National Association of Black Veterans Commander Tony Bass | Connecting Point | Nov. 11, 2019

National Association of Black Veterans Commander Tony Bass | Connecting Point | Nov. 11, 2019


THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
BLACK VETERANS RECENTLY HELD ITS ANNUAL VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
EVENT IN SPRINGFIELD, AND CAROLEE MCGRATH SAT DOWN WITH
TONY BASS, THE COMMANDER OF THE LOCAL CHAPTER — AND A
VIETNAM-ERA VETERAN — TO DISCUSS THE ORGANIZATION’S WORK
TO SUPPORT BOTH VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES.>>THE ORGANIZATION WAS STARTED
AT THE END OF THE VIETNAM WAR. THERE WERE SEVERAL HOUSE FIRE
THEY’RE FROM MILWAUKEE AND WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO WAS CREATE A
FELLOWSHIP, A GROUP THAT COULD HELP TO FACILITATE SOME OF THE
THINGS — PROBLEMS THEY WERE HAVING AS FAR AS GETTING
BENEFITS BECAUSE THEY WERE OFFICERS AND THEY WERE HAVING
PROBLEMS CIRCUMVENTING THE SYSTEM. THEY THOUGHT WELL, WHAT ABOUT
THE ENLISTED PERSON. SO THEY ADVOCATED FOR VETERANS
RIGHTS. THEY FORMED AN ORGANIZATION AND
BECAME KNOWN AS THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR BLACK VETERANS
AND BECAUSE AT THAT TIME AT ’68 WHEN IT WAS CONCEIVED, THE
COUNTRY WAS GOING THROUGH RACIAL STRIFE AND SO BLACK VETERANS ARE
FACING BOTH THE ADVERSITY AT HOME, GOING THROUGH CIVIL RIGHTS
AS WELL AS BEING VIETNAM VETERANS IN AN UNPOPULAR WAR BUT
VIETNAM WAS THE FIRST INTEGRATED WAR SO ALL VETERANS WERE REALLY
BEING DEMONIZED FOR BEING PART OF WHAT SOCIETY THOUGHT WAS AN
UNJUST WAR AT THE TIME. SO OVER THE YEARS THE
ORGANIZATION CONTINUED TO EVOLVE AND DEVELOP MORE CHAPTERS AND
MEMBERS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY AND BECAUSE EVEN THAT THIS DAY
WE’RE STILL ADVOCATING FOR VETERANS RIGHTS, EVERYTHING FROM
AGENT ORANGE THAT OCCURRED IN VIETNAM ALL THE WAY TO AND
INCLUDING THE DECISIONS EMANATE FROM THAT. PTSD, FOR INSTANCE. AS A MATTER OF FACT RIGHT NOW
THERE’S A HOUSE BILL IN THE HOUSE OF STATE LEGISLATURES IT’S
H1701 AND IT’S A BILL THAT IS INTENDED TO DO EXCULPATORY
RESEARCH ON PTSD AND LOOKING AT WHAT RESOURCES MAY BE NEEDED TO
HELP — TO HELP AGENCIES TO DEAL WITH THAT CONDITION. PTSD IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO
VETERANS BUT THEY ARE ABNORMALLY AFFLICTED BECAUSE OF WHAT
VETERANS GO THROUGH ESPECIALY IN COMBAT SITUATIONS.>>AND WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE
SEEN — AND I KNOW THAT YOU’RE A MARINE AND YOU SERVED IN
VIETNAM. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.>>YOU’RE WELCOME.>>I KNOW THAT WE JUST ADD
COMMEMORATION RECENTLY IN SPRINGFIELD AT THE MEMORIAL. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT.>>IT’S SOMETHING THAT WE DO
EVERY YEAR. IT’S A MEMORIAL AND HONORIERIUM
OR I SHOULD SAY A CEREMONY FOR THE 5 NAMES ON THE MONUMENT
THERE. THEY WERE KILLED DURING THE
VIETNAM WAR BACK TO BACK. DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE WAR
BETWEEN ’67 AND ’68 AND A GENTLEMAN BY THE NAME OF SKIP
WILLIAMS — ONE OF THE MEN THAT WAS KILLED — THE FIRST ONE WAS
A VERY DEAR FRIEND OF HIS AND ALL THESE MEN WERE FROM THE
WINCHESTER SQUARE AT THE TIME WHICH IS NOW MASON SQUARE AND
THEY WERE ALL FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD EXPO ALWAYS WANTED
TO REMEMBER THEM SO HE THOUGHT THE BEST WAY TO DO IT WAS TO
ERECT A MONUMENT FOR THEM, AND THE 5 NAMES ARE ON THE CELL
PHONE AND THEY ARE SPECIALIST FORD NORMAN C. HARRIS, PRIVATE
GUS STOVALL, JR., DAVID OWENS, STAFF SERGEANT JAMES C. STARNES
AND SPECIALIST RONALD HEARST AND SANCH STARNES WAS KILLED ON HIS
WAY HOME FROM VIETNAM. THE PLANE HE WAS IN CRASHED IN
THE MOUNTAIN SIDE AND SO WE — JUST LIKE I SAID THAT’S ONE OF
OUR MISSIONS IS TO MAINTAIN THE HISTORY OF BLACK VETERANS.>>AND TELL US A LITTLE BIT
ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE SEEN CHANGE FOR YOUNGER VETERANS TODAY. I KNOW THAT IS STILL PART OF
YOUR FOCUS. YOU TALKED ABOUT PTSD WHICH
SEEMS TO BE SUCH A BIG TOPIC FOR MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE COME FROM
AFGHAN AND IRAQ. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO
THESE YOUNG FAMILIES?>>THE MAIN THING I WOULD ADVISE
THEM IS TO CERTAINLY REGISTER WITH THE VA RIGHT AWAY. WHEN THEY GET OUT OF THE
SERVICE, GO TO YOUR LOCAL VA OFFICE, REGISTER AND — IF
THERE’S ANY CONDITIONS THAT HAVE BEEN APPLICABLE DURING SERVICE,
MAKE SURE THAT YOU’RE FOLLOWING UP WITH WHATEVER MEDICAL ADVICE
YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN BECAUSE YOU NEED TO FILE CLAIMS IN ORDER TO
GET ALL THE BENEFITS THAT YOU SERVE. MORE IMPORTANTLY I THINK THAT
VETERANS — WHEN THEY COME BACK FROM THESE NEW WARS NOW, THEY’RE
SO TRAUMATIZED, SUICIDE AMONG VETERANS IS PROBABLY THE BIGGEST
ISSUE THAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW AND I WOULD SAY THAT FOR YOUNG VETS
TO ALWAYS SEEK SUPPORT FOR THE FAMILIES AND VETERANS
ORGANIZATIONS. THERE’S MANY OUTREACH FOR
VETERANS. WE SERVICE ALL VETERANS. WE HAPPEN TO BE CALLED THE
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR BLACK VETERANS BUT WE SERVICE EVERY
VETERAN THAT COME THROUGH THE DOOR AND ADVOCATE FOR EVERY
VETERAN AND, AGAIN, I WOULD SAY IF YOU’RE HAVING ANY KIND OF
PROBLEMS THERE ARE 1-800 NUMBERS FOR VETERANS TO CALL, THINGS OF
THAT NATURE. FAMILY MEMBERS IF YOU KNOW YOU
HAVE A VETERAN IN YOUR FAMILY AND IS HAVING PROBLEMS BUT DUE
TO PRIDE OR JUST FEAR OR WHATEVER ADVOCATING ON THEIR
BEHALF.>>DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE
SOMETIMES RELUCTANT TO ASK FOR HELP BECAUSE, YOU KNOW —
>>A LOT OF TIMES BECAUSE EVEN, LIKE, SOME OF THE OLDER VETERANS
WE SERVICE THEY GET TO THE POINT THAT THEY NEED THE HELP THAT’S
WHEN THEY COME TO US WHEN THEY’RE AT THE LAST POINT. THE BIGGEST FEAR IS BEING DENIED
AND THAT’S ONE THING THAT I WOULD TELL TO ANY VETERAN. REGARDLESS, COME SEE US. GO TO ANY OTHER OUTREACH SERVICE
AND TALK TO THEM, YOU KNOW — YOU MAY BE DENIED BUT AT
THE SAME TIME, THERE MAY BE SOME ALTERNATIVES FOR WHARF YOUR
SITUATION CALLS FOR BECAUSE VETERANS FACE SO MANY OTHER
PROBLEMS OUTSIDE OF THE HEALTH, HOUSING, EMPLOYMENT — A WHOLE
HOST OF GAMBIT OF ISSUES AND WE ADDRESS ALL OF THEM AND SO WE
DON’T, PER SE HAVE THE REMEDY BUT WE HAVE CONNECTIONS TO OTHER
AGENCIES THAT CAN HELP THEM, YOU KNOW, THERE’S A WIDE RANGE OF
THINGS THAT — THAT VETERANS GET FACED WITH AND OUTSIDE OF THEIR
CONTROL AND SO ANY WAY THAT WE CAN HELP THEM, WE TRY OUR BEST
TO DO SO.>>TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT
YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH PIMUSA THE PAN-AFRICAN HISTORICAL MUSEUM.>>MY PRIMARY INVOLVEMENT IS I
PROVIDE THE HISTORY FOR THE MILITARY — FOR WHAT WE CALL THE
UNDERGROUNDRER. SO WE HAVE TWO PIECES TO THAT. ONE IS THE OUTSIDE TOUR AND ONE
IS THE INSIDE TOUR OF THE MUSEUM. INSIDE, WE HAVE ARTIFACTS AND
PAINTINGS AND DIFFERENT MEMORABILIA OF MILITARY ASPECTS
OF LIFE THROUGHOUT OUR HISTORY. THERE’S A DISPLAY FOR THE
TUSKEGEE AIRMEN AND DO HAVE A WONDERFUL PAINTING OF THE
MASSACHUSETTS REGISTER 54 REGIMENT WHICH WAS THE FIRST
BLACK HISTORY SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR.>>WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE
YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE COME HOME FROM RECENT CONFLICTS
>>ALL I WOULD SAY TO THEM IS TO PARTICIPATE AND ALL VETERAN
ACTIVITIES — THE ANNUAL VETERANS PARADE IS EVERY YEAR,
NOVEMBER 11TH AND CERTAINLY WE ASK THEM TO PARTICIPATE AND MOST
OF ALL, MORE THAN ANYTHING, HELPING OTHER VETERANS.

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