Every now and then, there are men and women who so dedicate themselves to a cause that their lives become the very filament that defines that cause. In the case of NABVETS, the sweat and dedication of William Sims is the fiber upon which the expanding matter of NABVETS is built. In fact, there is no ground or air or space in the house of NABVETS where Mr. Sims has not stepped, slept, cleaned, prayed, smiled or cried. And in mutual accord, where only the magnificent mountains and the expansive sky dwell in comparison, Mr. Sims is surrounded by NABVETS and NABVETS is surrounded by Mr. Sims.
Mr. William Sims is a Founder of the Interested Veterans of the Central City (IVOCC), the precursor organization to NABVETS. Milwaukee is, of course, where Mr. Sims and other veterans legally incorporated IVOCC back in 1969. But, for Mr. Sims, the “founding” of IVOCC occurred not in the racist hot zone of Milwaukee but, rather, in the dangerous and forbidden black jungles of Vietnam. There, amid the toxic clouds of war, existed no unemployment, housing discrimination or income disparity. There was only widespread desperation, unimaginable fear, bloodshot hatred, equal access to suffering and fox holes – with everyone and everything in them. There, where suffering was so constant and normal, a young soldier could easily forget just how oppressed he was in the debilitating experience of Milwaukee’s urban ghetto; until, that is, he returned.
Mr. Sims, who had survived death more than once, came back to a Milwaukee African American community that was dying or, at least, badly hemorrhaging. The manufacturing jobs were leaving the city, taking with them the tax base and the middle class; and leaving in its wake joblessness and despair. In Vietnam, Mr. Sims was a Point Man for his unit, keeping them out of the path of danger and protecting them when danger was exposed. In Milwaukee, there was no Point Man for the African American community; it was getting hit from all sides and casualties were mounting. It is in this environment that Mr. Sims and six other Vietnam veterans dug themselves a proverbial fox hole from which to launch a counter-attack against urban blight, poverty and despair – they called this counter-attack, the IVOCC.
There is nothing simple about Mr. Sims: Before going off to war he was an artist and while a soldier he became an expert marksman, a Point Man and an ambush specialist; while in combat he wrecked great havoc and destruction upon the enemy but in peace he has been a creator of institutions that empower communities and given hope to many. And, yet, he remains humble: When recalling his time in Vietnam, Mr. Sims says that “I am here for a reason…God has a reason for me to be here…I’ve always felt that way.”
In 1973, Mr. Sims was standing at 14th and Atkinson talking with Mr. Robert Cocroft and Mr. Thomas Wynn (two other NABVET legends) about plans to convert the IVOCC into the National Association for Black Veterans (NABVETS). Mr. Sims recalls that as the three men spoke about the possibilities, he began to cry and cry, and cry…like a baby. He said he could not stop crying because he was overwhelmed at what NABVETS would mean to so many Black Veterans. He told Mr. Cocroft and Mr. Wynn that he would “dedicate the rest of his life” to building NABVETS and promoting its mission; and for the past 40 years he has done just that, with every fiber of his soul.
In addition to being a Founder of IVOCC and NABVETS, Mr. Sims is also a Founder of the Center for Veterans Issues, Inc. and the Eclipse Magazine. And he is not done yet: Mr. Sims recently started a web-based radio station, called the “Eclipse Radio”; he’s working to develop a NABVETS Community Development Credit Union; he recently completed an aquaponics project; and he is working on acquiring a building in Milwaukee to be the “Global Headquarters of NABVETS.” Between the Bingo games he organizes, you can usually find Mr. Sims at Vets Place Central eating his famous fried chicken with men and women veterans who may have been, not to long before the feast, homeless.
NABVETS salutes Mr. William Sims and his determined resolve, dedication and spirit for being a Champion for the rights of Black Veterans.
NABVETS is proud to announce that the NABVETS Delaware Chapter has been selected to receive an award at the NAACP – Wilmington Chapter 50th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet. The award is bestowed on those individuals and groups that work around the clock to bring hope, justice and peace to the community. The NABVETS Delaware Chapter is being recognized for its mission to advocate and assist Black, other minority and homeless veterans.
The Delaware Chapter is a prime example of NABVETS leadership in action. Led by Chapter Commander Nolan Lewis, the Delaware Chapter has given Black Veterans in Wilmington a voice in their community through its programs and partnerships, including; Stand Down, job referrals and job fairs, honoring of WWII veterans, the Adopt-A-Family program, and Operation Gratitude.
Again, NABVETS congratulates the Delaware Chapter in Wilmington for its accomplishments and thanks all of its members for their dedication to the Mission of NABVETS.
To learn more about NABVETS, visit our website at www.nabvets.org.
The event is on Sunday November 2, 2014 at the Downtown Doubletree, 8th and King St, Wilmington DE. Social hour begins at 4 and program at 5.
To obtain contact information for the Delaware Chapter, click here.
Thomas “Tom” Wynn Sr. was a determined visionary and a Veteran who strongly believed that the most significant way for Veterans, particularly Black Veterans, to improve the quality of their lives was to improve the quality of life for others. He believed that giving was the key to receiving, and who better to give than Veterans – men and women who had sacrificed so that people in their country could live in freedom, vote without encumbrance, live the American Dream and have hope for a better future. And he believed that Black Veterans deserved much better than to be treated as second class citizens when they returned to their communities from war.
Tom Wynn wanted to make a difference – and he did! In 1973, he and other veterans who were involved in the Interested Veterans of the Central City (IVOCC), an organization committed to addressing critical issues in Milwaukee’s central city, led efforts to create the National Association of Black Veterans (NABVETS). For the next thirty years, Tom Wynn would dedicate his life to working with other veterans to build NABVETS into an organization with the capacity to empower Black veterans and the communities in which they live. Tom Wynn passed in 2004 but ten years later his spirit lives on in every NABVET Chapter across the country.
Thomas H. Wynn Sr. was an ardent champion for addressing the core issues that shackles too many Black Veterans and their families into chronic poverty and hopelessness – education, economic empowerment, affordable housing, access to affordable transportation and access to health care. Tom Wynn not only advocated for justice, equity and inclusion but also demanded that Black Veterans be treated with the dignity that they deserve. He was a tireless and passionate champion for Black Veterans, and for all people who needed assistance and hope.
NABVETS is, indeed, the vessel that carries the dreams of Thomas H. Wynn Sr. into communities across America. Today, NABVETS has grown to be more than 109 Chapters and thousands of members, all working to improve and transform their communities. NABVETS is, indeed, a leadership-based organization; driven by men and women with a shared vision, a passion for justice and an unyielding commitment to improving the lives of others.
Every day, in the spirit of Thomas H. Wynn Sr., NABVETS members work day and night to eliminate veteran homelessness, feed the hungry, help the weak and empower the poor. And it is because of their efforts that many Black Veterans can stand just a little taller, walk just a little further and live just a little better than they did before.
In the unyielding, boundless spirit of Thomas H. Wynn Sr., we move forward.
The NABVETS National Command Council voted to host the 2016 NABVETS Convention in Baltimore Maryland. Baltimore was chosen for a number of reasons, including; the City’s reputation for hospitality, its tourist destinations, its proximity to the Nation’s Capital and the presence of several NABVETS Chapters in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia.
The leadership of NABVETS looks forward to seeing its members at the 2016 Convention. The NABVETS 2016 Convention will take place in August 2016 and will include workshops, guest speakers and pertinent information for Veterans.
Check back to the website for more information on the 2016 Convention.