2015 Annual Meeting Recap

2015 Community Heroes Award Dinner
Annual Meeting of the Membership
Chairman's Luncheon
Council and Chapter Roundtable
Levels of Excellence Award Dinner

2015 Community Heroes Award Dinner

Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., USAF (Ret), chair of MOAA’s board of directors, with help from surprise-guest Mickey Mouse, welcomed more than 500 guests to MOAA’s fifth annual Community Heroes Award dinner Friday, Oct. 30 in Orlando, Fla., during the association’s annual meeting. The event includes the presentation of the MOAA Military Family National Service Award and the Community Heroes Award, which recognizes both individuals and groups — this year from the Central Florida area — who exemplify service to the wounded military and veterans’ populations.

Robertson introduced the evening’s master of ceremonies, Lee Woodruff, whose husband, Bob, was severely injured in a roadside bomb injury in Iraq. Together the couple has chronicled Bob’s road to recovery through the best-selling book In an Instant and on TV and radio. Additionally, they founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation to assist wounded servicemembers and their families with receiving the long-term care they need to help them successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Woodruff welcomed keynote speaker Gen. Dennis L. Via, USA, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. “Having worn the uniform for 35 years,” Via said, “I appreciate what MOAA does and stand in awe of tonight’s outstanding awardees.” He told the audience that award ceremonies like the Community Heroes Award dinner are his favorite to attend because they serve two purposes: they recognize the recipients and they provide inspiration of what one person can do for their communities and nation. “Serving those [who] serve takes extraordinary work. … [The award recipients] all saw a need out in the veterans’ community and volunteered to help,” Via said. “Yours is truly a noble calling … and embody MOAA’s motto: never stop serving.”

Following dinner, Woodruff introduced Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), recipient of the MOAA Military Family National Service Award. “Bonnie embodies the best of what it means to be an American,” Woodruff said. Carroll created TAPS following the death of her husband, Army Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, in a C-12 plane crash in 1992. The program provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, casualty casework assistance, and crisis intervention for all those affected by the death of a loved one serving in, or in support of, the armed forces. During her remarks, Carroll said her husband was her hero and if he was here, he’d say, “Life is often unfair and difficult to understand. We’re all living on borrowed time. Cherish each moment you have.”

Woodruff then recognized this year’s seven Community Heroes Award recipients:

Canine Companions of Independence; Fish With a Hero; Operation Helping Hand; The Wounded Warriors of South Florida; Lt. Col. Carol Barkalow, USA (Ret), who started and runs Heaven on Earth for Veterans; Roy Foster, founder of the nonprofit Faith*Hope*Love*Charity Inc.; and Sandi Scannelli, president and CEO of Community Foundation for Brevard. (Read their full bios at www.moaa.org/hero.) Each award recipient received a framed original print of “Peace Through Peers” by artist M.B. Dallacchio, who served as a medic, mental health sergeant, and retention NCO in the U.S. Army for eight years.

The event concluded with music from Operation Encore, a collaboration of singer-songwriters from across the military and veterans’ community whose goal is to bring veterans together to tell their stories through music.  

Annual Meeting of the Membership 

The 2015 Annual Meeting of the Membership opened with a welcome from Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., USAF (Ret), chair of MOAA’s board of directors, who then called the meeting to order. Following an invocation from MOAA national chaplain Col. Robert Certain, USAFR (Ret), and the pledge of allegiance, Maj. Gen. Joe Lynch, USAF (Ret), MOAA general counsel; Robertson; and MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), gave their reports. Robertson highlighted the growth of MOAA — to more than 390,000 members; the efforts of the Government Relations team to protect the earned benefits of the military; and the strength of the chapter and council system. “The chapter and council system is the heart and soul of what MOAA is about,” he said.

Ryan mentioned several recent changes, including the MOAA logo refresh, the redesigned website, and the new tagline “Never Stop Serving,” which he said he is especially proud of. He also discussed the association’s legislative accomplishments but cautioned next year will be a challenge on Capitol Hill, with continued pay and health care threats. “You never will win everything in Washington, but you never give up,” Ryan said. He also emphasized how MOAA doesn’t just point out what’s wrong but offers solutions to fix the problem, citing the recently established VA Commission on Care, for which MOAA advocated. Additionally, Ryan highlighted some of the association’s member products and services, including the VA claims-assistance program, career transition services, caregiver support, the MOAA Scholarship Fund, the MOAA Military Family Initiative, and insurance products and offering.

Ryan ended his briefing by announcing his successor, Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret), whose appointment as president and CEO of MOAA will begin Jan. 4, 2016.

The meeting concluded after members had the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments.

Chairman’s Luncheon

Vice Adm. Sean Pybus, USN, deputy commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), discussed the evolution of special operations during the Chairman’s Luncheon Oct. 31. Pybus said special operations is “evolving at a frantic pace” and today could be a 20 year old in front of computer. He said SOCOM is working to look at what might be applicable for the command decades from now. Pybus also highlighted the current efforts of special operations, citing the approximately 8,000 serving in more than 80 countries, including several thousand in Afghanistan on an advise and assist mission. “We think [Afghanistan] is an important place,” he said. “We’re optimistic about the plans we have in place,” pointing out the timeline for SOCOM missions is 10 to 15 years. He also voiced his appreciation for the minimal effect sequestration has had on special operations compared to other areas of the military and said while the command saw only small cuts it also isn’t growing.

He concluded by thanking MOAA, saying, “We know someone has our backs, working issues that affect us today, tomorrow, or the next year.”    

Council and Chapter Roundtable

MOAA council and chapter leaders attended a roundtable session Oct. 31 where they learned about the accomplishments of the affiliate system over the past year, updates to programs, and resources available to them.

Lt. Col. Edward Marvin, USAF (Ret), MOAA board member and chair of the Council and Chapter Affairs Committee, opened the session by echoing a sentiment said earlier in the day: “The council and chapter system is the heart and soul of the association.” He went on to thank outgoing MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), and his wife, Judy, for their dedication to MOAA chapters.

Col. Barry Wright, USA (Ret), director of MOAA’s Council and Chapter Affairs Department, then offered attendees a snapshot of the council and chapter system, including:

  • 31 councils and 411 chapters;
  • 16 satellite chapters;
  • a new chapter in Traverse City, Mich.;
  • 25,000 new email addresses gained over three years that can be shared with affiliates;
  • 2,000 new chapter members recruited in 2015; and
  • 164 Levels of Excellence Award winners for 2014.

Wright reviewed updates to the chapter recruiting program and changes to Levels of Excellence Award criteria. He also discussed resources available to councils and chapters, including the recently updated Council and Chapter Policies and Procedures Guide, redesigned MOAA website, and plans for more online training and webinars. “We try to make your life easier,” Wright said, “especially with chapter management.”

Wright also highlighted key dates within the Council and Chapters Affairs Department, emphasizing the new deadline for 2015 Levels of Excellence Award submissions is March 1, 2016.

Numerous attendees commented about the challenge of recruiting younger members. Wright said when chapters ask, “How do I attract more currently serving?” and “How do I ask them to join?” he responds by asking three questions:

  • What is your chapter mission?
  • Do you have an elevator speech?
  • Do you practice/role play these scenarios?

“It’s all personal,” he reminded attendees. “National MOAA has many resources available to guide chapters with recruiting, but you need to personalize your efforts for your communities.”

Levels of Excellence Award Dinner

More than 140 council and chapter leaders and their spouses, along with members of the national staff and board of directors, gathered Oct. 31 for the 2015 Levels of Excellence Award dinner. MOAA’s affiliates compete annually to receive a four- or five-star Levels of Excellence Award, with the very best councils and chapters receiving five-star awards, and above-average councils and chapters receiving four-star awards.

Lt. Col. Edward Marvin, USAF (Ret), MOAA board member and chair of the Council and Chapter Affairs Committee, introduced President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), who welcomed attendees. Following dinner, Ryan introduced keynote speaker and board of directors Chair Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., USAF (Ret), who thanked participants for implementing MOAA’s missions at the local level.

“Councils and chapters continue to be the bedrock of our organization,” Robertson told council and chapter leaders. “When we want something done right and done right now, you are the members we turn to. You are the face of MOAA in our communities.”

Robertson thanked Ryan, who will retire in January 2016, for his service to MOAA. He then presented Ryan with an appreciation award on the behalf of council and chapter members.

The awards ceremony started with the presentation of the 2015 Auxiliary Liaison/Surviving Spouse Excellence Award to Joan Perry, surviving spouse liaison for the Grand Strand (S.C.) Chapter. Perry was recognized for her outstanding work to support surviving spouses and for the volunteer work she does in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area.

The Minnesota Chapter, led by president CW2 Rita Cox, USA (Ret), was recognized as the Top-Recruiting Chapter of the Year, and its membership chair, Col. John D. Abrahamson, USA (Ret), received Chapter Recruiter of the Year. Abrahamson has been the driving force behind the chapter’s highly successful direct-mail campaign that has increased chapter membership from 300 to more than 1,100 members.

Lt. Col. Raymond B. Russell Jr., USA (Ret), received the inaugural Col. Steve Strobridge Award for his outstanding leadership and service as the legislative chair for the New Jersey Lakes and Pines Chapter and the New Jersey Council of Chapters. Russell is known for his relentless advocacy efforts in support of MOAA’s legislative agenda. At the state level, his perseverance and leadership helped win the fight to exempt servicemembers’s retired pay and Survivor Benefit Plan payments from state income tax.

Four- and five-star streamers then were presented to more than 140 winners of MOAA’s annual Levels of Excellence Award contest. The event concluded with members standing, singing, and clapping their hands as the hymn for each service branch played.