Stephen “Butch” Whitehead, Commander
We’ve done this before
When Laurence R. Melton was elected national commander at the 1941 DAV National Convention, he likely had little indication at the time that he’d end up serving in the position for the longest term in DAV history. That’s because after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II later that year, DAV leaders called off the convention to save resources as part of the nationwide war effort.
It was the only time in DAV history that a national convention was not held—until now—as we announce the cancellation of the 2020 DAV and Auxiliary National Convention in Dallas.
Though the reasons for the respective cancellations are different, both were necessary to ensure the welfare of our country. In 1942, we faced Nazis and imperialists, and we prevailed. In 2020, our enemy is COVID-19, a vexing virus that makes a weakness of what is typically one of our strengths—our unity and ability to gather together for a shared purpose.
Though I know many of you look forward to our national convention each year, this sacrifice is ultimately in the interest of safety for our members and staff.
During the war, Past National Commander Melton was called back to active duty, on which he served for most of his time in office. Last November, I rejoined the military and accepted the responsibility to serve as the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division. In doing so, he was and I have been afforded the opportunity to keep our fingers on the pulse of emerging veterans issues.
This coming year, DAV will continue focusing our legislative efforts on securing benefits for veterans made ill as a result of toxic exposures to burn pits and Agent Orange, addressing gaps and inequities in programs and services for women veterans, improving benefits for spouses and survivors of disabled veterans, and strengthening veterans mental health care and suicide prevention programs.
The cancellation of this year’s convention makes our work throughout the year that much more consequential for the veterans we serve. I humbly ask you to maintain the same tenacity you have shown during my tenure as national commander as you advocate for our brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
As we continue through this unique chapter of DAV history, my pledge to you remains the same: I will keep fighting to ensure America’s veterans get the benefits they’ve earned and deserve while working with DAV leaders on emerging issues so our great organization can continue to improve, grow and adapt.
It may seem like uncharted territory, but DAV has been here before. And once again, with your unwavering resolve and support, we will come out stronger on the other end.
If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find his biography here.