You only have to meet Jim once for it to become clearly evident that his military discipline commands an aura of respect
By Tom Fjerstad/Editor
The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Annual Convention took place in mid-May in Aurora, Colo. This was my 28th PVA convention. And while many things have changed over the years, many of the important aspects of the gathering have remained the same.
One of these is the presentation of the Speedy Awards. The PVA Speedy Award was created in 1956 to acknowledge the outstanding accomplishments of both members and non-members and to recognize significant contributions to improving the lives of America’s paralyzed veterans.
Award recipients have included doctors and researchers, members of Congress, PVA members and others who had a dedicated commitment to our organization or our greater cause as a whole.
Herbert S. Talbot, MD, received the award in 1958. Talbot was the chief of the Paraplegic Services and Urology at the West Roxbury VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) Hospital in Massachusetts and had authored an article published in the July 7, 1956, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, titled Care of the Bladder in Neurological Disorders and another in the March 27, 1958, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, called Functional Disorders of the Urinary Bladder.
Talbot is a name I randomly plucked from our list of Speedy recipients as an example of the truly exceptional people who either directly or indirectly had a profound effect on the well-being of PVA members and others. A book could be written to exhume the accomplishments of all the recipients of our most prestigious award.
This year’s Speedy recipients are James (Jim) Russell and Terrance (Terry) Tyna (posthumously).
I was serving as a parliamentarian in 2003 at the annual PVA convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when I saw Terry digging through an enormous stack of papers. He always came to the meetings extremely well-prepared. I also noticed his copy of Robert’s Rules of Order was dog-eared and full of sticky notes, even more so than usual.
Sensing that something was up, I confronted Terry, who became a bit flummoxed and began to explain a situation he was preparing for surrounding a particular piece of business. Terry assured me he wasn’t looking to play “gotcha” with the parliamentarian, but he had a sincere and deep concern things could possibly go down a path that would be unfair.
I always admired Terry for his unwavering and relentless pursuit of fairness when it came to issues that affected his fellow veterans. Terry’s greatest passion was advocating for PVA members’ health care, as was evidenced by his years of service on PVA’s Field Advisory Committee, whose mission is to assist the organization in assuring that all PVA members receive the highest quality health care.
PVA is unquestionably for the less without him. Terry, we miss you and wish you could have received your well-deserved Speedy while you were still rolling the halls of spinal-cord injury centers and looking for ways to improve our mutual well-being.
Many PVA members who know Jim Russell may first think of his passion for trapshooting. But there’s so much more to this man who has supported our organization for decades — more than I can begin to touch upon in this editorial.
Jim enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1958 and began his military career as a private. After serving three tours of duty in Vietnam and earning a bachelor’s degree in business/economics from Chapman College (now Chapman University) in Orange, Calif., he had climbed the ladder to the rank
He joined PVA in 1978 following a motorcycle accident while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, Calif. After his retirement from the Marines, he continued his education, obtaining a Master of Business Administration from San Diego State University in San Diego.
You only have to meet Jim once for it to become clearly evident that his military discipline commands an aura of respect. This, combined with an astute grasp of business acumen, meant PVA was blessed with a true leader.
Jim has served in many positions with PVA over the years, but one that touches me personally is his service on PVA’s Judicial Committee. This committee adjudicates all complaints against individual PVA members. He’s now chairman of the committee on which he has served since 2004.
I was fortunate to serve on this committee with Jim for a few years and saw firsthand the amazingly fair and calm demeanor he possessed while deliberating the cases. If you know Jim, please pass on your appreciation for all he has done for PVA.
Congratulations, Terry and Jim. I’ve been honored to serve with each of you and feel blessed to call both of you friends.