisfied with the work he did in Afghanistan.
“WE’VE MADE A LOT OF PROMISES TO THE AFGHAN PEOPLE, AND THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT, WHEN WE WENT IN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE ... I’VE COMMUNICATED THOSE PROMISES WHEN I WAS DEPLOYED THERE. I HOPE THAT WE CONTINUE OUR COMMITMENT ... [BY] HELPING THEM KEEP THE GAINS THEY’VE MADE OVER THE YEARS, IN TERMS OF NATIONAL SECURITY, THEIR MILITARY’S TRAINING, THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND GIRLS, [AND] THE ECONOMY.” Tom Porter, executive vice president of government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
But Plenzler said that even during his deployment as Dunford’s speechwriter, he was skeptical that he was having a positive effect, and said he even felt like it was a “waste.”
Some planned to reach out to their old teammates, the families of those who were lost, or Afghans they befriended over the years.
“It’s like sticking your fist in a bucket of water,” Plenzler said. “While it’s there, you’re displacing space and having an influence. But the second you pull it out, it’s going to go back to what it always was.”
Figueroa said he’ll have a “heavy heart” when he has those conversations with his Afghan friends. “Stay strong, stay in the fight, don’t give up,” he plans to tell them. “Better days are on the horizon; you just have to get up and fight. And don’t forget everything we taught you.”
As the veterans processed the news of the coming withdrawal, some were still grappling with how – or even if – they would mark the occasion when the final U.S. service member leaves Afghanistan.
But above all, Figueroa will be happy that his younger son, who is in the Army’s Honor Guard – he just graduated from Ranger School and is set to graduate from Army Airborne School – will not have to fight the same war he did.
Lucier said he may simply continue to remember, reflect on what happened, and write to try to process his war and how it continues to intrude into his life today.
“No father who has served, or mother – any soldier who has served in these endless wars – none of us want to see our children inherit a war like that, and go to a place that we came from and went back to time and time again,” Figueroa said. “We fight these wars so that our kids don’t have to.”
“I’m a different person now, not the 22-year-old kid who went to war,” said Lucier, who was in sixth grade when 9/11 happened. “I’m a law student, I’m trying to get married to my girlfriend, I’m trying to pass classes, and then this happens. It reminds me that this thing that I was a part of 10 years ago ... still has the ability to reach me now, still has the ability to affect my life and my mental state.”
OUTREACH PROGRAM TO DELIVER BENEFITS ADVOCACY TO RURAL AND UNDERSERVED VETERANS RESIDING IN PLACER COUNTY CALIFORNIA
In 2007, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of California Foundation received a sizable bequest from the Lawrence and Sarah A. Bonnifield Family Trust. This bequest was designated to be used for charitable purposes supporting veterans within Placer County, California.
promotional materials to be developed and distributed in strategic locations within Placer County. We will advertise at local veteran events in various locations while working with the local community and other services organizations to help spread awareness.
To date, the Foundation has supported efforts in Placer County, such as the Lincoln Veterans Memorial, started an outreach program, and is developing a transitional housing program for homeless veterans.
The Foundations’ overall mission is to generate funds and support programs and projects that support veterans in California. The California VFW organization already has an established Veterans Service Department, which assists the Foundation in supporting veterans. Statewide, VFW Service Officers provide professional and caring assistance to California’s veterans and their dependents as they attempt to file for benefits through the VA system.
The primary focus of the outreach effort will be to deliver benefits advocacy to rural and underserved veterans residing in the Placer County area. The Foundation has purchased a specially designed vehicle (Mobile Service Office). This vehicle shall operate outreach fairs, and attend events at Placer County locations, supporting and providing necessary resources to veterans in Placer County.
Currently, the California VFW represents over 32,000 veterans and processes an average of 2,500 new claims for benefits each year, thus generating million’s dollars each year for our state’s veterans and their families.
The Foundation’s outreach plan shall begin with an informational mailing to all members of the VFW who reside in Placer County and will be followed by ads and
MEMORIAL DAY R E M E M B E R
H O N O R
Give Back to Those Who Gave
CALLING ALL WORLD WAR II VETERANS FOR ONE MORE MISSION
MAY 24, 2021 DEADLINE Dream Flights is offering WWII veterans one more mission – a flight in a Stearman biplane. They hope to provide over 1000 WWII veterans with Dream Flights. This is the largest ever national barnstorming effort with six airplanes flying every day for 61 days and will touch over 300 cities. You may sign up online yourself at: www.dreamflights.org/honor/
WWII Veteran information (Please Print Clearly) Name:_____________________________________________________Age:_______ Phone:______________________________Branch of Service:___________________ Cell Phone:__________________________ Years Served:_______________________ Email:_______________________________________Rank:_____________________ Address:______________________________________________________________ VFW Member: Yes____ No____ *You may attach any career highlights you’d like to share. If unable to apply online yourself, turn name in to me no later than May 24, Return form to Department Sr Vice Commander Dusty Napier Napier@vfwca.org
Questions call me 707-496-8104
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
Candidate for Department Judge Advocate for 2021-2022
I have held command positions at Post, District and Department levels while achieving several All State and All American honors. My ambition is to continue serving the Department, Districts, Posts and members to the best of my ability with passion and confidence.
I would appreciate your support at Convention, In Comradeship,
I am a Gold Legacy Life Member of Post 10859 and spent the past 25 years running a non-profit serving homeless veterans throughout Wisconsin and California. I have devoted my personal and professional career to serve veterans and would be honored to continue my service as the State Surgeon. This is a position I held from 2014 – 2016. I earned my eligibility for the VFW during my deployment with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, 107th Maintenance Company, during Desert Shield/Desert Storm and received the Southwest Asia Service Medal. VFW Information and Eligibility • Gold Legacy Life Member Post 10859, Bakersfield • Life Member, Auxiliary, Post 10859 • Life Member, Military Order of the Cooties, Pit Stop #68 • Life Member, National Home for Children Current VFW Offices & Positions • Vice Chair, National Legislative Committee • Chair, Department of California, Homeless Veterans Committee • Adjutant/Quartermaster, District 6 • Quartermaster, Post 10859 Past Offices & Positions • National Legislative Committee • National Aide-de-Camp • National Convention Committee Appointments • State Surgeon 2014 – 2015 & 2015 – 2016 • State Homeless Veteran Chair • Convention Rules Committee • School of Instruction – Training Team • VFW Foundation • All State and All American District Commander 2016 – 2017 • All State Post Commander 2011 – 2012 & 2012 - 2013
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
BRINGING VETERANS TOGETHER
ELECT TIM MOORE DEPT OF CALIFORNIA STATE JR VICE COMMANDER 2021-2022
PLEASE REMEMBER OUR GOALS MEMBERSHIP MEMBERSHIP ALWAYS VETERAN SUPPORT
SUPPORTED BY DISTRICT 3 PERRIS VALLEY POST 888 PAST STATE COMMANDER ROBERT MAGNER FAMILY MEMBERS POST OFFICES PERRIS VALLEY POST 888
2016-2017 Chairman Veterans Services Committee Aide-de-Camp 2017-2018 Vice Chairman Veterans & Military Support (South)
2010-2011 Chaplain, Adjutant Jr Vice Commander SR Vice Commander 2011-2012 Commander, Service Officer 2012-2013 Commander, Service Officer 2013-2014 All State, All American Commander Service Officer 2014-2015 Commander, Service Officer 2015-2016 Commander All-State Co-Captain All-American 2016-2017 All State Commander, Service Officer 2017-2018 All-State Commander, Service Officer 2018-2021 Quartermaster, Adjutant
NATIONAL OFFICES 2014-2015 Aide-de-Camp 2015-2016 Aide-de-Camp 2018-2019 Aide-De-Camp
Life Member VFW Mexican Ancestry American Legion Post 595 Past Jr Vice Commander (3 Years) 2019-2021 Post Commander Sons of American Legion Squadron 595 Past Squadron and District Commander Life Member 40/8 Voiture Locale 394 46th Special Forces Assoc (Thailand) 556LMC Band of Brothers Past President (2 Years) Thailand-Laos-Cambodia Brotherhood Board Member Perris Chamber of Commerce Secretary 2016-2018 President 2018-2019 Member City of Perris Veterans Memorial Committee Chairman City of Perris Veteran’s Banner Program
DISTRICT 23 OFFICES
2013-2014 Jr Vice Commander
DISTRICT 3 OFFICES
2014-2015 Adjutant 2015-2016 Commander All State Captain All American 2016-2017 Commander 2017-2021 Judge Advocate 2017-2921 Program Chairman 2020-2021 District Inspector
“ONE FOR ALL, ALL FOR ONE” 24
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
Comrades & Friends, Having the full support and unanimous endorsement from my Post, District and the Department of Montana, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy for the high office of Jr. Vice Commander-in-Chief in 2024.
I earned my eligibility to the Veterans of Foreign Wars for my service in the Gulf War in 1990-91. Having served in the Air Force for 20 years and retired in 2001. I am a Gold Legacy Life member of VFW Post 10010 in East Helena, Montana.
Jr. Vice Commander-in-Chief
Having filled most leadership positions at the Post, District and Department levels and numerous National positions. I feel I am “the right person with the right experience” to be your next Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief from the Western Conference.
Montana’s Candidate For
POST All-American Post Commander (2) All-American Post Quartermaster (3) Captain of the All-State Team of Post Commanders Co-Captain of the All-State Team of Post Quartermasters Century Recruiter – (5)
As the country reopens, I will be traveling throughout the Western Conference seeking your time, knowledge and input on how we can make this great organization even better in the future. I believe in leading from the bottom up by listening to the needs of our Posts.
I would like to thank you all for the encouragement, support and friendship you have given me throughout the years, and wish everyone a successful state convention.
All-American District Quartermaster All-State District Quartermaster (3) DEPARTMENT All-American State Commander All-American State Quartermaster (4)
In your Humble Service,
Secretary – Treasurer (2014-2016) NATIONAL National Council Member (2011-2015) Chairman National budget & Finance Committee (2018-2019) National Audit Committee (2011-2015) National By-Laws Study Group National Budget & Finance Committee (2011-Present) Elite Recruiter 2018-2019 Certified National Recruiter
“Honoring America’s Veterans 2024” Jrvice2024.org
IN MEMORIAM VFW DEPARTMENT OF CALIFORNIA COMRADES 2020-2021
Everette Edwrd Knight
Howard Ernest Kemp Jr.
Jesse V. Myer
Carl Henry Petersdorf
Charles Van Valkenburgh
Danny D. Stevens
Ron St. John
Robert W. Foster
Ronald F. St. John
Robert Joseph Hendricks
Owanna Wessa Whatley
SOCIAL MEDIA CORNER
SUMMER 2021 · VFWCA.ORG
#VeteranVoices We want to hear from you, our fellow veterans. Starting this month, we will be sharing stories from our members on the California VFW Facebook page. STORIES WILL HIGHLIGHT:
• Upcoming Community Events • Veteran History and Remembrance • Important Local and National News • Plus Other Veteran Stories and Photos You Wish to Share Do you have a story to share? Need a platform to get the word out? Message our Facebook page, @VFWCA today! Our team will share it with followers using #VeteranVoices.
#TheCaliforniaVeteran @VFWCA FACEBOOK.COM/VFWCA @CA_VFW TWITTER.COM/CA_VFW CA_VFW INSTAGRAM.COM/CA_VFW/ #vfwpostpride
VETERAN SUMMER 2021
THE CALIFORNIA VETERAN 9136 Elk Grove Blvd., #100 Elk Grove, CA 95624