The Heritage of Veterans Advantage: Part 2, Early Veteran Advocacy

Vietnam Veterans of America

In 1978, Bobby Muller, who had recently founded Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), approached Scott for emergency funds. The group lacked the financial resources to continue its work. Numerous requests had been turned down by Bobby’s list of potential benefactors. Without a moment’s hesitation, Scott began writing the checks for the financial support that would help keep VVA going during those early years.

Later, Bobby wrote Scott a letter thanking him for his support of VVA, and expressing his deep gratitude for the funding that helped VVA over a critical period in its history. Today, VVA is the largest Vietnam Veterans organization and the only Congressionally chartered organization for Vietnam Veterans in America.

Just as much as doing “the right thing” at the right time, Scott responded to Bobby from a personal connection. In their high school years, both Bobby and Scott had been champion wrestlers in neighboring communities on Long Island in New York. They had been in meets together and their teams had wrestled against one another. Later, as Scott became an All-American wrestler at Gettysburg, Bobby wrestled as a physical education major at Hofstra University in New York.

They both received their commissions on the same day they received their Bachelor's Degrees, Scott as a U.S. Army Lieutenant, and Bobby as a U.S. Marine Lieutenant. They both served in Vietnam. But Bobby came home in a wheelchair--paralyzed from the chest down from a bullet that almost killed him, as it collapsed both his lungs and severed his spinal cord--a single hit he took as he was leading his Marine platoon in an infantry assault.

Six years after the war ended, Scott joined Bobby for Vietnam Veterans of America first delegation of American Veterans to return to Vietnam. Eleven Vietnam Veterans, including Scott, and one WWII Veteran, Joesph Papp, founder of the Public Theater in New York City, daringly embarked upon the non-diplomatic mission to visit Vietnam. 

At the time, Vietnam did not have diplomatic relations with the U.S. and there had been no American Embassy since the evacuation in1975.

Meeting with Vietnamese officials, the delegation negotiated the first return of the mortal remains of American POW/MIA’s that ha been held by the North Vietnamese, addressed the repercussions of Agent Orange, and established an agreement to permit the first Amerasian children to join their American fathers in the U.S.

Mike Wallace and his 60 Minutes news team accompanied the Vietnam Veterans of America's group of delegates to Vietnam. The broadcast team captured the group’s inroads and successes over two weeks in the country. 60 Minutes subsequently ran four televised segments covering the different objectives of their mission.

The courage and determination of Scott and his fellow Vietnam Veterans in the difficult work of reconciliation ultimately proved to be the first steps toward the lifting the U.S. economic embargo and normalizing relations between the countries.

Continue Reading The Heritage of Veterans Advantage: Part 3, Building the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Photo Credit: https://www.vietnamveteransplaza.com/virtual-tour/memorial-wall/

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