2019 Winners

My name is Quaid Cavallin, and I am a senior at the University of La Crosse, WI.  I will be graduating in December of 2019 with a degree Biomedical Science and a minor in Chemistry.

I would like to thank the Northland Vietnam Memorial Association for awarding me one of the 2019 scholarships.  It has been a great privilege to interview so many wonderful Vietnam veterans over the years, and I have learned so much about the Vietnam War itself.   I think my greatest reward through this process though, is a deeper understanding and respect for the men and women who fought in it.

Thank you to all the Vietnam Veterans who have helped make this scholarship possible. I am forever grateful.

My name is Quaid Cavallin, and I am a senior at the University of La Crosse, WI.  I will be graduating in December of 2019 with a degree Biomedical Science and a minor in Chemistry.

My brother was in the Air National Guard. During his time in the guard, he deployed to Norway, Alaska and Kuwait.  On his return from Kuwait last summer, I was part of the “fanfare welcome” held at the base.  The media was there, decorations were hung, families gathered, and applause was had as these soldiers disembarked from the plane. Today, these fanfare welcomes are held around the nation when soldiers return from overseas deployments.  During his time in the Guard, my brother also attended college and earned a degree in engineering; paying for college using the military tuition reimbursement program. 

And, this past October, my brother bought his first home using a VA loan.   All of these milestones for my brother were made possible through VA benefits he received as a veteran.

It is estimated that there are 57,000 homeless veterans in America today. (Ted Rand)  As staggering as this statistic may sound, I believe, and research supports, that we are doing more for Veterans today, than in any other time in history.  My Grandfather, a Vietnam Era veteran himself would agree with this.  He served in the Navy for 28 years, and also served as Lake County Veterans Service Officer for 20 years. He worked with Veterans from wars such as WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  I could not think of a better person to interview this year when asked the question if we are treating Veterans better today than ever before.  My Grandpa feels we are.  He talked with me about his years as a Veterans Service Officer, and explained how the job was a natural fit for him after serving as an active duty Naval Corpsman.  He said that having a medical background was very beneficial in preparing claims for Veterans and their families.  It required compassion and patience, as too often, getting these veterans to talk about their experiences was very painful.  He also told me that early on, the VA often denied claims, but eventually it did get better.   He stated that documentation was key, and in the 1970’s a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, Missouri destroyed over 250,000 medical records, which was a huge loss for veterans who needed such documentation.  Today, medical records are automated, and claims are processed more quickly. 

Medical treatment facilities for veterans, and access to them has been one of the greatest improvements over the years that my Grandpa spoke about.  He told me there are more medical facilities today, and that the VA has made several strides to provide new programs relating to health care for veterans, allowing them treatment closer to their homes. 

Benefits for Veterans started long ago.  Benefits such as pensions for disabled soldiers were established after the Revolutionary War. After WWI, there were such things as medical facilities, assistance programs, veterans homes, disability compensation, and vocational rehabilitation established for veterans. (www.history.com/new/veterans-affairs-histroy-va-pension-facts)  

And finally after WWII, new benefits were added, such as VA loans and the GI Bill.    (Military Times)  

Veterans today are well educated about the commonly known benefits such as Tricare and the GI Bill.  But today, we provide even more benefits than ever to veterans and their families.  Benefits such as: Long-term Care, Death Benefits, Certification Programs, Life Insurance, and the Transferring GI Bill, to name a few.  The Transferring GI bill was established in 2007, allowing veterans who did not use their GI bill to transfer it to their spouses or children.  Just one year late for me though, as my dad retired from the military in 2006!

Along with more benefits, I feel we honor our veterans better today.  I saw this first hand at my brother’s homecoming.  But this is also finally true for our Vietnam Veterans as well.  President Trump recently signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, establishing the National Vietnam War Veterans Day, celebrated every March 29th.  Also, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, “The Wall”,  plays a significant role in honoring of our Vietnam vets. The Wall pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of the more than 58,000 Americans whose names are on it. (Military Times).

In closing, I have had the privilege of interviewing many Vietnam veterans over the years. Sadly none of them received anything close to the “fanfare homecoming” my brother did.  As we all know, returning from Vietnam was quite the opposite.  I have learned from their personal stories the real effects the Vietnam War had on them, both mentally and physically. We can’t roll back the clock and change history, but I believe we are doing more today, for our Vietnam veterans, and all our veterans, than in any other time in history.

Dear Northland Vietnam Veteran Memorial Foundation Scholarship Committee,

            I want to thank you for awarding me the NVVA Memorial Foundation Scholarship this year. I am beyond grateful and honored to have been chosen as one of the recipients of this award, and your gift will go a long way in helping me pursue by Business Management Degree at Northland College.

I also wanted to say thank you again for the experience this scholarship offered. Because of it, I had conversations I would not have had otherwise, and I gained a greater appreciation for the Vietnam veteran experience which is seldom spoken about. Preparing my essay and meeting you all at the ceremony gave me a greater insight and respect for our veterans past and present, and the experience is one I will always be thankful for.

 Thank you again.


Kelsie Shields

Kelsie Shields

NVVA Scholarship

Care for Vietnam Veterans and the Importance of a Thank You

Not long ago I sat in a car dealership while I waited for my tires to be changed for the summer. On the wall across from me, in bold black letters against the sea of blue read, “Thank you veterans, for your service.” It is a common statement, one I have read and heard often. As I thought about this essay I wondered whether it had always been so commonplace, and what were individuals, who had often sacrificed so much, given besides that phrase?

The care of our veterans goes back to the Plymouth colony that decided disabled soldiers should be cared for by the settlement. The level of care has only increased through the years. The Department of Veterans Affairs was established in 1930, and care for veterans has evolved with the country itself, now encompassing health care, educational benefits, and more. According to the VA website, the United States now has a more “comprehensive system of assistance” for veterans than any other country in the world.

But what about personal experiences within that system? It is no secret that Vietnam was a war many disapproved of. Conversations about the war often brings up stories of veterans being spit on after returning home and tales of a draft that brought many young men to flee the country or, in the least, develop distrust and resentment for the government that sent them.

I talked to Vietnam veteran, John Kovach and his son Dan Kovach who is an Iraq combat veteran. Both agreed that the U.S. has improved its care for veterans, but as Dan explained, there has always been a lag between soldiers returning home and them receiving the care they need. Every war era is different and the type and level of care that those returning require changes each time. This specifically was the case for Vietnam. John spoke of Agent Orange and how the revelation behind the effects of the chemical was not instantaneous; it has taken years for assistance reflecting the chemical’s repercussions to be established, and this is only one example of the struggles Vietnam veterans have faced.

Culturally, the Kovachs agreed that our country has gotten better at catering to the needs of vets, but as Dan explained, that learning curve came largely at the cost of Vietnam veterans. Out of all veterans, Vietnam vets have the lowest participation rates in veteran organizations. This has been explained in part by resentment many Vietnam veterans feel from their treatment during and after the war. Care is only one part, veterans need to feel appreciated and deserving of these resources and benefits. This is what can always use improving. Looking back at that statement written on a car dealership wall, I realize how important it really is. We were meant to learn from history, and if we are thankful for veterans’ service and demonstrate it through action, the care given to our veterans will continue to improve.