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Local Veterans' Leaders
Downplay New Group

By John Emerson
SULLIVAN COUNTY — March 7, 2000 -- Organizers of a combined veterans association may have jumped the gun in announcing its creation, according to leaders of some of the county’s veterans groups.
Last Thursday, a group calling itself the Combined Association of the Veterans of Sullivan County issued a news release announcing the formation of the organization in response to the appointment of Eric Nystrom as the head of the county’s Veterans Service Agency. The news release claims that the commanders of all the veterans’ organizations of Sullivan County met and agreed to the formation of the new group.
“I haven’t met with the rest of the post commanders, so I can’t speak for VFW yet,” said Hortonville resident Verl Ringgenberg, Sullivan County Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “There are 12 [VFW] posts in Sullivan County, and at this point, it’s all up in the air. I won’t know anything more until we have our meeting next Tuesday – then maybe I’ll know something.”
The news release, issued March 2, says the group was organized under the leadership of Monroe Davis, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, and the county commanders of the various veterans’ organizations. Those groups include the VFW, the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, Jewish War Veterans, Marine Corps League and Disabled American Veterans.
Davis could not be reached for comment.
Veterans’ activist Jack Simons of Liberty said that it was unlikely that the organization will gain much steam and added that its stated goal – providing veterans with a single voice – already exists. He said the group was unlikely to receive the support or membership of the American Legion because it does not join other groups.
“The truth is, there is no need for this,” said Simons. “At this point, the organization doesn’t exist, and I don’t think it ever will. If it does, it’s only going to be representing about 15 percent of the veterans. I think there is some other agenda at work here that has very little to do with the veterans.”
Ringgenberg also said that, if the new organization receives the endorsement and support of the other veterans’ groups within the county, it would likely be a duplication of effort. He said that Legislature Chairman Rusty Pomeroy’s appointment of Nystrom over former Veterans Service Agency head Al Etkin was probably nothing more than a breakdown in communication.
“Nobody said anything about replacing Etkin, so it came as a surprise,” Ringgenberg said. “We feel that they should have asked us who we wanted. On the other hand, when the new legislature came in, we never asked if they were going to replace Etkin, and that’s probably something we should have done.”

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