Region 8 REPORT
BY JOHN NEUMAN, DIRECTOR
We thought it was cold in Montana at 23° below, but at
least it did get up to +11°. It never got up to zero
in Alaska; it went down to 50° and 70° below in the
central part of the state. Harbors in Anchorage looked like
frozen iceberg debris. But the outpouring of hospitality
was as abundant as elsewhere in the Region. Thank-you does
not do justice to how our members greet visitors there.
in Idaho, continuing to Montana, it is very warm in the heart
of Alaska. The pending programs, programs already in progress,
and those ongoing have drawn national attention. A rehab
center and domiciliary in Anchorage provides shelter, training,
and medical and mental health services that the chapter takes
great pride in—and rightfully so. Rehab
veterans take care in making hand-stained wooden flag boxes
that are presented to the family of any deceased veteran
laid to rest in Alaska. The boxes include engraved names
and dates of birth and death.
Although only having four chapters,
the state has just certified its first VVA Service Officer
and is the first state in Region 8 to meet its goal of at
least one new Service Officer this year. Twenty five members
attended the council meeting, so imagine what it will be
when we double the chapters this year? It’s a realistic
goal and we only lack two members in order to add a new native
What are other
chapters doing in Alaska? The valley chapter drew national
media attention with Alaska Trail Riders operated by Bob
Moore, VVA’s founding Alaska member and first
SC president. Disabled veterans find solace in the peaceful
rides into the wilderness that the VVA chapter provides.
Did you know that Bob has a special saddle so a veteran without
legs can still ride on horseback? The guest list reads like
a who’s who in Alaska. Most of the members of the state
legislature and most governors past and present have visited.
Children from all over the state and as far away as Arizona
come to the bunkhouse and are treated like royalty by the
chapter members. Thanks Dan, Jim, and the rest of Wasilla,
which spelled backwards is “All I Saw,” the first
pioneer description of the area. Did you know the trail riders
raised over $40,000 riding 800 miles to take 20 veterans
to The Wall for the 25th anniversary?
In most of Region 8
there is no cell phone coverage or Internet for hundreds
of miles. In Alaska, the distance between some areas stretches
nearly one thousand miles. Although many veterans reside
in remote suburbs of the cities in the Lower 48, in Alaska
the Palmer chapter provides the only service of its kind
in the nation: They fly in food and supplies to veterans
via bush pilots, the only way in or out. Thanks go to Mo
Bailey and his VVA crew.
It is with great anticipation
that I look forward to returning in the spring to fly into
the bush to honor those veterans’ service
with the Alaska medal. Bailey has to fly these guys in and
out for medical treatment. He has to wait until it gets up
to zero degrees in order to make it in to where veterans
are cut off in the Tundra for four months of the year.
about interaction in the community and government? State
Council President Ric Davidge, Vice President Al Bafone,
and I attended a Senate hearing on a bill in the Alaska legislature
to urge adoption of the assured funding bill in Congress.
We all testified, nine VVA members altogether, the committee
passed the resolution, and it is now on to the floor for
final passage. I also sat in on a Blue Ribbon Task Force
hearing held by the Mayor of Anchorage.
Locally and in state
legislative action, VVA consults with the governor.
Hearing about the medal program our State Council
is creating, the governor was one of the first to jump on
our bandwagon and give full support. Ric Davidge was asked
to travel to the state capital to meet with legislators.
The mayor and the governor were quick to add their support.
They are looking at ways to help VVA honor the service of
every Alaska veteran in the state with equal funding. The
plan was on the Governor’s lips less than 12 hours
after VVA voted to “Get It Done.” How, you might
ask? Telecommunication is how Alaska handles its geographic
and transportation obstacles.
The Veterans of Alaska Honorable
Service Medal program already is attracting support from
virtually every veterans’ organization
in the state, and VVA is leading the way. The goal set during
this trip was to start the program immediately, including
a large ceremony in the state capitol during the biannual
native celebration week in June.
We often hear about problems
within and between chapters. In Alaska, we have members with
the temperament and skills to deal with political venues
at the state and at the grass-roots community levels. I can’t
think of any more challenging geographical area in our nation,
and yet here our VVA members are a role model. We need to
work with one another and use the talents that we possess,
rather than jump on the differences that make each of us
unique. Perhaps it is the pioneer spirit, but veterans who
focus on helping veterans are proving day in and day out
they get results when they make that extra effort to help
Thank you, Alaska. Thank you,
Region 8. You keep raising the bar a notch higher, and we
continue to exceed levels we thought could never be reached.
I hope I can keep up with you.