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A Board Member Responds to the Open Letter

I am not as eloquent as some Board Members, so I won’t try to be.

I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Beirut Veterans of America by the membership on October 22, 2012, at the Annual Meeting.  Although not quite in order, the members also elected me as Chair.  This vote was affirmed by the Board days later.  We had three basic goals: Reform the ‘association’ as a legally recognized corporation; obtain IRS 501(c)3 not-for-profit status; and start a scholarship program.  We have accomplished those goals. Oh yeah, and protect our logo! 

Although a new Board Member told me personally, as did Michael Gaines, I should stay, I find it is time to fade away.

I wrote the new By-laws a new Board Member finds so lacking, and I have led this Corporation for almost the past 11 years. Now, that Board Member who admittedly hasn’t ever been involved with the BVA, would like to besmirch my character, and my integrity, and shape a ‘new’ Board in his image.  I wish him well, and with his knowledge and experience, I look forward to arriving at where he sees he will drive us.

This is not an attack on that new Board Member at all.  Nor is this an attack on Michael Gaines – I love and respect Michael dearly, and we can all learn so much from him.  The difference, to my perception, is Michael left when he felt it was necessary, and is determined to effectuate change from the membership up, and from the outside so to speak.  Our new Board Member, however, pulled the pin on the grenade and threw it in the Board Room!  In his defense, he closed the door behind him and stayed in the room with us all.  That grenade, in fact the many grenades he has thrown into the room, figuratively took out the Board, in less than six months.

The current Bylaws were presented to the body, and shortly after that annual meeting, they were posted, and all were encouraged to read them, and suggest any changes, additions and edits… none ever came. At the next annual meeting they were unanimously adopted by the members then present at the meeting.  My opinion?  Not perfect, but they served us well… until November 2022.

On the one hand, our Bylaws allow the members the power to act, according to our new Board Member, yet on the other hand they are worthless.  We are accused of not having a vetting process or onboarding.  Should we have “vetted” The Major?  Randy?  Doc? Craig? Don?  And so many others, like Lt. Dolphin, whose Board seat Michael Gaines was voted to assume, on my nomination, and in contravention to our Bylaws – the Bylaws I wrote and those the Members approved, unanimously.  Yes, the power lies in the Members, where it should, but this really isn’t about Bylaws or procedures, is it?  It’s about a lawsuit.  I worked with Glenn on the Board until his demise, and thoroughly enjoyed his companionship and treasured his counsel – I also thought he wrote an excellent book, but I did not serve with him as a Marine.

Recently, we required a nomination, acceptance of the nomination, then a minor vetting process, and a vote by you, the members.  Michael would like to add a disclosure statement, which is acceptable, and I’m not opposed to that.  Our new Board Member wants a thorough vetting to include background checks, contact with former employers (?), and a review of their education?  So, we’re going from those members most of us know that want to help and show up at meetings, to an FBI-style vetting… okay, if that’s what the body wants.

The BVA President and Vice-President joined a lawsuit against Iran.  I can argue until I’m blue in the face how the Special Master and Judge got “facts” wrong, but none of that matters to many, it’s about perception, I get it.

So, on November 6, 2022, a special Board Meeting was called, without the President or Vice-President in attendance.  After discussion, the motion was made and duly seconded to remove them both from their positions.  The motion failed.  This is the epitome of Bylaws in action (and, pray tell, democracy!).

Michael decided he would resign and seek to rectify what he perceived as a mistake from the outside.  He agreed to remain as ‘webmaster.’  Our new Board Member decided to attack from within.  Other than the motion to remove failing, no facts have been presented on other failures.  Sure, a vision for the future is great, and we had started that with the scholarships.  We’ve asked for help and ideas for decades… Our newest Board Member has been a member since 2013, yet never attended a meeting, asked questions of the Board, or offered ideas or assistance.  Before Michael introduced him to me, I’d only seen him on the internet??  It was, in fact, rare any actual suggestions were presented.  Yes, we’d like there to be pure camaraderie, and yes, we fought hard to not have versus the BVA. But there were always disagreements, and perceptions.

But we didn’t complain, we soldiered on (Marines, sailors and don’t forget Michael is a Soldier!).

So, at that November 6th meeting, if the current Board wouldn’t do what they asked, the Board must go: That’s the way I see it, or at least those Board Members that disagree with them must go.  Replace those Members who won’t vote ‘their’ way with those that will.

Our new Board Member, in an unauthorized letter posted to OUR website, stated nobody wants or cares about the dinner, yet we seat 750 people or more who do care every five years (not ‘five or ten years,’ every five years).  How many “5 year” Remembrances brought Brothers together?  Brought Families together?  But for those 5 years, who might still be wandering?

There is nothing different about the current Board, or at least the Board seated as of September 2022, than prior Boards going back to inception in 1993.

Our Board has always been a volunteer board.  Nobody has ever been paid.  Postage and supplies have been reimbursed, but that’s about it.  Our new Board Member accused the Board of paying ourselves for travel and things – we don’t, but we do have a provision to do so, if necessary, it’s right there in those pesky Bylaws!  It’s there only if ever needed (testifying on the floor of Congress, travelling for a significant BVA need, who knows, but nobody has asked to be reimbursed).  It appears some want a ‘professional’ board – what will that cost?  But, it is argued, we can’t achieve true not-for-profit potential without expense: It takes money to make money, I get it.  Couldn’t someone simply direct their efforts to fundraising as opposed to becoming a ‘professional’ Board?

Board Members and our officers have done so much that has gone unrecognized.  When the kids put the ribbons out, Myron and I went to their school and passed out leftover 40th Remembrance T-Shirts.  Myron set up the USO Rucks, and we presented, and paid for, the ribbons and BVA/USO Medallions.  Myron has attended Memorials, run Honor Marathons, and attended events up and down the east coast and even into the Midwest.  We’ve handed out scholarships, in person, from the Mid-West, to the East Coast, to Florida, and even in Arlington National Cemetery.  Do some Members not read the website?

We started the Final Muster on our website, trying to Honor our Brothers recently lost.  We now have a merchandise link – and as far as the one issue with another merchandiser brought up at the last meeting, I can show you the agreement: It was their job to develop ideas and present them to us for the ‘okay,’ to ensure they were appropriate and honorable; not one item was ever presented.

We were working on the Historian position, and Richard Truman worked tirelessly on a BVA Monument that would represent us forever at the Marine Corps Museum – he was attacked for that at the meeting.  Later, one of the attackers, our new Board Member, decided it was a pretty good idea!

Myron and Kevin both stated they would serve out their terms and vacate their positions on 10/22/2023 at the meeting (as is requested in those Bylaws, again).  Kevin has since resigned.  That leaves Myron, who never, ever claimed he was there on 10/23/1983, but the Special Master and Judge screwed that up royally.  But allowing NON-BVA MEMBERS to add comments to OUR website claiming people have committed criminal, ‘punishable’ acts was wrong, and Michael, as a former Board Member, and our new very knowledgeable Board Member should have known that was wrong, and they should have taken better care to ensure that didn’t happen, but they didn’t: I did.

Which begs the final question… was it appropriate for a sitting Board Member to post his letter to our website without Board approval?  Behind our backs?  What Michael did he did outside of the Board, but if he was complicit in what this Board Member posted, as much as I love him, that was simply wrong, and was at minimum a conflict of interest.  I am posting this rebuttal in response to that impropriety with the approval of the majority of the Board.

One thing I will mention in closing, regardless of how this unfolds: EVERY MEMBER MUST RECEIVE NOTICE OF ANY SPECIAL MEETING!  You can’t ‘invite’ only those members that support your position, maybe 20, 30 or even 40, to unseat a board that represents 1786 Members – that’s right, 1786.  May not seem like a lot, but about 1000 more than when I took over.  Could it be more?  Absolutely, but some have only been a member for a few years, as we have seen, so good things come to those that wait!

You must not allow 20 or 30 Members to control the destiny of this Board; one Board Member should not be allowed to destroy the Honor and Integrity of those who have served over the years.  Whatever comes of this ordeal, I ask the Members to ensure ALL who serve us now, and will serve us into the future, be held to same standards of honor and integrity some profess we lack.

It has truly been my honor to serve you all.  From being told to sit down and shut up at an annual meeting luncheon at Captain Bob’s decades ago, to Chairman of the Board – I never sought it and was surprised by it, but my intentions were always to simply honor those whom we should never forget, and their families.  I never knew how long I would be here, and certainly never thought it would be almost 11 years, but I also never thought I would witness the destruction I have recently witnessed… it is truly sad.  For any of my failings, I apologize.

The First Duty is to Remember… Semper Fidelis Brothers and Sisters.

Jon Warmeling