Author's Name: William (Bill) Elmore
Title: "Vietnam Veterans Self Help"In 1973, returned Vietnam and Era veterans from seven area Schools, Colleges and Universities created their own self help, "one stop" Veterans Service Center (VSC) at 2133 North and South Road in Vinita Park. Over a period of 4 years, more than 500 veterans and family members sought and received free assistance ranging from help finding employment, to emergency food and discharge review assistance, to answers regarding exposure to Agent Orange, and small business start up assistance, etc., etc., etc. All delivered in coordination with numerous organizations ranging from the American Legion to the Urban League to the American Red Cross, to the VA, to the Missouri Veterans Commission, the National Archives, Washington University and many others. In 1977, as principal volunteers at the VSC were graduating from College, the first of more than 50 grants were secured that totaled more than $5,000,000 over a period of some 20 years from funding sources as diverse as the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, the National Council of Churches, the US Department of Labor, the VA, FEMA, the State of Missouri and the US Small Business Administration.
During those 20 years, approximately 15,000 veterans and family members received services coordination and direct assistance from VSC staff and volunteers. Over those same 20+ years, principals and staff from VSC connected with numerous other self help veteran organizations around the nation (like Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, or PAVE in Vermont), and began to specifically affect and initiate public policy change, including founding the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in DC, creating the first transitional housing program for homeless veterans in the USA on the grounds of a VA Hospital (Jefferson Barracks), and drafting federal legislation creating multi billion dollar program initiatives by VA, HHS and FEMA. We helped VA create the national Vet Center program in 1979/80, we coordinated what became the Agent Orange Class action lawsuit against Monsanto, Dow, Diamond Shamrock and other US chemical producing giants. We initiated and designed what became the rebirth of resources for and attention to US veteran entrepreneurs that now total some $1.5 trillion a year in economic output in the American economy. We initiated and sponsored Veterans Nights at Bush Stadium and the Arena, we built memorials, organized VET Jam at JB, we responded to numerous media inquiries to help present a more balanced and honest view of Vietnam veterans, we organized the largest gathering of Vietnam veterans in America before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built in DC near Springfield Missouri in 1981. We did contract work for various White Houses, and we managed a National Clearinghouse of Successful Program Models for the US Department of Labor, all quietly, without much fanfare and almost all through word of mouth to the veterans community looking for assistance. We are now mostly retired (or dead), but we continue to provide emergency gap filling assistance to veterans and their families, coordinate and provide a homeless veterans Christmas Dinner that dates back to the early 1990s, participate in various veterans events locally, provide free business counseling to young disabled and women veteran entrepreneurs at Syracuse University and Mizzou, and work to ensure that veterans voices are heard in the program and policy making venues in Jefferson City and Washington DC. BTW, we also have an unorganized archive of all of this work both locally and nationally. including rare and historical video.