A Legacy of Exceptional Service

It is safe to say that African American History is American History.  However, when you talk about African American Veterans, their chapter in the story of our Nation’s history is not well known to many Americans.  Participation of African Americans fighting for America’s freedom is as old as America herself.

Watch this video to better understand the extraordinary contributions made by African American Veterans to our Nation’s freedom that begins with the Revolutionary War and continues today in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Everyone at VA, particularly our staff at the Center for Minority Veterans, is committed to promoting awareness and utilization of benefits and services that African American Veterans have earned as a result of their military service.  If you know of a Veteran– of any race or gender – who has not enrolled in VA health care and benefits please encourage them to visit their local VA facility for more information.  We are here to serve.

We hope the Veterans, their families and survivors who view African American Veterans – A Legacy of Exceptional Service are as inspired as we are by the contributions that African American Veterans have made in keeping  America safe and free.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Center for Minority Veterans are proud to present this video: African American Veterans – A Legacy of Exceptional Service.

To view a Section 508-compliant version of this video, go here.

For more information please visit the Center for Minority Veterans.

Colonel Lucretia McClenney, U.S. Army (Ret.) is the director of VA’s Center for Minority Veterans.

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14 Comments to “A Legacy of Exceptional Service”

  1. Tifany Hill says:

    Thank you so much for posting this video. I am forming a womens meet up group called Vets R Us for the ladies that served and are transitioning. I am still in the recruiting phase, but this is the type of information that I want the group to know about. You can find the group on my new social network http://www.peopleunite.us

    • Ms Hill

      Thanks for your note…..

      We would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you on how we can better serve minority Veterans. Please check out the Center for Women Veterans on the VA website.

  2. Brenda Hayes says:

    Ms. McClenney,

    I have never heard of the VA Minority Center. What does it do? How long has it been around? How many personnel, besides you, work at this Center? Where is it located?

    Thanks,

    BH
    Vetwife Advocate

    • Rebecca Mimnall says:

      I’m sure Ms. McClenney would have more in-depth information, but you can find an overview of the center and contact information for local coordinators here: http://www.va.gov/centerforminorityveterans/

      • Brenda Hayes says:

        Rebecca,

        Not sure if you are part of her staff; but as a taxpayer, I would not mind her asking to answer the questions I politely asked.

        I think it is so strange that I keep hearing of sll these programs, etc. and have never heard about most of them until now; probably not alone on this either–Veterans or Family members.

        I think she should also speak for herself.

        Thanks,

        BH
        Vetwife Advocate

  3. Rebecca Mimnall says:

    Not a staff member (though also a taxpayer). I do work for VA, but an entirely different department (Office of Research and Development).

    I did’t know if anyone from the Center was monitoring the comments (they seem to do a pretty good job on the main blog, but with the guests posts I’m wasn’t so sure) and I was also curious to learn more about the center, so when I found the site I thought I’d post the link, to be helpful.

    I certainly wasn’t trying to deflect or speak for anyone else, and I apologize if it came across that way.

    I also feel like I’m constantly learning about new things and programs in VA – it’s one of the reasons I appreciate this blog.

    Thanks,

    -Rebecca

    • Brenda Hayes says:

      Thanks, Rebecca

      I appreciate your reply.

      I guess I am very sensitive to anyone in the VA Bureaucracy being ever so slightly defensive as too many Veterans and their family members have in the past and continue to be dealing with a “less than efficient” and often, more likely than not, a completely dysfunctional system.

      There are too many VA and other government programs that aren’t effective or have little or no value, with little or no oversight. Thus, overburdening the taxpayers by increasing the deficit for not only present day taxpayers, but also for our children and grandchildren.

      I, like so many Americans, are fed up with inefficient and costly systems especially those, like the VA, where there is no place to voice and receive feedback.

      The Patient Advocate systems at the VAMC’s don’t work; there is no Open Door Policy with the VAMC’s Administrators; and, apparently there is no place at the Central Office to take Veterans and family members concerns, criticisms , etc. seriously.

      I was really excited about this blogsite in the beginning; but now I am seeing that it’s the same old VA PR glitz with little substance. When you can’t get a blog approved for almost a month; when the site’s IT problems aren’t taken seriously and fixed (do they test them?); when you ask questions and they don’t get answered and/or the main commentary authors and even the VA employees guest commentary authors pick and choose whom they answer, etc.

      I don’t expect a low grade Public Relations civil servant to look into problems within their own VA systems to advocate for Veterans/family members–they have no clout!

      Same old same old…I hope you “hear” this General Shinsecki.

      Veterans and their family members have to put their hope in Internet sites such as VAWATCHDOGTODAY and HADIT to inform us about what the VA really is and is not doing!

      Veterans will need to come together as a large political body if they want their Voices to be heard; and my hope will be on this barrage of younger and more technology savvy Veterans.

      The days of excuses are coming to an end.

      BH
      Vetwife Advocate

      • Alex Horton says:

        Brenda, I’m not sure how many times I’ve responded to your comments, but there is no doubt I engage with you far more than anyone else. I’m not sure where you get your information, but we only have had one post that took more than a few minutes or hours to be approved once my editor gave the green light. And that single post was held because of pending legal questions about criticizing a private company. Other than that, not sure what you’re talking about.

        As far as the IT issues, we know. I don’t even have a writing degree, much less an IT degree. I am not an expert. My editor is not an expert. The man we hired to administer the blog is an expert, and he is on his way. He starts soon. There are things we want to do with the blog that we have neither the time, resources or ability to do until we get the right people in place.

        We respond to people who we can answer or if we can get that information to people who can. If you recall Deputy Undersecretary Pamperin’s piece, he responded to dozens of comments. I try my best to respond to comments, even though they’re sometimes complex, very long and sometimes simply pulled from other places like email. If you want my advice, leave short and to the point questions, not 10,000 word essays copied from message boards.

        You want a place to leave comments and criticism? Looks like you got it. I’m not sure what more I can do for you. I am a low grade public affairs civil servant like you said, but I, along with the blog staff, are doing our best. We have two writers (Kate and myself) and another that shares duties elsewhere (Lauren). A year ago it was unthinkable that an organization with a sometimes difficult public image would post criticisms of itself on an official page. Now we encourage such commentary. You want us to change overnight, and I do too. But these things take time. We’re doing our part, but I can’t walk into the Jupiter Vet Center (remember when I called for you?) and demand they treat Brenda Hayes and her husband better. I can’t make the people who clean medical equipment make sure they do the right procedure every time. If you can’t see the utility in what we do, not much more I can do to explain it.

        The irony of your comments are that you clearly have a place to voice your concerns. But there’s not enough hours in the day to research topics, track down people to interview, attend meetings, go to national events and still answer every single comment with the incredible amount of attention, thought and courtesy you demand, at least for two and a half writers. I have so little time to write during the week that I usually take my entire Sunday, off the clock, to do it. I don’t ask to be comped, because it’s my duty to you and everyone who reads these posts.

        I guess my point is this: we’re giving an effort for this to be successful, but if we try to fulfill everyone’s hopes and dreams, we’d end up spent, exhausted and disappointing everyone. I don’t expect everyone to find this blog useful, but I do expect people to have reasonable expectations.

        • Brenda Hayes says:

          Alex,

          Since I have no other email that I know works for you–you have my email; I, apparently, don’t have a working one for you. Thus,I will respond as follows:

          IMHO, Since you are being overly sensitive to criticism, let me remind you that it had not been minutes nor hours to have that post approved, as you stated. It was my post(s)and I am getting my information from “your” site.

          That was not the first time I had mentioned the “awaiting moderation” post.

          As well, sometime ago you gave me an answer that posts are usually placed on moderation if there was an email given; not anything else.

          As far as the reason you just gave for my post “awaiting moderation”, I thought the first amendment gave citizens the right to publicly critize an organization? Please be specific with your correction if I do not understand this amendment.

          My post was made on February 9 and still said, “awaiting moderation” as of last week!

          Was it reposted by your office with the “Awaiting Moderation” still on the post? I’ll go back and check and see if it has changed.

          I still am not sure how the VP Team plans on making this site work; will you (the Team) continue to answer or assist or was there any thought given to how Veterans/family members’s complaints, concerns, and/or issues which they are asking assistance will be dealth with? Will they be given to the Under Secretary under which they fall?

          If you remember, I asked you NOT to get involed in the Jupiter Vet Center situation; oh, by the way–my husband still did not get a return call nor neither did I!

          But, please know, my favorite VP team writer, I am highly appreciative for your attempted intervention, just because you did SOMETHING–as that was more than anyone else in the VA systems had done!! He nor I have not gotten a call from the West Palm Eye Clinic for an apptmt! Nor have I gotten a return call from the Patient Advocate at West Palm. Are you getting an idea of a lot of what the Veteran and family members experience??

          In addition, if you–the Team– have numerous other PR duties and thus the site had less importance; maybe, it should have waited to go online? I do think by going online expectations were raised. Absolutely yes, they are quite high for those of us who are “in the field” dealing with the unacceptable problems, attitudes, and issues across the board–VAMCs, Vet Centers, Claims, etc.

          It’s basic psychology that if any type of intervention is done and if it is perceived as positive in a dysfuctional system; expectations will naturally be raised!

          I continue to say–there is no place for Veterans and family members to go in the VA system; especially in the Central Office. There is no Ombudsman Program for such as I have just explained and the systems that are in place DON”T WORK.

          It appears they don’t have to work as there is no Central Office oversight! …and with No consequences; why should they have to work?

          Especially since everyone knows it takes an act of Congress to get a Federal employee fired! It’s those BAD apples that continue to give the VA bad press from their own clients.

          Also, I had asked if IRIS comes under VA PR? I even queried IRIS and they knew of NO NEW 800# for the VA HOTLINE?? And yet, I did speak with the supervisor of that new 800# several months ago and she said that they needed to get this information out to the Veteran Community regarding this #. Also, its been a long time since I have heard from IRIS as I responded back because it was not an adequate response–untimely and not sufficient.

          Apparently, since you–the VA’s PR team, seem to be relatively young and maybe have not had as much need to use the various VA systems and/or you (VP) have not encompassed any of the problems that you have gleaned from this blogsite; you really don’t get the frustration and the hopelessness of those for whom it’s supposed to be working. I support you in making it a mainstay to read VAWATCHDOGtoday; that site also has Veterans and family members that don’t mince words.

          Let me make myself clear as well–it’s not just about my Veteran and my problems; but a huge Veteran Community that continues to be told by Central Office through the PR/VP team and others “.. we are working on it.”

          Or, because there is no Central oversight, the programs and various systems or processes in place aren’t working or working with little or no quality; maybe the plan was that they really don’t plan on working; but they are listed and thus the Veteran/family members are supposed to believe that the VA truly cares and is doing something.

          I have made mention of several of them; Maybe I need to list them all in the Innovation Department Blog. Why bother to innovate when you have programs, people, and other processes that aren’t working? Does the VA think that if they keep on putting in “new” innovated Program with continuing little or no oversight that the Veteran Community will believe they work??? I think NOT.

          The VA cannot continue to believe that the Veteran Community will believe that they really care if the programs, people and proceses that exist don’t work.

          We are ALL from Missouri..The Show ME State!!

          When the Central Office puts someone in place (I don’t care if you call it an Ombudsman or not) to have Veterans/Family members voices not ONLY HEARD, but RESPONDED to and ACTED upon in a timely and efficient manner; then we might start to believe them.

          Promises made; Promises broken… and thus Trust has been broken.

          There an old axiom that states, “…Trust is the easiest thing to lose; and trust is also the hardest to get back!”

          Unless you have some factual information on where something like this is actually in the VA and that actually works; please pass that information on to all of us.

          If something is not within your “job description”– acknowledge it to yourself and to us (me); I have no problem with that; but the decision was made to do the blogsite; so you need to grow a thicker skin; or communicate what is and what is not working and/or a timeframe of when it can be fixed?

          It’s not OK for people to lose posts that they have given their time to be a part of this newly changed VA PR. IT support should have been mandatory for this site to begin.

          Besides me reposting a few other sites that offered valid facts and information for Vets; I have had other posts with questions that have gone unanswered whether it was by you, your Team, and/or other commentary authors. In fairness, either respond to all or none; selective answers seem somewhat discriminatory; and/or reeks of the same thing that Veterans/family members continue to have “in the field”. Ignore, deny…and they will go away!

          I reiterate; if you (VP) comment; do so with all; not a few.

          If valid questions are asked and you (VP) don’t have the answer(s) nor the time; Acknowledge and give the person who took the time and effort a reasonable time to get back with them.

          Alex, let me make myself perfectly clear. A place to voice concerns if they go unanswered is the same as what Veterans and family members continue to get outside of this blogsite. So, it makes it even more important that we (the bloggers) are treated equally, respectfully, and appreciatively.

          Maybe the VP needs to have a disclaimer on the home page!

          Please tell me what your(the VP) reasonable expectations are.

          Is this site designed, as other bloggers have intimated, for the VA PR or for the Veterans and their family members?

          I’ve also tried to give some design aspects to consider as I see this site as something that might get to Central Office to solve the problems, concerns, issues. Trust me; if they don’t get acknowledged, etc; it’s like “talking” to the VA wall!!

          As well, if General Shinsecki was not the Director of the VA; I wouldn’t be “wasting my time”; hoping that someone like him will see how Veterans/ family members feel, think, and specifically what they are upset about and start to make REAL changes; not happy talk!!!

          As of yet, I still believe in him and his concern for his Veterans and their family members; but he needs to let us know that he KNOWS we aren’t happy and acknowledge wny we aren’t happy. The Director needs to communicate with us about how He is going to make changes in the Central Office’s lack of oversight; after all, the BUCK stops with him; not Mr. Pamperin, or the other Under Secretarys, or Asssistant Secretaries, or Directors of this and that!!

          As well, if there is no intention from the VA (VP) that this is part of the reason it was designed; so be it. Just be honest!

          Remember: the Veteran/family members are the customers!!!!

          Appreciatively….AND respectfully,

          BH

          P.S. You might try the little white pill; they usually work for my Vet; but it might cut down on your creative writing process; so don’t take them and I’ll just deal with your “ITIS”; but expect, I will not be silent!

          • Alex Horton says:

            Brenda, you’re confused about the difference between a blog, a post and a comment. VAntage Point is a blog and I am a blogger that writes blog posts. You are a commenter that writes comments. When you said, “When you can’t get a blog approved for almost a month…” you meant a comment that you wrote. That’s not a blog. Comments are automatically approved. We don’t have to do anything. But our spam filters catch those posts that contain email addresses and several links, which are trademarks of spam. The post you’re talking about went in the queue because it had seven links, but also a personal email address. We don’t allow email addresses to be posted unless authorized by the user of the email. I don’t think you’d want your email address plastered in the comments section somewhere. Usually when this happens and it just has a few links, I’ll just manually approve. But frankly, extraordinarily long comments are unacceptable. They make the page load longer and hijack the discussion. It looks sloppy. Not that you can’t have substantive comments, but the comment you’re talking about is almost 1,500 words. It’s too much. I have hidden (not deleted) comments from other users that are as long or longer. They usually don’t add to the discussion since they’re just copied from somewhere else. If you want to reference a work somewhere else, provide a link. If our filter catches it because of the link, I will manually approve. You might be used to message boards, but most blogs don’t allow abuse of the comment section by allowing excessive posts. We have no formal policy in place for comment length (I want to see a maximum put in place), so for now we use discretion.

            Also, I want to address what you said about the Jupiter Vet Center. You never asked me not to call. I still have the emails if you would like me to forward them to you.

            I’ve been the veteran who thought angrily, “VA just doesn’t get it! They’re incompetent and lazy and don’t care that I served in a war.” So what you say about me not understanding holds no merit. I was in the military, got out and had difficulties with VA services just like your husband and I imagine every veteran, at some point. That might work on the old lady that checks people in at the medical center, or the young doctor fresh out of med school, but I almost got thrown out of my apartment because my GI Bill payment was very late. I work here because I want to make sure people receive information that I didn’t, and I don’t forget that.

            We can do better at answering comments. It’s difficult, but it’s part of the responsibility. We can also do better at getting those questions answered by the professionals. But you must understand the dynamic between this team and the other 299,997 employees. If we get a question, say, about VA home loans and forward it on, there’s no guarantee that A) That person knows about the blog or understands how it works B) Can shift priorities to take the question C) That person will just ignore or lose it. Sadly, human beings in offices work on the capital system, and asking for any time or effort demands something in return. Also, not many people care I work on the blog. I’ve sent plenty of questions across VA that go unanswered, just like you. People are out of the office, on travel, away from their desk, working on a deadline, etc. People make the mistake that technology makes communication effortless. Humans are still involved. I learned that the first week, when I said to someone here, “Maybe you can help..” and he cut me off immediately and laughed. I’d like everyone to care and help, but that’s not realistic. Many VA employees are old curmudgeons and don’t know or don’t care about what we do. They try their best to avoid it and provide the least amount of help as possible. Can’t blame them, but understand the environment we work in.

            I’ll tell you right now that I’m not going to respond to every comment. I simply don’t have that much time (and I’ve spent considerable time responding twice to you, along with other responses, a phone call on your behalf and personal emails). But we read them all. Once we get new members of the team and maybe an intern or two, we can lessen our work load and open more time to answering comments. I’m already desperate for time to write. That’s why I take my work home on the weekends and work for you and 24 million veterans for free. I don’t ask for that time back. Lauren has a terribly large work load and Kate is brand new, so that leaves me with thousands of comments to manage. Until we get more people, I’m just like the kid with a finger in the dam. If you would like to make a complaint to Brandon about my performance, you have the email to our shared inbox, but again it’s newmedia@va.gov – I’m sure you, him and I will all agree that I could do a better job with comments.

            You tried to give design suggestions, and you succeeded. We need a place where people can make general comments and ask questions. I agree. We’ll try to come up with something when the blog admin gets here. Doing something about the feedback we get was one of the selling points of the blog, but we have to get our workload to a manageable level first. It’s the hierarchy of needs. We want to do it, realize it has to be done and understand people want it. It’s going to happen, and we discussed it as late as yesterday afternoon. But it can’t be done with sending one email or pushing a button.

            Lastly, I don’t think it helps anyone to say silly stuff like “you might try the little white pill.” It makes light of serious issues people have. Don’t be surprised I spoke frankly and didn’t roll over (like you seem to expect VA employees to do). That’s the point of the blog.

            We both said our piece, and I don’t want to keep this going on in the comments section. If you’d like to respond, please send an email. You have the address.

        • Brenda Hayes says:

          Alex,

          In case you missed this as it was posted on the Mental Health blog.

          Again, another high expectation, although not unreasonable; and one that also went unanswered.

          I think I also asked in another post are they going to open up the VA’s Meet the Media (with the Director, etc.) to Veterans/Family members; no response as of yet.

          Just FYI

          BH
          **************************************************************************

          Dan
          February 25th, 2011 I was just wondering….

          Do people that have the power, influence and/or position to change this disparity really read these posts, and if so, do they really care? I for one, would love to hear from someone that has the potential to make a difference from the top down. Perhaps someone beyond the scope of the “grass roots” struggle.

          It was just a thought…

          [Reply]

  4. Tifany Hill says:

    Thank you Ms. McClenney and I will check out the site. I am a veteran as well, so this is dear to my heart. I invite you all to join my site http://www.peopleunite.us and maybe we can set up a webinar to discuss the what we have found out about the center. Or maybe Ms. McClenney wouldn’t mind just giving a quick overview via webinar. My site has the capability of doing that. It is a cross between Facebook and Myspace, but for adults only. I designed it myself, so spread the word.

  5. adult book says:

    Not a staff member (though also a taxpayer). I do work for VA, but an entirely different department (Office of Research and Development).

    I did’t know if anyone from the Center was monitoring the comments (they seem to do a pretty good job on the main blog, but with the guests posts I’m wasn’t so sure) and I was also curious to learn more about the center, so when I found the site I thought I’d post the link, to be helpful.

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