MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On this Veterans Day, Stephen “Butch” Whitehead — Minnesota native and national commander of Disabled American Veterans — reflects on his service in uniform and out, and the challenges of helping veterans who fight the battle that never ends.
Walking along the Korean War Memorial near the Minnesota State Capitol, Whitehead takes time to honor men and women who served.
“This day truly to me means of what our country is all about,” Whitehead said. “That 1% that donned that uniform to protect my freedom, your freedom, everybody around us freedom, just so we can continue to live a life we wanted to live, and that’s what Veterans Day is all about is, you know, recognizing those who donned the uniform with me each and every day.”
The Odin native is a Iraq War veteran.
“I served in ‘06, ‘07 with the Red Bull Division, First Brigade Combat Team,” Whitehead said.
He is honored to lead the Disabled American Veterans during its 100th year.
“Think back after World War I, Reg. There was nothing for the veterans, so they came home to nothing, there was no federal agency, there was no medical, there was nothing for them,” he said. “The DAV came in, you know, right after World War I, 1920, and we stood this organization up for that purpose.”
He is proud of what the DAV is doing today.
“While this pandemic slowed things down, the DAV didn’t stop, and that’s just what veterans do, we don’t stop,” he said. “We continue to find ways, new ways, and ending homelessness has always been one of our top priorities.”
Partnering with the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, or MACV, to help prevent veteran homelessness in Minnesota, and fighting nationally to get help for veterans who were exposed to burn pits while serving overseas.
“[Burn pits are] the new Agent Orange,” Whitehead said. “The Vietnam veterans that suffered for so long, who fought and fought and fought to get recognized, the burn pit, that’s the bill right now.”
He truly wants America to recognize the men and women who continue to fight.
“The battle never ends. You know, when we take this uniform off, our veterans still have things that they suffer from,” he said. “We have to make sure that’s what our society and the people around us understand not every injury or every wound is visible.”
Whitehead says disabled or not, Veterans Day should be the time to recognize the sacrifices of all who wore the uniform have made.
Because of COVID-19 and not being able to have a national convention, Whitehead was elected to a second term as DAV national commander. The last time that happened was during World War II.