From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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Never Give Up and Don't Back Down!

By Steve Crandall

If the economy hadn't taken a downturn we would have had one more opportunity in 2009 to raise public awareness of our veterans needs, putting an end to unjust wars and raising funds for our chapter. But due to the continued recession and lack of city funds, the Ventura City Christmas Street Fair was canceled. So in the VVAW tradition of not giving up we put our heads together and decided to turn our annual poinsettia "request for donations campaign" into something different. The idea was simple. Since the poinsettia is a flower that only blooms in the winter it became the Winter Soldier Poinsettia. In 2008 we only requested donations from individuals but in 2009 we decided to take our idea one step further. We decided to request donations from local establishments as well as from individuals. We placed a thank you card on a long stem card holder in each poinsettia plant which boldly announced that these poinsettias were from the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. We knew the poinsettias would be displayed but we figured the cards would be tossed. To our surprise every business not only displayed the poinsettias in prominent areas of their establishment but the cards remained in place for all to see.

Our next challenge for the year was to get our VVAW Chapter banner displayed at the new California Veterans Home. Throughout the year we managed to collect over 1,200 books, 400 cds and 200 vhs movies for their library but were we and our efforts really going to be recognized along with DAV, VFW, AL and all the other well established veterans groups?

The answer is HELL YES! The CA VA management was not only supportive of our efforts but displayed our chapter banner right above the pull down projection screen while all the other veterans group banners were located in much less conspicuous places throughout the room.

Enter 2010 - our chapter talked about plotting out our events for the year and what we can do to top 2009. I called Jan Ruhman, VVAW San Diego, to see what they had going on and we talked about the philosophy of the VVAW West Coast Tour to network and join forces with other likeminded groups. Jan mentioned that VFP was considering moving last year's regional conference that took place in Oceanside up the coast to the Ventura area but that Ventura VFP needed some help. Timing is everything. Why not take the lead, in a collaborative effort, to create a larger conference. With the help of VFP we called others to join forces for this conference. VVAW, VFP, MFSO, IVAW and Gold Star Families Speak Out came together to co-sponsor an event called the CA Regional Conference of Veterans and Military Families. So far we have nearly one-hundred participants in the workshops and hope to draw another two-hundred attendees to the public speaking event.

These are all challenges that at one time or another we wondered if we could accomplish successfully. But we continued to keep in mind in the 43 year, time-aged tradition of VVAW, We Never Gave Up! and We Never Backed Down!

Steve Crandall is a Vietnam Veteran and the President of the California Central Coast Chapter of VVAW.

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