- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The National Association for Black Veterans has a chapter closer to home for veterans in Southern Maryland.
Mike Moses, a Vietnam veteran and president of the College of Southern Maryland’s Veterans Organization, said he was attending NABVETS meetings in Washington, D.C., when someone suggested he begin a chapter in Charles County.
“I got tired of going back and forth,” Moses said. But the initiative to start a chapter in Charles soon became an initiative to have a chapter in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, too.
The Southern Maryland chapter of NABVETS already has at least 12 members, Moses said.
Moses said the tri-county chapter will stick with the national chapter’s mission of advocating with federal, state and local governments on behalf of veterans so they receive equitable benefits, voicing challenges adversely affecting veterans, improving the quality of life for veterans and highlighting the contributions of veterans.
NABVETS will enable veterans to have access to veterans benefits, such as health care plans and funding for school. Moses said he hopes to spread the word about My Healthevet, an online resource through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that enables veterans to manage their own health care and have access to doctors.
Bettie Phillips-Jackson is retired from the U.S. Army. She served in the first Gulf War and several supporting campaigns afterward.
Phillips-Jackson said that NABVETS is a resource for everyone in the community.
“We all have similar issues. Maybe we acquired the issues in different ways,” said Phillips-Jackson, who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her service in the military.
Phillips-Jackson lives in Waldorf and said she joined the District chapter of NABVETS about six years ago when she was working downtown in the District and could leave work to attend monthly meetings. She now is retired but said having a local chapter is wonderful, and she knows a need exists in Southern Maryland for veterans services.
“There are vets that are seeking the chapter location to be closer,” Phillips-Jackson said.
NABVETS helped Phillips-Jackson figure out what she needed as a veteran, she said. Many veterans cannot explain what their needs are because they do not have the right questions to ask to get the right answers. Phillips-Jackson said veterans also have a fear of rejection or that they do not deserve a particular service.
“It’s not what [other people] think. It’s what you’re entitled to [as a veteran],” Phillips-Jackson said.
She said she learned as one of the earlier female U.S. military veterans that female veterans sometimes need individual services for medical and emotional needs. Phillips-Jackson said in recent years the military has become more accommodating to female veterans.
“[NABVETS has] given me a platform and a support system,” Phillips-Jackson said. The organization also has provided her the opportunity to reach out to other veterans, especially female veterans, and offer help.
Bill Buffington’s membership in the local chapter of NABVETS is his first introduction to the organization, which he hopes will enable him to reach out to veterans, men and women.
“One of the things I feel strongly about is we’re happy our veterans served for us, but when they get home I feel we forget them,” said Buffington, who lives in White Plains and served on aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy from 1976 to 1990.
Buffington is vice president of CSM’s Veterans Organization and said he did not realize what programs and benefits are available to veterans until recently. He said a lot of veterans do not know. But Buffington said he joined NABVETS to serve.
“We are passionate about serving and making people aware of [veterans],” Buffington said.
Clarence “Tiger” Davis, state commander of the organization’s Maryland chapters, said NABVETS partially emerged because older veterans organizations did not readily accept Vietnam veterans due to the political and socio-economic aspects of the Vietnam War.
Davis said in the Korean War, American soldiers were segregated, but the Vietnam War was the first war in which American soldiers were integrated. In the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, Vietnam veterans saw each other all as brothers regardless of race, but, Davis said, black veterans and white veterans had different issues to overcome, because the U.S. had always treated the races differently. Organizations for black veterans emerged.
“And the NABVETS is the only one still standing,” said Davis, a Vietnam War veteran, who has been with the organization since 1980. Davis said NABVETS is the only national, congressionally chartered veterans service organization and works closely with smaller black veterans groups.
NABVETS originally was established by seven Vietnam veterans in 1969 led by a Korean War veteran, Thomas Wynn, said Davis. Wynn saw how Vietnam veterans were being treated and took action by forming Interested Veterans of the Central City in Wisconsin. IVOCC gradually became NABVETS.
Black veterans have been hard to reach, Davis said, because they did not join organizations, did not trust the government and remained isolated.
A significant veterans population exists in Southern Maryland, Davis said. The Southern Maryland chapter will be NABVETS’s fourth chapter.
Two chapters exist in the metro area of Baltimore and one in Prince George’s County. Davis said the organization hopes to have a chapter on the Eastern Shore next year, followed by a chapter in Western Maryland. Davis said that NABVETS has a lot to offer veterans.
“We want the voices and issues of black veterans to be heard and the Southern Maryland chapter of NABVETS does that,” Davis said.
NABVETS is open to all veterans, said Moses, who is first vice president of the Charles County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“The bullets and bombs had no names on them. They didn’t care who we were,” Moses said. “All of us have one thing in common: the word veteran.”
To learn more
For more information on the National Association for Black Veterans, go to www.nabvets.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 877-622-8387.