Local Vietnam Veteran named to DAV National Executive Committee
Published 10:30 am Thursday, August 2, 2018
Jerry Bratton, a veteran of the Vietnam War and lifelong Oxonian, has been elected to the Disabled American Veterans National Executive Committee.
Bratton is the first committee member to represent North Mississippi, and said he hopes the position will help further his goal to advocate for the welfare of fellow veterans.
“My goal is to help veterans, to educate them. We’re bright people, every one of us,” Bratton said. “But nobody’s ever told us a thing. So I’ve worked and helped with all kinds of things that need to be addressed here.”
As an NEC member, Bratton will serve a two-year term representing the 8th district of the DAV, which covers Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee. Bratton said he’s “honored and humbled” by the election, because he received unanimous support from all four states.
Bratton joined the DAV local chapter #48 in Oxford as a life member in 2004. At the local level, he has served numerous offices, including Commander, as he represents the DAV on the Veterans’ property committee to ensure the proper use and protection of the Veterans Park and Veterans building that is shared by all the veterans’ groups.
In 2014, Bratton was elected to the office of Sergeant at Arms for the Department of Mississippi, moving up every year to the rank of Senior Vice Commander for the department. Bratton also represented the Department of Mississippi as the Benefits Protection Leader from 2016 to 2018. As Legislative Chairman, he travelled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for his fellow veterans and to encourage Mississippi Members of Congress to support upcoming bills benefitting our veterans.
One elected official in particular who has done the right thing for Vietnam veterans, Bratton said, is Governor Phil Bryant. In 2016, Bryant endorsed a book to commemorate the service and sacrifices of Vietnam veterans.
“Vietnam veterans were treated real badly when we came home. Some of them were called baby killers. We didn’t have a choice about going there. Our country needed us, so we stepped up,” Bratton said. “I go to Washington every year and lobby and take legislation to our Mississippi lawmakers. And Governor Bryant helped put a book together about Vietnam. He has been the one to finally say, ‘Welcome home.’”
When he left the Army as a combat soldier, Bratton said the only thing he was concerned about was coming home to see his family, especially his daughter. Like many other veterans returning home, he said his hair was long, his beard had grown out, and he initially ignored chances to find out about benefits he had earned during his time as an active duty service member.
Approximately 65,000 Vietnam veterans live in Mississippi, and many aren’t aware that there are resources available to them, especially when it comes to healthcare, Bratton said.
“There are widows here who didn’t know they could draw a penny. And they can and they’re entitled to it,” he said. “There are 524 Vietnam veterans who die every day. I think there are 22 veterans who kill themselves every day, and they don’t know they can get help. I help them file claims and put them in touch with the right people.”
Bratton, who is himself a 100-percent Combat Related Disability recipient, said as long as he’s helping others and communicating with fellow veterans, he’s doing the right thing.
“I’ve worked really hard and made some good friends here,” Bratton said. “Veterans trust veterans. A guy I was in Vietnam with knows that I’m going to tell him right. You’ve built that bond there.”
Bratton said he encourages all veterans to get involved in the DAV, VFW or American Legion, and learn more about the resources available to them.