Michael Hert, DAV Wisconsin Commander
Year and Going Strong!
Greetings to all my friends and fellow Veterans! I hope all is going well as we start to wind down into the final days of summer. As of this writing I just came off attending the DAV National Convention that was held in Orlando, Florida. This is my 3
year in a row attending, and I return home with an adrenaline shot of enthusiasm for the way forward. Some may wonder what was of most interest or excitement for myself in the course of my time there. The mornings begin early and the evenings are late however the depth of training and information is just invaluable. I’ll focus on three moments that were most memorable for myself.
We have a phenomenal legislative team within our Department and in Washington D.C. The training and information that we received was top notch. The legislative staff are top shelf and well immersed within their roles. I had the honor and pleasure of being part of a 12 person round table discussion with Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D, Under Secretary for VA Benefits. The dialogue between Dr. Lawrence and the DAV participants was cordial, friendly but honest. Being an Iraq-Afghanistan Veteran, I was interested in the issue of Burn Pits and for recognition of concession as one who has served in an area where burn pits existed. The most prevalent discussion that occurred regarded the “stop” that was put on the HR 299. It was signed into law by President Trump yet a “stop” was put into its implementation by VA Secretary Wilke. DAV participants voiced their opinion, which is the law needs to be implemented now and not held up. Dr. Lawrence did listen to our concerns and will share those upon his return to Washington. In terms of myself, it was a great experience that only came through due to my being a DAV member.
As an organization we were formed in 1920 so it was an awesome moment to be in attendance at our 99
year of existence. We began post World War One and our founder was Judge Robert Marks. He was a hard charging Combat US Army Officer who was wounded. He returned home only to discover that America had forgot about its Warriors. Going across our Nation, he discovered a great energy among our Veterans and soon our organization was formed. We are a morally strong, principled organization that ensures our country keeps its promise to its Veterans and that Veterans lead high-quality lives of dignity and respect. As a sign of our organizations strength, we have positive and natural leaders transition throughout the years. Through the generations of DAV leaders we began with World War I Veterans, then World War II and Korean Veterans and from there Vietnam Era and Desert Veterans. At the 2019 Convention, it was an honor and privilege to witness the election of Stephen “Butch” Whitehead as our new National Commander. I’m an Iraq-Afghanistan Veteran so it was quite a thrill to have Butch Whitehead our first Iraq War Veteran elected to such a prestigious and elite office. This is a powerful moment for DAV as it demonstrates that our organization rolls with the times and offers something for every generation of Veterans. My opinion is that Butch is very much a “soldiers’ soldier” much like General Bradley in World War II. He is friendly, humble and passionate about DAV and its cause. I predict that we will experience a great and memorable year ahead.
The last highlight I wanted to share was more on a personal level. My wife, Julie, joined me for this years’ Convention. She is the Senior Vice Commander of the State Auxiliary plus is the Unit 17 Commander in Winnebago County. Toward the end of Convention, I asked her what moment stood out most to her. My thoughts were attending Fun Night with the Lt. Dan Band or meeting all the National players at the Convention. Instead she looked at me and said “ What I will never forget is being in a large Conference Center and everybody inside, loved our Country, loved our Nations Flag, cherished the military service of its Veterans and everybody was so warm and friendly to each other.” Julies comment caught me by surprise yet on one hand was so obvious. It seems at times our Nation is struggling and divided but being at a DAV gathering provided me an opportunity to refresh my patriotism and sense of self.
In summary, it was a wonderful convention, it’s now time to get rolling and serve those Wisconsin Veterans. “Together Forward".