President Theodore Roosevelt said: “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” Today’s conversation was meant to focus on how San Diego could work to give returning veterans a square deal.
I’m happy to know that San Diego will be leading the way on this topic thanks to Congressman Bob Filner and Assemblywoman Mary Salas. Both have been chosen by the peers to serve as the chair of their respective Veterans Committees. I know both care deeply about the issues we’ve covered today and will work to bring attention and resources to address them.
What would I do? Certainly we need to provide the VA with the resources and personnel it needs to be successful. But in terms of a local community response, I’d like to see a few things:
- I’d like to see our local health care providers, business community, and universities to partner with the VA and Naval Medical Center San Diego to establish a center of excellence in our region for the study and treatment of traumatic brain injuries. This would be a place were innovations for the treatment of this signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be developed and deployed. We have the talent in our community to do this, let’s develop the will to make it a reality.
- We must come together and support the great work being done by the folks at Veterans Villages of San Diego. They provide housing, job training, and counseling for homeless veterans in our community. They recently expanded their facility to serve more who need a hand. They plan two more expansions and we should all rally to their support.
- We can’t forget those who don’t suffer extreme traumas like TBI or PTSD, but just deserve a “square deal.” I hope our institutions of higher learning reach out and help veterans to put their G.I. Bill to the best use. I’d like to see San Diego employers open their doors to returning veterans and help them make the transition back to civilian employment. And I’d like to see an expansion of lending products like the Cal-Vet home loan to help veterans and their families afford to settle in San Diego. All will go a long way to helping show our appreciation for those who have served.
For those who agree with me that the care our veterans deserve is not a private concern solely between the veteran and the VA, but a responsibility that we all share, I’d encourage you to connect with the vibrant local veterans’ community. Two groups that deserve your support are the United Veterans Council and SDSU’s Student Veteran Organization. Both are doing good work to advocate and care for our local veterans.
Most of all, I hope this dialogue will continue. The needs and concerns of veterans do not go away once a war comes to an end. With San Diego’s long and proud history of being a military town, we will all live with this situation for many years to come.