Michael Hert, DAV Wisconsin Commander

2019 Holiday Thoughts and Reflections

I truly enjoy and embrace this time of the year. The sights and sounds of the Holiday season can take one’s breath away. Whether it’s going through the neighborhood and witnessing the dazzling display of the twinkling Christmas lights, the delightful interaction between Santa Claus and wide-eyed young children, the powerful story behind the Hanukkah celebration or on a lighter note, the holiday of Festivus that was created by the character, Frank Costanza of the Seinfeld show. 

I know that as I draw to the final week of Christmas, I tend to put my work on the back burner and immerse myself in the moment of the Season. Like most, I really enjoy some of the Holiday movies that have been created over the years. I love the “Christmas Story” of Ralphie and his desire to find a Red Ryder rifle under the Christmas tree plus I relish the film “Elf” with the zany and humorous antics of Will Ferrell.

One film that has stood the test of time is “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. As you may recall, Jimmy Stewart plays the character of George Bailey. During the course of his life, George gave up many of his dreams to help others in the community. George, becoming despondent, is about to commit suicide when he is saved by his guardian angel named Clarence. George, in a disheartened moment, says that he wished he never existed. The rest of the movie, Clarence walks George through what his life would be like if he had not existed. At the conclusion George realizes he underestimated himself and instead had touched the hearts of an entire community. This is a truly powerful message to this day!

As I was pondering this article, we as a National organization are on the verge of our 100-year anniversary. My mind began to think about the movie character George Bailey and our own DAV founder Judge Robert Marx. In a stretch of the imagination, it occurred to me “What would life be like for the Veterans community had not Judge Marx stepped forward and along with his comrades formed the organization, which we fondly call the DAV??” This may seem to be a crazy thought to my fellow life members but what if Judge Marx had said “Hey I’m a Judge and a decorated war hero, my life is doing fine, good luck to my fellow Veterans on their journey”. Like George Bailey examining and recognizing the impact of his life, we must also reflect on what it would be like if there was no DAV.

Case in point, in 2018 in the State of Wisconsin, our DAV Transportation Network transported 37,663 Veterans to their VA medical appointments. That’s like transporting the population of the City of Menomonee Falls to their medical appointments. That’s incredible! If there was not a DAV, who would take those Veterans, those Warriors to receive their medical care?

A critical mission of the DAV is to assist Veterans with understanding and receiving their benefits. All Chapters should have a Chapter Service Officer and we have a high speed team of National Service Officers led by Brian Wilson in Milwaukee. An example in FY 2018-2019, the Milwaukee DAV Office had been credited for 30,443 Award Actions. Again, incredible! However, what would life be like for those Veterans had DAV not existed? Veterans and their families would not receive the benefits that have been earned. Some would be living in dire poverty while others live shorter life spans. They would not be living lives of dignity and respect.

A key to Veterans receiving their benefits is our elected officials at all levels understanding the needs and issues of the Veterans community. Through our Department, Benefits Protection Team Leader (BPTL), Al Labelle, along with the Chapter BPTL’s, DAV educates our elected officials through Town Hall meetings, Office Visits in Madison & Washington D.C., the Commanders Action Network, letters and telephone calls. DAV leads the way in educating our elected officials regarding legislative issues near and dear to our hearts. However, what if there was no DAV? If our elected officials don’t hear from the Veterans community, they will assume that silence indicates things are just fine. Again, if there was not a DAV, who would be crafting and coordinating the legislative message?

There are many other ways that DAV impacts Veterans such as Career Fairs, Disaster Relief, Veteran Homelessness, etc. The key message to you the reader: Thank goodness, Judge Robert Marx and the DAV Founders forged fearlessly forward and formed this organization 100 years ago. Imagining the American landscape without DAV services is horrendous! Like George Bailey, we too must recognize the impact we have in the lives of others within our communities. In closing, God Bless and have a wonderful Holiday!
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My fellow comrades:

As this year ends, I would say it’s been a successful one for our Department. We certainly plan to be successful next year as well.

Service to veterans is excellent and continues to improve. Our National Service Office completed two training sessions this year and as a result, claim submissions from the Chapter Service Officers (CSOs) have increased dramatically. Initiative for next year is to pursue adding a Department Service Officer(s) (DSO).

Volunteering continues to be a significant area of service. This year at National Convention we took first place in our Division for LVAP hours and are now on the cusp of doing so again this year. Thank you, Volunteers!

Legislatively, our Benefits Protection Team Leader (BPTL) Al Labelle continues to lead the way. Our Department is being recognized as the winner of the Outstanding Performance in Advocacy (OPA) award for our Division. Labelle will be honored at DAV Mid-Conference as the top performing BPTL in our Division.  Congratulations Al!

Our Senior Vice Commander Matt Kempainen continues to lead the way in our efforts to recruit new members. We are ahead of previous years, but still have a long way to go meet the goal assigned to us this year.

At the State Convention this year we were honored with our National Commander Dennis Nixon attending and at the Fall Conference, the current National Commander, Stephen “Butch” Whitehead was in attendance.

The publishing of the monthly e-Newsletter and our monthly Executive Committee (EC) phone conferences continue to be successful and have greatly improved the department communications.

If you think about PIE (Performance, Image, Exposure) we’re doing excellent -- thanks to everyone’s efforts. Let’s all work together and push a bit harder as we continue in our mission of service to Veterans.  THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE!
Wisconsin DAV Headquarters
1253 Scheuring Road Suite A
De Pere, WI 54115
Phone: 920.338.8620
Fax: 920.338.8621
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