Changes and Honors

Reprinted from PN July 2017

A close election for a new president and a major award for former Sen. Bob Dole top the highlights from this year’s 71st PVA National Convention.

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Paralyzed Veterans of America’s (PVA) 71st National Convention in May provided a bit of excitement with a pair of close elections, including one for a new national president.

Election Time

With National President Al Kovach Jr., deciding not to run for re-election, David Zurfluh narrowly edged Ken Weas, 16-15, to be elected as PVA’s new national president at the convention in National Harbor, Md. Weas didn’t quit, but instead dropped back to run for senior vice president and won a 19-12 vote over Charles Brown. Zurfluh replaces Kovach, who now becomes PVA’s immediate past president. An Air Force veteran, Zurfluh has held several positions in the PVA Northwest Chapter since 2003, including legislative director, vice president and president. 

“I joined Paralyzed Veterans of America the same year I was injured. As I lay in my hospital bed after my injury, lost, broken and wondering about my future, Paralyzed Veterans came to my aid, gave me hope and showed me a path to succeed in life,” says Zurfluh. “I can’t imagine any better way to pay it forward than to lead an organization that offers new lives to injured veterans.”

Four vice presidents are also elected during the convention and that can sometimes be complicated, especially when multiple candidates are in the running. There were indeed multiple candidates with Hack Albertson, Joe Fox, Charles Brown, Tammy Jones, Marcus Murray, Richard Raley and Robert Thomas vying for the positions. It only took one round of voting for Albertson, Brown and Fox to retain their seats for another year. Thomas made the majority cut in the first round to claim the fourth vice president position. Treasurer Tom Wheaton and Secretary Larry Dodson ran unopposed and were re-elected by acclamation. The only newcomer on the PVA Executive Committee is Thomas. An Army veteran who hails from Ohio, Thomas has been involved in PVA since 1996. He began studies in parliamentary law in 2015 and has served as PVA’s parliamentarian since 2016. 


Besides elections and resolutions, the PVA National Convention is also a time to celebrate and appreciate those who have played such a big part in the organization’s mission to change lives and build brighter futures for the nation’s seriously injured veterans. Many awards are presented during the convention, but it’s tough to top the one given to former Sen. Bob Dole. The longtime Kansas Republican, World War II Army veteran and disability rights advocate was presented with PVA’s highest honor, the Speedy Award (non-member). 

“I’m just grateful to be a veteran,” said Dole as he received the award.

Non-member Speedy Awards were also given to Gary Goldish, MD, and Kenneth Lee, MD, while PVA member and Army veteran Holly Koester was presented with the Speedy Award for members. Goldish has more than 29 years of clinical experience as a rehabilitation physician at the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and helped develop a prototype for the first manual standing wheelchair.

“Everyone told me a standing wheelchair was impossible ... PVA supported it because they knew what a difference it would make to paralyzed veterans,” Goldish says. “I can’t thank you enough.”

The chief of the spinal-cord injury division at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, Lee started as an Army private combat medic in 1986 and retired 27 years later as a doctor and colonel. His primary focus is using sports to help disabled and paralyzed veterans become active. Lee also serves as medical director of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG). An Army veteran, Koester was introduced to the NVWG shortly after being injured in 1990 and credits that with jump-starting the rest of her life. She is an active PVA member on national and local levels, including serving on PVA’s Planned Giving Committee since 1993.

“I credit PVA for opening doors to me,” Koester says.

The President’s Award was given to the Nevada Chapter for its Adopt-A-Vet Program. The program operates year-round with the help of grants and donations from the community. Last year, the program provided services to more than 500 low-income, disabled and homeless veterans through various service fairs, supplying them with basic needs.

Marching To Minnesota 

Although 2017 is barely half over and the term of the new PVA Executive Committee is just getting started, plans are already underway for the 72nd National Convention. The 2018 PVA National Convention is headed to Minnesota, “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” and home to the largest mall in the United States. The JW Marriott Minneapolis hotel, located in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., will be the site of the convention May 22–26.


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