Paralyzed Veterans of America is mourning the loss of veterans champion and former national executive director of Paralyzed Veterans, Gordon H. Mansfield. Mansfield passed away during surgery yesterday at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center. He was 71. “Gordon was a trailblazer for veterans and all people with disabilities,” said Bill Lawson, U.S. Army veteran and national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Leaders like him have made it possible for people who use wheelchairs to serve in some of the highest offices in our land. His legacy will live on and continue to inspire the work we do every day on behalf of veterans with disabilities. He will be greatly missed.” The Hon. Gordon H. Mansfield was acting U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) from October to December 2007 and deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs from 2004 until 2009. Prior to this, he served as VA assistant secretary for congressional and legislative affairs. Before joining VA, Mansfield served as executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America from 1993 to 2000. He first joined Paralyzed Veterans’ staff in 1981 in the legislative program. In November 1982 he was named Paralyzed Veterans’ national advocacy director, and in 1986 he became the organization’s first associate executive director of its Government Relations Department. In these positions, he participated in the strengthening of civil rights for people with disabilities and the improvement of programs, benefits and services for our nation’s veterans. He also served as assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1989 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. Mansfield received his undergraduate degree from Villanova University and law degree from the University of Miami, and had practiced law in Ocala, Fla. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1964 and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Presidential Unit Citation. Mansfield was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 2007 and the U.S. Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame in 1997 at Ft. Benning, Ga. He also received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Robert Dole Service to Our Nation Award and Disabled American Veterans Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year Award and was inducted into the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame.
In August 2012, during its 66th Annual Convention, Paralyzed Veterans honored Mansfield with its 2012 Speedy Award, the organization’s highest award, which was created to acknowledge the outstanding accomplishments of both members and nonmembers in the field of paraplegia.“On behalf of everyone here at Paralyzed Veterans of America, I offer our deepest condolences to Gordon’s wife, Linda, and the entire Mansfield family,” said Homer Townsend, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and current executive director of Paralyzed Veterans. Paralyzed Veterans of America was founded by a group of seriously injured American heroes from the “Greatest Generation” of World War II. They created a nonprofit organization to meet the challenges that they faced back in the 1940s — from a medical community not ready to treat them to an inaccessible world. For more than 66 years, Paralyzed Veterans’ national office and its 34 chapters across the nation have been making America a better place for all veterans and people with disabilities. ( www.pva.org)