Stephen “Butch” Whitehead, Commander
For more than a year, our nation has been transformed by the challenges posed by COVID-19. Tragedy, anxiety and a sense that this pandemic will seemingly never end have sometimes overwhelmed many of us through these trying times. But while we still have a way to go in eradicating this horrible virus so we can collectively return to normalcy, the introduction and distribution of the coronavirus vaccines have allowed us to begin making enough progress that we’re now at least getting a glimpse of the finish line.
I’m heartened, though, that through it all, our incredible members and supporters have never wavered in continuing DAV’s mission of service to veterans and their families.
When veterans began losing jobs or income at the beginning of the pandemic, we established the COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Fund to assist them in paying bills, obtaining food and providing for their families. We can all be proud that—to date—DAV has disbursed more than $2 million to veterans in need through this program. This meaningful assistance has made a difference in thousands of veterans’ lives during uncertain times and demonstrates that our organization will do all it can to never leave our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms behind.
When the virus necessitated the closure of our offices to in-person traffic, DAV immediately set up a nationwide call system to allow our national service officers and employees to work remotely in order to triage disability claims and provide normal, uninterrupted benefits services to those in need. While some of our service officers have since returned to their offices based on local government guidance, others around the country continue providing veterans with top-notch services from their homes.
In February, our annual mid-winter conference—DAV’s premier event focused on our numerous legislative priorities and advocacy efforts—went virtual for the first time to help maintain the necessary momentum we would have achieved through an in-person event. Members and supporters were provided with web-based advocacy meetings and resources to update them on the status of various pieces of federal legislation surrounding veterans and equip them with the necessary tools to strengthen their advocacy at all levels of government.
None of these accomplishments could have happened without the resolve of DAV’s members, supporters and national staff.
Since day one as your national commander, I have remained incredibly impressed by the dedication and professionalism of those who work to bring our services to our nation’s veterans and their families. Their support is humbling. But mostly, I remain incredibly proud to lead an organization filled with millions of members who continue to serve their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
Thank you all for all you do.
If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find his biography here.