Stephen “Butch” Whitehead, Commander

Advancing into our next century

Legend has it that, after the Founding Fathers finished crafting the U.S. Constitution in 1787, an inquiring woman asked Benjamin Franklin what the gathering in Philadelphia had produced. The question received a response that—at its very onset—perfectly encapsulated the great and lasting experiment of American democracy:“

A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

From a Civil War to the fight for civil rights and justice for veterans, our imperfect union has, at times, frayed since its founding. Yet, despite the challenges our nation has faced through the decades and centuries, our Constitution and its guiding principles remain preserved. That simple fact exists because of people like you who have sworn to protect and defend them, and because of countless American citizens who continue exercising one of the greatest rights and civic responsibilities we have—the right to vote.

Just as our union is strengthened by civic engagement, so is our organization. As Inauguration Day approaches, I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to remind you of DAV’s positioning around the country and in Washington.

No matter who sits in the chambers of Congress, on the bench of the Supreme Court or behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, DAV stands steadfast as a nonpartisan voice for disabled veterans, their families and survivors. This will remain a guiding principle for our organization now, just as it has for the past 100 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly presented major hardships for all of us in 2020. Despite the significant challenges, veterans and advocates saw numerous victories during the year—from the first phase of VA caregiver benefits for pre-9/11 veterans finally becoming available to the DAV-supported Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 being signed into law.

This year, we will continue pushing hard for the passage of the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act of 2020, which was conceptualized by DAV. This legislation would formally concede that veterans who served near burn pits were exposed to harmful chemicals and toxins, and make it easier to prove direct service connection.

We will also continue monitoring the full and faithful implementation of the VA MISSION Act, fighting for enhanced survivor benefits, strengthening veterans mental health care and suicide prevention programs, and enhancing the VA’s women veterans health care program.

The values and principles we share as veterans are far more important than partisan issues on which we personally disagree, which is why there can be no wavering in our tenacity, nor lapse in our resolve, to take care of our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

That is why our organization has stood as our nation’s premier veterans advocacy organization for the past 100 years. And that is how our nation continues to keep this great American republic.


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