Why I Joined the National Association for Black Veterans

By John L. Mustain

It happened by pure chance. While attending the Kentucky State Fair with thousands of people in attendance, I noticed two ladies wearing black berets and a yellow, black, and white flash that read, "NABVETS: Positive Lifestyle For Veterans". Being that I am a veteran and was at the fair looking for veterans as part of my work at the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana, I was immediately interested in learning more about who they were and what they represented.

I approached them and apologized for interrupting what they were doing, but I had to know what NABVETS was. With huge smiles and very cordial demeanors they not only explained to me about NABVETS was, but they walked me to a large meeting room and introduced me to the Kentucky State NABVETS Commander, SGM (Retired) Irvin Lyons, Jr. I noticed the SGM's passion for veterans immediately. He talked with me about NABVETS and was extremely interested in the work I was doing with veterans. SGM Lyons then introduced me to the NABVETS Region 6 Commander, Shedrick Jones, Sr., and several other NABVETS members present. Before I left, Commanders Lyons and Jones exchanged business cards with me with the promise of staying in touch.

Not long after the State Fair ended, SGM Lyons contacted me about the possibility of my going to Radcliff, KY and making a presentation to NABVETS Chapter 70 about the increased risk of Post Traumatic Epilepsy in veterans, and particularly about the increased risk in black veterans. Little did I know then that at that meeting I would become so impressed with NABVETS that I would want to join the organization.

At the meeting I noticed something special: everyone there was deeply concerned about helping veterans live an improved lifestyle. The meeting opened with a prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the NABVETS Creed. I was introduced to the members and made my presentation. After entertaining several questions from the members, what followed was something absolutely amazing.

I am a member of several Veteran Service Organizations which contribute greatly to the overall well-being of veterans especially on the national level, but on the local level there isn't much really going on. For most of the organizations, meetings consist of drinking adult beverages, telling war stories, and remembering the old times. I have attended literally hundreds of these meetings over the years and always felt like something was missing, although I could never really put my finger on exactly what. Being a person who is passionate about helping my brother and sister veterans, I became discouraged and stopped attending any meetings of any Veteran Service Organization. I just found them unproductive.

NABVETS Chapter 70 changed my whole concept of Veteran Service Organizations in only one meeting. The business meeting following my presentation was filled with discussions about various veterans in their area and how they can help them. They discussed upcoming events aimed at veterans. They discussed veterans in the nursing homes. Everything they talked about was about veterans and how they could be involved in helping them. Finally, the meeting closed with a salute to the Flag and a prayer.

As I drove home that night, I could hardly contain my excitement. I had found a Veteran Service Organization that was focused on veterans and was personally involved in making a positive difference in veterans' lives. There was just one problem: I am white and NABVETS is an organization for people of color…or so I thought. I called SGM Lyons. "Do you think I would be able to join NABVETS," I asked. The SGM replied, "Of course! That is why it called the National Association for Black Veterans, not of Black Veterans. We care about all veterans, we don't care what color they are." I was elated! Upon my arrival home, I went on the Internet and joined NABVETS.

I am proud to be a member of NABVETS. I am glad to be working closely with such a great organization of wonderful people. An organization of people who do not judge me by my ethnicity or lack thereof, but instead value me as a human, a veteran, and a fellow servant to our American Heroes. I am only a single piece of the NABVETS puzzle, and I will be for the rest of my life.

John L. Mustain, MSSW
Director of Veteran Outreach Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana

Contact John at:
Kosair Charities Centre
928 Eastern Pkwy
Louisville, KY 400217
By phone: Office - 502.637.4440, Ext.16 / Toll Free - 866.275.1078 / Fax - 502.637.4442 / Cell - 502.544.5926
Web sites: Operation Outreach Program | Facebook | Kentucky Veteran of the Year | Epilepsy Foundation Kentuckiana

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