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Page 43
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Michael Gold (1946-2022): Intrepid Veterans Advocate

By Edward Damato

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When Michael Gold passed away on March 30, 2022, our world of veterans lost an intrepid and dedicated advocate. He spent his adult life working tirelessly to improve our lives. His work alone as Director of Veterans Affairs at the City University of New York (CUNY) helped countless student veterans get the proper aid and the support they maybe didn't know was available to them. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lorraine Cohen, and his son Jacob Gold. At Michael's memorial service Lorraine said of him, "I miss him terribly…As I look at a shirt he liked, or think about how much he loved chocolate ice cream…I feel his absence. He will remain part of me forever."

Michael was born and raised a Brooklyn boy, or as his son, Jacob Gold said "my father could be all seasons in one day." He attended Wingate High School on Kingston Avenue. He worked as the sports editor of the school newspaper. (He was an avid NY Yankee fan.) After graduation, he went to Brooklyn College (BC) studying political science and history. While at school he joined the growing anti-war movement. He left college after one and a half years to work with his brother on the mayoral campaign of a progressive candidate, John Lindsay, who in 1965 won the first of his two terms as New York City mayor.

Upon losing his Brooklyn College student deferment the ever vigilant and relentless Selective Service System sent him the "Greeting" letter signed by Lyndon Baines Johnson. He was inducted into the US Army on March 28, 1967. He headed south to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and realized he wanted something better out of the army so he applied to and was accepted into Officer Candidate School. Michael was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He was stationed in Germany where he trained at the USA School Europe in a "Combat Intelligence Officer Course" while assigned to HHB, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Artillery, 3rd Armored Division. He was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant (O2) on March 28, 1968, and was awarded a National Defense Service Medal and a Good Conduct medal. When he was honorably discharged at Drake Kaserne, Frankfurt on March 27, 1969, he did what we all fantasize about, namely, he bought an MG and toured Europe for a year! (There is no record of his adventures.)

After returning home Michael went back to Brooklyn College (BC) where he began his life's work helping veterans, especially Vietnam-era veterans. In 1970 the BC veterans officially organized as a group. It was also during this time that Michael joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and became an active member participating in all its activities until his death. Over the next two years, Brooklyn College vets organized into a university-wide Veterans Action Coalition to elevate veterans' affairs at a central policy level and to promote access to services available. Upon VAC and other's steadfast urging the CUNY Chancellor, Robert Kibbe, a WW2 veteran, authorized a central Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) in 1973 to coordinate the delivery of federal, state, and city services available to veterans in all their 18 colleges city-wide. In 1974 Michael became the second director, a position he held until 1995.

During his time at OVA, they trained campus counselors, coordinated the veterans' service agencies, and brought CUNY into the struggles to improve and extend the GI bill; win amnesty and discharge upgrades; test, treat and compensate Agent Orange veterans and their survivors; treat post-traumatic stress disorder, and rehabilitate incarcerated vets. In 1995, led by the state's governor, CUNY budgets were slashed. Michael was fired. An ad hoc group of veterans from Vietnam Veterans of America, Black Veterans for Social Justice, and VVAW approached the Board of Trustees to restore funding and keep Michael on as the director; all to no avail. Some cuts were restored but Michael did not continue in his job.

Ironically also in 1995, Michael had surgery for a leaky heart valve. While still recuperating in the hospital the 11th Annual PTSD "Conference on the Still Hidden Client" Committee awarded him for "outstanding work in healing the wounds of war."

In his forced retirement he took to supporting his wife who was able to sustain her high level of political activism with the teacher's union at LaGuardia Community College. He was known for his homemade and famous baked apple pies (which he told me a secret ingredient was lard.)

Personally, it was Michael who made me aware that New York State was paying for veterans' tuition at CUNY colleges. In 1989 I enrolled at NYC Technical College and thanks to him I earned an associate's degree which helped me get a decent job for eighteen years. The last time I saw Michael was just before COVID. We were at a picket line outside the 23rd Street VA Hospital in Manhattan protesting the proposed closure of that hospital and the VA hospital in Brooklyn, among other draconian federal cuts. It was a good reminder to me how important Michael was to all veterans over his long years of dedicated activism. I will miss you, Michael.

Remembrances From Long-Time Comrades

Job Mashariki, founder of Black Veterans for Social Justice
Mike's commitment and resolution were to help his fellow humans and to make this society a better and more decent place for all to work and live as brothers and sisters. His commitment to doing righteous work will guide and remain with me forever. He is a General in the People's Liberation Army."

Frank Toner
I grew close with Michael with our work in the Brooklyn chapter of VVAW. As his wife Lorraine has said, there was a special relationship the chapter members had with one another. He was very active with the Brooklyn chapter but was involved in many more activities, especially with CUNY. I remember how he enjoyed talking with my daughter after finding out that she graduated from CUNY Law. Many called him Professor. That was probably most appropriate. He enjoyed pointing out the truth. We did not get together too often but when we did it was like we had just seen each other last week.

June Svetlovsky
After Memorial Day commemorations at Battery Park, VVAW and Vets for Peace got together in the area for some lunch. Mike had the "perfect place" that was close by…. We kept yelling, "We there yet?" Finally, he stopped in front of what looked like a typical old man's bar, Murphy's Tavern. We had doubts but the bartender was so friendly and receptive to what we were doing that it became the place we went to every Memorial Day for years. You could always count on Mike Gold to come through.

James Noonan
Although 50 or so years can fog up memories, I am positive that the first thing I ever heard Mike say was, "Sorry I'm late." At Brooklyn College, Mike and I were part of the same groups on campus and he was always late. He would come in with his impish smile, his apology, the world's most overstuffed briefcase and it was OK. It was just Mike. Dedicated, constantly running to keep up with all that had to be done and caring deeply for all of us. Rest in Peace, my brother.

Edward Damato has been a member of VVAW since 1970 and lives in New York.

Mike Gold in Mexico, 2019.

Mike Gold (r) and his son Jacob.

Mike Gold, around 1980, photo by Bernie Edelman.

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