VVA & Chapter 201 History
The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), initially known as the Council of Vietnam Veterans, received its Congressional Charter in 1986. The VVA took a significant step in 1983 by founding Vietnam Veterans of America Legal Services (VVALS) to provide assistance to veterans seeking benefits and services from the Government. By working under the theory that a veteran representative should be an advocate for the veteran rather than a simply facilitator, VVALS quickly established itself as the most competent and aggressive legal assistance program available to veterans. It remains the only organization devoted exclusively to improving the lives of those who served in uniform during this Nation’s most divisive war.
The VVA has a national membership of approximately 50,000 in 525 chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. It provides leadership and education opportunities, as well as support and assistance in securing benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It plays an active role in Government relations advocacy at the federal and state levels to improve benefits and services available to our Nation’s veterans. It supports veterans memorials and observances, participates in education and drug prevention projects and promotes youth and family activities to build strong communities.
The VVA strives for individual and group empowerment and locally originated action to assist veterans and other needy members of their communities. Volunteer programs offer unique and innovative services including support for homeless shelters; substance abuse education projects and crime prevention campaigns; sponsorship of youth sports, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters; and relief to other communities affected by natural disasters and chronic poverty.
VVA's Founding Principle
The VVA holds as its first principle that the organization is measured by deeds and openness as evidence of the core values of justice, integrity and meaningful achievement. “Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another.” The VVA’s goals are to promote the full range of issues important to Vietnam Veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam Veterans.
The purpose of the VVA is to: Foster, encourage and promote improvement of the condition of the Vietnam Veteran; promote physical and cultural improvement, growth and development, self respect and confidence; eliminate discrimination and develop channels of communication to assist the veterans and enrich their lives; and assist disabled and needy war veterans, including their dependents, widows and orphans of deceased veterans.
The VVA studies proposed legislation introduced in any federal, state or local legislative or administrative body which may affect the social, economic, educational or physical welfare of the Vietnam Generation Veteran; and develop public policy proposals designed to improve the quality of life of the Vietnam Generation Veteran especially in the areas of employment, education, training and health."
Research is conducted and published pertaining to the relationship between Vietnam Generation Veterans and the American society; the Vietnam War experience; the role of the United States in securing peaceful co-existence for the world community; and other matters which affect the social, economic, educational or physical welfare of the Vietnam Generation Veteran.
The VVA, the Nation’s largest and most successful Vietnam Veterans organization, is proud of its accomplishments over the years. They include: Providing a sense of camaraderie, self worth and pride in service for the Vietnam Generation Veteran; Creating the philanthropic Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund (VVAF); Taking the lead in working with homeless veterans; National advocate for access to VA benefits and services for incarcerated Vietnam Veterans; Leadership in the fight for full accounting of POW/MIAs through the Veterans Initiative Program; Leadership on women veteran issues, including access to benefits and treatment in VA facilities; Leadership in the fight for judicial review of disabled veteran claims for benefits; Advocate for laws supporting job training and placement assistance for Vietnam Generation Veterans. Leadership on minority veteran issues, including creation of the Center of Minority Veterans; and Major force on VA compensation for Agent Orange linked diseases.
Darwin J. Thomas Chapter 201
VVA Chapter 201 in San Jose, California is named after Darwin Joel Thomas. Darwin Thomas was born on April 28, 1943 in Santa Clara, California. He flew off the carrier USS Oriskany and was shot down over North Vietnam on October 14, 1966. Originally listed as Missing in action, he is now listed as “killed, body not recovered.”
Ensign Thomas, flying one of two A-1H Skyraiders, was conducting a night armed reconnaissance mission in a hilly area about 25 miles southeast of Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam. When lights were spotted on a road, Ensign Thomas rolled in to attack the target but failed to pull out before the aircraft impacted the ground and exploded. His remains have not been repatriated. He was 23 years old and married. Ensign Darwin Joel Thomas is listed on panel 11E, line 075, on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
The Darwin J. Thomas Memorial Chapter 201 was formed in 1984 and received its National Charter in July 1988. The Chapter’s activities emphasize and support the goals and objectives of service, fraternity, pride and knowledge.
Copyright © 2016 — Darwin J. Thomas Memorial Chapter 201, VVA Inc.
Created 15 Feb 2016; Revised 17 Feb 2016
• • •
P.O. Box 26203
San Jose, California 95159