J. Marc Burgess, National Adjutant

Remembering the past to safeguard our future

A thought came upon me recently as images of the latest presidential inauguration have been streaming across television, newspapers and social media. The crowds gathered against the iconic backdrop of our Capitol made me think back to historic images of the 1932 Bonus Army.

In different times, and under very different circumstances, tens of thousands of veterans and their families descended on Washington, D.C., demanding payment of the bonuses promised to them. When these veterans—many of whom were
disabled—were truly down and out, they rallied together around the U.S. Capitol, the very symbol of the American people and their government. The march ended in a shameful way when the demonstrators were violently disbanded by the military they once served.

But the courage and camaraderie shown lives on. Decades later, it continues through our fight to ensure that veterans will not be forgotten, will not be used as political pawns and will not be denied the benefits they were promised and earned through service.

Even though we have not seen similar demonstrations by veterans since that time, a shared thread has run through our community to the present day, linking us to our predecessors in advocacy: passion.

If I know one thing about veterans and veterans’ caregivers, it’s that we are driven by an intense passion to care for our own. In 1932, it was the passion of 17,000 veterans and their 26,000 family members who helped spur change after the government turned its back on them. Passion is what makes our organization great, as it pushes us beyond our perceived limits and gives us the strength to accomplish incredible things—sometimes for ourselves but, in the case of DAV, often for others.

We have been inching toward a season of immense change for the Department of Veterans Affairs—a system that, though flawed and in need of reforms, is our nation’s best hope for keeping its promises to those who served. While many may advocate drastic and radical changes, we must not forget how many
of our own brothers and sisters rely on care through the VA. A violent upheaval of the system could derail their care and cause undue hardship for countless
veterans and their families.

It can be easy in divided times to let passion override reason, especially when it affects our lives or loved ones, but it’s all the more important we maintain level heads when operating in such an environment. There are many considerations to keep in mind as we approach this topic, and there may be differing, strongly held opinions about the future of the VA. But it is abundantly clear that working together for the common good—as we have since the dark days following World War I—is where our great strengths lie.

 

If you want to find out more about the National Adjutant, you can find his biography here.