2015 National Veterans Conference.
Honoring Those Who Served...
October 11th thru the 16th, Veterans and patriots from across the UAW Nation gathered on the grounds of the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center, more commonly known as Black Lake for the 2015 National Veterans Conference.
The week was full of patriotism and brotherhood, as over 270 delegates plus staff members joined together for a week of education and spirit that included many highlights. When asked during the opening program, it looked as if 80% of the delegates raised their hand noting this was their first time at Black Lake, excitement was in the air.
During the week UAW delegates participated in a classroom setting with discussion on topics of interest that included, Establishing the Veterans Committee, Veterans Benefits/Medical, PTSD and 2 new classes on Homeless Veterans/Stand Down and POW/MIA. Each of the 31 Region 8 delegates were very involved and played a key role in the classroom with vast knowledge and experience.
I'm very happy to report as Region 8 National Veterans Advisory Committee (NVAC) representative, Region 8 can lay claim to have introduced a new instructor to the National Conference. A Special Forces and Vietnam veteran, Bob “Bulldog” Ousley, taught us on the POW/MIA issue. What's interesting here is many UAW Region 8 Veterans know “Bulldog” from Operation Stand Down in Nashville where he is a integral part of that staff. Bob has been a long time friend of the UAW and also Co-Chairman of the Board for Honor, Release, Return Inc. a POW/MIA activist group, dedicated to the issue both in awareness and most importantly on the legislative end as well. If indications can be made thru the comments made during the conference, Bulldog's class received high very reviews from the delegates. We are hoping the POW/MIA class will continue and that Bulldog will become a regular instructor. I was more than proud to act as his assistant.
Other instructors included, PTSD-Jim Adams, Domingo Davila, Homeless Veterans/Stand Down- Norm “Gunny” Wilcox, Veterans Benefits-Phil Craft/ Steve Mulcahy and Beverly Conatser help with the Veterans Committee class explaining and Veterans Affairs Volunteer Services (VAVS).
During the week, not only was the classroom segment required, quality time was spent in the assembly hall with several well noted speakers that would add to any block of instruction or veterans ceremony or program. They included H.E.R.O.E.S. Care President Jon Jerome, PTSD Resources/Treatment Dr. David Meeker, Transcendental Meditation for PTSD- Jim Cahaney & Dusty Baxley, Rick Weidman VVA Washington D C Office, Operation Injured Troops- Jack Rensick, Tuskegee Airman- Ret. Col Lawrence Millben, a very interesting and personable Lt. Col. Don “Digger” Odell, a F 105 D Pilot who was shot down during Vietnam and was a 6 year prisoner of war.
We closed the program this year with another conference favorite who has the love and respect of everyone, WWII veteran Maurice “Pops” Alexander. Pop's served under General Patton. Pop's tells a great story of serving as a half track driver and of the 2 occasions where he met General Patton in Belgium and later in Germany. Pop's is 95 years old and is adorable as is his loving wife Rachel of 73 years.
The UAW does great job educating it's membership, under the direction of President, and Director of the UAW Veterans Affairs Dept, Dennis Williams and staff that includes Administrative Assistant- Garry Bernath, International Representative- Steve Long and Coordinator Doug Taylor, the 2015 National Veterans Conference saw a near record amount of attendance and new comers to the conference. Many thanks and salutes are due to the Williams Team. Black Lake has it's own majestic history, bring in about 300 veterans and get a extra special, extra exciting and love filled, patriotic week. One to remember. We Salute You!!
Submitted by Mark Peterson