By Marcie Polier Swartz
Founder CEO Village for Vets
When I tell people I’ve launched a support group for the VA, I get these reactions the most:
- Isn’t that the Government’s job?
- Why haven’t they done more?
- They announced that Master Plan, where is the new housing?
- Oh yeah, what’s happening?
I don’t think I’ve ever told you what connects me to the VA.
My dear father’s business, a chain of Army Navy Surplus stores paid our mortgage, put clothes on our backs and enabled us to go on family vacations. I used to watch him make sealed bids for government surplus. During the summer, when I worked at his warehouse, we counted inventory. I smelled the leather in the WAC shoes. Some of them fit me. I counted uniforms, vests and coats. They were made of different cloths – wool, thick cotton, camouflage and solids. The colors varied with OD Green (olive drab) predominating. I loved the muted colors, the feel of my hands running over the thick fabrics and the smell of the canvas. They permeated the air.
My Uncle Marty is a Korean War Veteran. He never talks about it. I know he has ribbons and pins. I’ve never seen them. He was doing well in college before the war, but when he came back he worked in one of my father’s stores. Then he had a Surplus store of his own.
My dearest brother is a six-year Navy Vet. The VA has been very good to him since his return in 1999.
I don’t expect all of you will have similar reasons to feel connected to the VA, although if you start asking your families and friends if there are Veterans amongst you, it might surprise you to find out just how close a Veteran is. What is their story?
And here is the big reason everyone can use to feel connected to our VA. The original gift of lands to the VA was made by Arcadia Bandini de Baker, Senator John P. Jones and John Wolfskills, totaling least 753 acres. I have heard many stories as to total donated acreage over the years totaling up to 880 acres claimed by a Bandini heir at a Town Hall meeting I attended. Here is a link to some of the facts: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/veterans_affairs/pacific_branch.html.
Much of that acreage was used for the 405 Freeway and Wilshire Boulevard. Do you use these roads? Does the use of these lands help you earn your living and visit friends, go to dinners and play at parks and beaches? Do you feel connected to the VA now?
Do you still need to ask what the VA is doing? Or do you want to join us in helping the VA to uplift not only the Veterans but all of us as well.