We Did That
I can already see the crowds growing on the beach in front of our home. Later today, barbecues will fire up for that first summer party. Sailboats are offshore, many filled with friends and relatives who flew in for a beautiful Memorial Day in Los Angeles. My eyes rest on a small camp of homeless vets living behind the grocery store near our home. The cashiers complain how they often steal food or booze.
The Westside of Los Angeles is well aware that a good portion of our homeless is made up of veterans dependent on healthcare services from the West LA Campus. The land on which the campus stands was deeded by one prominent Californian family. The deed stated it was to be exclusively used for the care, housing and well-being of veterans. That lasted through two world wars until the sixties when the VA took swift advantage of changes in how we treated the mentally ill.
While veterans with brain injuries slept on local streets, the VA was leasing land to UCLA for a baseball stadium, a hotel laundry, parking service and Brentwood School.
In 2011, the ACLU filed suit against the VA. Recently, that suit was settled with the VA. Finally, the VA is being held accountable for the misuse of the land. Our new mayor Eric Garcetti is an advocate for the homeless has pledged that by the end of this year, we will provide housing for about 4,200 veterans who roam the streets.
So on this Memorial Day, I encourage all of us to reverse the trend. If we are going to send our young off to war and to protect our country than we ought to be practicing greater responsibility in how we treat them upon their return.
The Veterans Administration has a long track record in dragging its feet in meeting the needs of injured soldiers. I am a long-time pacifist but the spirit of bringing these men and women home without generous support seems another form of violence, one reflective of our ambivalence by not protesting, in not speaking up, in staying home during elections and looking the other way. The next time we see someone dirty and bedraggled in the center divider holding a sign, “Help. Veteran.” Before you look the other way, remember one thing.
If you are indeed an American, we did that.
From David Harder, Memorial Day – June 29, 2017
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