PVA From The Top – Looking Back

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News December 2018

My advice is to not let hatred boil over, simply agree to disagree, find another subject and walk away as friends.

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As the cold grasp of winter settles in for many of us and thoughts of kids opening presents and holiday parties take place in December, it brings an opportunity to reflect on the past year. Reflection can be good, bad and indifferent based on many factors. Everyone has personal experiences and topics that shaped their year and these four things shaped mine.

Death: Not a favorite subject to many, but one that has a profound effect on us, whether it was the loss of a person who was world famous or someone you personally knew. Three people who died this year played a significant role in my life — Reed Weir, Terry Tyna and Ernie Butler were all lost to cancer. 

Reed was someone I watched battle addiction, but he found a way to overcome it and helped Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) in many talented ways. He was a good friend until the end.

Terry was someone I was an acquaintance of and admired from afar. When I got involved with PVA at the national level, Terry was a national director who stood out at national meetings. He battled hard for issues he believed in and would back down to no one on the ones he believed would help our members and veterans. Terry took on many national directors, parliamentarians and active members to help PVA.

Ernie was like losing my older brother. We talked about PVA constantly, along with rehab, family, friends and sports. He’s frequently on my mind and in my heart.

Change: PVA lost many familiar faces, but many new ones have appeared. Change is sometimes necessary and inevitable, but I truly believe these changes were better for everyone. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) changes I’m still reflecting on, but new VA Secretary Robert Wilkie seems like a genuine man who will do his best for specialized services and veterans.

Accomplishments: PVA had many this year, but four stand out for me. 

VA Mission Act — Funding and implementation will be debated for some time, but just getting it passed was a huge effort from our Government Relations department and advocacy representatives who fought for it for many years.

National Veterans Wheelchair Games —  Thanks to all our PVA staff, the VA staff, volunteers and sponsors/partners for a record 611 athletes who got to enjoy a great week
of competition.

PVA Summit + ExpoThis is the first year in a long time that vendors and participant numbers were up significantly. Having talked to every vendor, several committee members and participants, the positive feedback I got was overwhelming.   

Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization ActAlthough the fight with airlines and the government continues, the progress we’ve made in court rulings and outcomes, as well as the media attention gained, has moved the needle significantly in gaining rights and, hopefully, better flying experiences for our members and people with disabilities. The success we’ve achieved strengthens PVA to keep fighting.

I was going to end this on a good note, but late October’s tragedy in Pittsburgh prevented me from doing so and caused me to reflect. I rarely talk about politics or religion with people I don’t know. I usually reserve that for good friends and family. This past year, there’s been a wave of hatred building in this country over politics and religion. All sides are guilty of this and don’t seem to offer a solution to fix it. Rather, they both spew hatred, yell and fingerpoint, which accomplish nothing but hate for the other. My advice is to not let hatred boil over, simply agree to disagree, find another subject and walk away as friends. Grudges and hatred do no one any good. They just raise your blood pressure and distract one’s attention. If you find yourself getting into a heated argument over politics or religion, just take a step back and remember the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Agreeing to disagree and walking away as American friends will make the country a better place.

Wishing you all a merry Christmas and happy holidays!


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PVA From The Top – Looking Back


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