Disabled veterans make membership history

Published 2:45 am Monday, May 22, 2006

By By Lee “Lavan” Martin
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has marked one of the most important achievements in the organization's 86-year history with its goal achievement of one million fully paid life members.
Brian K. Thomas of Gulfport, Miss., became the millionth fully paid member on April 28, 2006. A disabled veteran who served as petty officer first class in the US Navy during the Persian Gulf War and the War on Terror, Brian joined the DAV in March 2005. One year later he paid his remaining life membership dues to become the one millionth fully paid life member.
This is a significant accomplishment by the DAV , and one that all major veteran organizations hope to achieve. I don't know if the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars have a million fully paid life members, but let's say they do. Think of the voting power they would have. More important, think of the implications such memberships have on the organizations' mission of building better lives for American's veterans and their families, or on the organizations' programs.
Maybe – just maybe – this accomplishment by the DAV will inspire younger veterans to join veteran organizations. Unless younger veterans step forward and join veteran organizations, the continuation or enhancement of veteran benefits could be impacted. Veteran organizations are operational today due in part to World War II and Korean War Veterans with more and more Vietnam and Gulf War veterans coming forward to maintain stability. Hopefully, Afghan and Iraqi veterans will follow.
As Commander of the Bay Minette DAV Chapter, I join DAV National Commander Paul Jackson in commending the DAV membership for their assistance in this monumental achievement. It certainly tells our elected leaders that we are not only dedicated to protecting and improving services and benefits for disabled veterans and their families today but for the rest of their lives.
The 1.3 million-member DAV, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and charted by Congress in 1932, represents America's disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our American disabled veterans and their families.
As younger disabled veterans join our ranks, let's make them welcome and give them meaningful tasks to accomplish. This applies to any veteran organization they join. The future depends on the new generation of veterans whose bodies, minds and blood have paid dearly for our freedom.
Lee "Lavan" Martin is commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7016 in Atmore.

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