VFW Convention Recap
By Carlyn Mikalson on August 14, 2015
On day 1 of the convention (Saturday 7/18), I met a Vietnam veteran who had been exposed to Agent Orange. Although he suffered no ill consequences, his daughter was later born with spina bifida. She required over 200 surgeries before she reached the age of 20, causing unimaginable financial and emotional stresses to his family. Still, in spite of this, this veteran was not resentful or angry, and instead was grateful that eventually the Agent Orange Benefits Act, Public Law 104-204, became law in 1996. The law established a benefits package for Vietnam veterans' children who were born with spina bifida, possibly as a result of exposure of one or both parents. Prior to that time, this family was forced into near poverty by medical bills not covered by insurance. He said to me: “Everyone has their problems, we’re just grateful we eventually got some help with ours.” On day 2 of the convention (Sunday 7/19), I met a WWII veteran. He was a wonderful gentleman who charmed me with stories of his extensive family tree (I recall he said he had 27 great-grandchildren) and told me of the volunteer work he is doing with other veterans – in VA hospitals and out in the community – even at the ripe old age of 94. Despite a cane, he walked briskly and there was a seemingly permanent smile on his awesomely bearded face. When I thanked him for his service and the work he is still doing, he said something along the lines of: “And I thank you, young lady. Keep moving, that’s my motto.” On day 3 of the convention (Monday 7/20), I met a number of veterans from the D.C. VFW Post. These were fun-loving and friendly guys, one of whom came back to the booth later in the day to ask if he could bring me coffee or food (I was on my own that day), and then was kind enough to invite me to join their Post for President Obama’s speech. This allowed me to hear the speech from the 5th row instead of standing in the back with the other non-veteran attendees. These same men were involved in subduing a protester who attempted to disrupt the President’s speech – and impressively so.