ABA’s mission, from it’s very beginning, has included honoring members of the U.S. military. Dr. Gyi’s father, U Ba Than Gyi, encouraged his son to “Express your gratitude and honor the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives in defense against the tyranny of Nazism and Fascism during World War II… Remember, the American troops were in Burma.. “ And in ABA’s very first mission statement, the first of three missions was to “honor both the Allied and Axis veterans of the Burma Campaign of the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of WWII in Asia”. As our servicemen and servicewomen have been challenged to support military needs in many additional theaters since WWII, ABA has expanded its outreach to honor veterans of more recent conflicts as well. I’m proud that our organization is about something larger than the individual benefits that can be achieved through the practice and preservation of Hanthawaddy System of Bando.
One of the most visible ways we honor the sacrifices of our military personnel and veterans is by holding our events on weekends that commemorate important events or themes. This year, we will be holding events on the weekends associated with Armed Services Day (May), Victory over Japan (V-J) Day (August), and Veterans Day (November). These weekends are an opportunity to remind all who participate in our camps the gratitude we owe to our veterans. And last year (2017), ABA donated $3,300.00 (three thousand, three hundred dollars) to support to a number of national groups serving Veterans, including the USO, the Disabled American Veterans, Fisher House, and the Gurkha Welfare Relief Trust.
ABA thanks our many members and friends who contributed to the “Care Packages for Veterans” collection. Over our three national camps in Strouds Run Park (Athens, Ohio) last year, ABA collected gifts to share with those serving overseas. We received snack items, games, reading material, condiments, coffee supplies, and toiletries that could be sent overseas. Many of you also provided money that was used for additional supplies and to help pay for mailing these packages. Overall, ABA sent eleven care packages in 2017 – a way to directly help those who are far from the comforts of home.
This year, ABA also provided some Christmas cheer to a disabled veteran family in the Washington DC area. Wakeel Abdullah, who has been serving with the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans, shared with us the special request of a family where both heads of the household were dealing with significant disabilities; one had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the other in Operation Enduring Freedom. ABA provided gifts for their three children as well as some items for their father and mother, providing a personal message of support and care.
ABA encourages everyone to support our veterans through club-level or individual efforts (e.g., see our article on Michael Gallagher’s support of the “Paws and Stripes” project). We’d love to hear how you are honoring our Veterans and those currently serving in the military, whether it be something as simple as attending a local ceremony, supporting fund-raisers, or actively helping with Veterans’ needs. Sharing your story can help encourage our other members to find inspiration and explore their own way of honoring our Veterans.
Sayamaji Debby Kirkman
President, American Bando Association