What is the latest in the county’s relationship to and improvement of services for local veterans?
Since I’ve become a member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, I have taken an interest in a multitude of subjects. One that is particularly close to me is that of honoring and looking after our local veterans.
To this end, I recently authored an ordinance proposal to fly the POW-MIA flag at all county buildings to salute those prisoners who never came home, be it from Vietnam or any other of our armed conflicts. Whereas the flag specifically honors prisoners of war and those missing in action, it is a testament to the valor of all our soldiers and military personnel who have put their lives on the line for our country.
Whereas the ordinance never passed, a consequent resolution did pass and the flag will fly from the Watsonville and Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Buildings every day as well as the Ocean Street County Governmental Building on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
This action was a sort of icing on the cake for me as it followed the county’s successful endeavor of financing the Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Building’s renovation, a $3.5 million project that required the issuing of Certificates of Participation (bonds). The repair will include restoring the structural integrity of the building, most specifically the foundation and compromised roofs and walls to guard against potential seismic damage. The building also had a number of electrical, fire alarm and asbestos/lead paint issues that are being addressed as well.
While the price tag on these actions is nothing to take lightly, we will be restoring the multiple functions which the building served—first and foremost the housing of veterans’ services offices and veterans’ affiliated groups, but also the lost rental opportunities for parties and dances as well as yoga, dance and singing classes. The building will once again be a central hub for community activities and a market space for entrepreneurs. Lastly, it will also be a potential disaster relief station in the event of an emergency as opposed to being a disaster-liability itself.
To honor the many veterans who would no longer be able to use the facilities, my office hosted a “Salute and Send-off” to the building providing the opportunity for some of our elder veterans to potentially see the building for the last time. Whereas these elderly World War II and Korean vets spat at the fearful thought of the building collapsing on them, they were all too aware of the possibility of never again seeing this building that holds so many memories for them and their families and were ecstatic to have this opportunity.
Fortunately, Veterans Services are still provided at the Emeline Center as well as the Watsonville Veterans office. However, just as in all other departments, budget restraints always loom and despite these challenges we at the county continue to ensure resources are provided to our vets. I personally share an office with the Veteran Services representatives in Watsonville and am always happy to greet and assist veterans in any way I can. Furthermore, I have made my space available to counselors and volunteers who help soldiers deal with problems ranging from post-traumatic stress syndrome to bureaucratic confusion.
In addition to the difficulties of adapting to civilian life, homelessness and a range of other problems continue to afflict the veteran community. The Veterans Services Office is constantly desirous of reaching out to new veterans who may not even know of their eligibility for services. If you or someone you know would like to speak to one of our representatives, please contact us by email: [email protected]; phone: 454-4761; or visit our offices at 1400 Emeline Ave., Building K, 3rd Floor in Santa Cruz and 215 East Beach St. in Watsonville.