WASHINGTON – The last of the major annual veterans conventions wrapped up this week, with many of the traditional service organizations holding their officer elections as part of the closing activities. The change in leadership won’t mean dramatic shifts in priorities for any of the groups – defending veteran programs against looming budget cuts was the main topic at all of the events – but it will mean some new faces and voices lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Here’s a closer look at some of the men who will be leading those veterans groups in the coming year:
American Legion -- Fang A. Wong of East Brunswick, N.J., was elected national commander of the American Legion Thursday during the group’s national convention in Minneapolis.
Wong, an immigrant from Hong Kong, came to America as a 12-year-old in 1960 and served for 20 years in the U.S. Army, 25 months during the Vietnam War. Following his military career, he worked as a civilian for the Army Software Engineering Center for 20 years before retiring this spring. He has served as national vice commander and past department commander of New York, and helped direct relief efforts there in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Veterans of Foreign Wars -- Richard L. DeNoyer of Middleton, Mass., was elected VFW Commander-in-Chief on Thursday at the group’s national convention in San Antonio, Texas.
DeNoyer, who served in the Marine Corps from 1960 to 1982, earned the Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Drill Instructor Ribbon during his career. He has served in various elected and appointed leadership positions with the group, and has worked in the past as a service officer and benefit advocate for the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
AMVETS – Gary L. Fry of Sugar Grove, Pa., was elected as AMVETS National Commander earlier this month at the group’s convention in St. Louis.
Fry, an Army veteran who served in Germany and later as a sergeant in Vietnam in the late 1960s, is a retired electronic instrument technician who has served in various leadership roles for the group, and is former president of the Pennsylvania War Veterans Council.
Disabled American Veterans – Donald L. Samuels of Tennessee was elected national commander of the DAV at the group’s convention in New Orleans earlier this month.
Samuels, a Marine Corps veteran, was wounded leading a ground assault against North Vietnamese regulars. He has two sons, both of whom serve in the Marine Corps. Samuels served as assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs for 12 years until his retirement this spring.
Vietnam Veterans of America – John Rowan of Middle Village, N.Y., was re-elected as national president of Vietnam Veterans of America earlier this month at the organization's national convention in Reno, Nev..
Rowan, who has held the office since 2005, served as a linguist in the Air Force in Vietnam and at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. He is a founding member and the first president of VVA Chapter 32 in Queens, N.Y., and previously worked as an investigator with the City of New York's comptroller's office.