I’m old enough to remember when Senator Barack Obama discovered veterans. It was 2000. At that point, Obama first showed an interest in veteran issues like federal funding for Illinois, which for many years was far less than the state made due to the state’s veteran population.
On April 9th, I attended the laying of the foundation stone of the planned Veterans Village in Cathedral City. The program printed the logos of various non-profit organizations. I was sad to see that there were no logos of Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) partners in the project. I was broken that the only role in the ceremony veterans attended was the presentation of the American flag by the American Legion. No veterans organization leaders were present at the event to speak, although the beneficiaries of the veterans accommodation are veterans.
How did we get veteran housing? Veterans demanded, protested, and marched in Washington, DC. I was a delegate to the William Joyner Conference on Capitol Hill for Veteran Issues. Disabled veterans like me stood up for Congress and held out for years until we finally convinced our federal government to take action.
Cathedral City should empower the people they serve. They should empower the veteran voters who stood up for the federal, state and city hall, including the VA. City guides should empower those veterans who will be living in the Veteran’s Village.
Why should the VA receive special recognition at this ceremony when the VA denies more veteran benefits than it authorizes? When Vietnam combat veterans first returned home, they were met by VA officials who said no to anything they asked, such as disability compensation for exposure to Agent Orange or PTSD because of our military killed innocent civilians with napalm and landmines. Angry Vietnam veterans threatened to beat VA staff to hell and the result was the VA changed their minds and started approving veterans. VA employees only do their job and what they are paid for. If you take their salary away, most of them will stop building veteran homes.
The politicians ran for office and were elected and paid to open veterans homes. Veteran’s Homes are a successful campaign output for candidates for public office. The elected officials should introduce the veteran voters who put them into office. All elected officials should be grateful to the people who voted for them and accept them into the government to open veteran shelters.
The unsung heroes are the veterans who were disabled or low-income and struggled to find a way to survive until help was given. Therefore, Cathedral City should invite VSOs to participate in the planning of the Veteran’s Village. And the city should involve veteran leaders to speak at its opening.
Tom Swann Hernandez is a Marine Corps and Navy veteran and the founder and commander of AMVETS Post 66. He lives at Rancho Mirage.
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