MOAA’s board chairman opened up the 2021 Annual Meeting on Oct. 15 in Arlington, Va., by celebrating the organization’s achievements in the past year, noting it “continues to be the preeminent military advocacy group in the country.”
For the 14th consecutive year, MOAA was recognized by The Hill newspaper as one of the top lobbying associations in the country, Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, USA (Ret), told a gathering of members and staff, pleased to be meeting in person after many virtual events over the past year-plus.
“We are the only veteran and military organization so recognized,” he said.
Following Sharp’s remarks, MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), discussed the organization’s accomplishments of the past year and aspirations for the next – focusing on advocacy, membership, and the resumption of live events.
“Over the past year we have witnessed several instances where the men and women of our uniformed services have performed heroically in support of vital national security interests of the United States.” Atkins said. “Their Herculean efforts are deserving of our legislative advocacy commitment, emergency relief assistance, financial education efforts, and career transition support.”
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Atkins thanked Goldman Sachs and the communications team for their production of videos highlighting the difference the organization has made – especially with legislative advocacy successes, The MOAA Foundation’s philanthropic efforts, the long-serving MOAA Scholarship Program, and community engagement of the more than 400 councils and chapters.
Despite the pandemic causing legislative advocacy efforts to be conducted virtually, MOAA has continued to work with key leaders from the Pentagon, the VA, the Biden Administration and Capitol Hill. With Advocacy in Action alone, MOAA contacted all 535 congressional offices, sent more than 20,000 messages, and held at least 350 virtual meetings.
Atkins assured members MOAA would continue to prioritize toxic exposure reform, needed TRICARE Young Adult Program changes, concurrent receipt, and Arlington National Cemetery eligibility, among many other legislative efforts. Membership stands at 351,000, Atkins said, with a variety of new initiatives to encourage further renewals and first-time membership to be unveiled before the end of the year. He also introduced new and improved avenues for member engagement, marketing, and delivering member value – encouraging members to anticipate more engagement from MOAA via webinars, social media, podcasts, and on mainstream websites.
Meanwhile, Atkins showcased how past changes have led to quantifiable growth, offering examples such as a significant increase in digital advertising, a 25 percent uptick in year-over-year pageviews at MOAA.org, and increased participation in MOAA’s educational webinar series.
In addition to the annual meeting – which was available to members virtually along with those who attended in observance of COVID-19 protocols – other events included the board’s approval of MOAA’s new five-year Strategic Plan, a keynote speech from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough and a tour of the National Museum of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Va. An awards dinner commended the hard work of chapter members and MOAA affiliates from across the country, with the presentation of Levels of Excellence Awards as well as individual honors:
- Col. Lee Lange, USMC (Ret), legislative chair, Arizona Council of Chapters, and legislative liaison, Arizona Chapter, received this year’s Colonel Steve Strobridge Legislative Chair/Liaison Award.
- Sharon Douglas, surviving spouse liaison of the Arizona Council of Chapters, and Donna Martin, surviving spouse liaison of the Greater Birmingham (Ala.) Chapter, received this year’s Surviving Spouse Liaison Excellence Award from MOAA’s Surviving Spouse Advisory Council.
Two chapter-related seminars, the Chapter Leader Roundtable and Spouses and Surviving Spouses Summit, were offered and attended by members, including Col. Boyd Nix, USAF (Ret), and his wife Sharon.
After attending the latter event, Mrs. Nix found it offered “all kinds of very realistic advice” not only on pressing topics such as financial preparation, but also on more subtle issues such as “how do you declutter a house?”
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Both Col. and Mrs. Nix were pleased the roundtable addressed chapter recruitment, as they are eager to share with new people the aspects that they personally found most rewarding. Both remarked on how rewarding they found presenting JROTC recipients with awards and scholarships as part of chapter outreach efforts.
As always, the members were celebrated as the most important part of MOAA, and the volunteer leaders of our council and chapter system were saluted for their dedication to the association.
“The most important thing is they gave up their personal time and energy,” Sharp said. “And they don't do that just to come here once a year. They do it all year long.”
Special thanks to Fleet Landing, our annual meeting's lead sponsor, and to all our partners.