Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Vietnam Veterans Saved By The Boss

How Bruce Springsteen Rescued Vietnam Veterans of America—and the Vietnam Veterans Movement
Vietnam Veterans of America Online
March/April 2016
If “it wasn’t for Bruce coming forward,” Muller said, “there would not have been a coherent, national movement on behalf of Vietnam vets.” VVA “became the national group, the only national group, with a [congressional] charter.”

Near the end of his sold-out concert January 29 in Washington, D.C., rock and roll legend Bruce Springsteen told the crowd of more than 18,000 that he had some special guests in the audience, a group of veterans from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Then he recognized another veteran in the house: Bobby Muller.

It was altogether fitting and proper that Springsteen—the hard-rocking, 66-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician, singer, and songwriter—recognized Muller, the founder and first president of Vietnam Veterans of America. That’s because Springsteen has been a strong supporter of Vietnam veterans and VVA for more than thirty-five years.

“Strong,” in fact, barely describes Springsteen’s commitment to VVA and the men and women who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. That’s because in 1981, three short years after the organization was founded, when VVA was at a financial crisis point and about to go under, Bruce Springsteen stepped in and saved the organization.

“In those early years it was always hand to mouth,” said John Terzano, who ran VVA’s Washington, D.C., office in the early 1980s. “Figuring out how to pay our bills was a constant problem. We had to go months without paying the rent, and had numerous conversations about shutting down. We were in extra dire straits.”

“We were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt,” Muller said. “I’m in my [New York] office and I’m preparing to close down the organization [and] I get a call.” On the line: Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen’s manager. Landau told Muller that Springsteen “was interested in Vietnam vets and you seem like the guy” to talk to. He invited Muller to see Springsteen perform the next night, July 3, 1981, at the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. After the show—he was blown away—Muller and Springsteen met and talked.

The upshot: Springsteen gave a benefit concert the next month in Los Angeles. That concert, on August 20, 1981, at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena, sold out. Afterward, Bruce Springsteen presented VVA a check for $100,000, “a staggering sum of money,” as Muller put it.

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