By Mary O’KEEFE
This Monday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. The weekend recognitions begin in Crescenta Valley on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. with a celebration of 100 years of service by American Legion Post 288 during its monthly vets breakfast.
American Legion Post 288 was founded in 1919 by veterans of World War I. Today veterans continue their work of helping fellow vets with all types of issues from learning of their latest benefits to navigating the Veterans Administration.
On Saturday morning, at the free breakfast hosted by American Legion Post 288 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1614, there will be a special recognition of the century of service by American Legion Post 288. The breakfast is from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; admission is free with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. The recognition for 100 years of service will be held at 9 a.m. American Legion Post 288 is located at 4011 La Crescenta Ave.
On Monday, all are invited when American Legion Post 288 and VFW Post 1614 recognize Veterans Day with a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. at Two Strike Park, 5107 Rosemont Ave. This, too, will be a recognition of the decades of service by American Legion Post to the Crescenta Valley vets. Crescenta Valley High School JROTC, led by MSgt. Alvin Johnson, USAF (Retired), will perform the presentation of colors. The Armed Forces Medley will also be part of the program. Boy Scout Troop 288, sponsored by American Legion Post 288, will conduct a flag retirement ceremony.
World War I, at the time known as The Great War, officially ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in Versailles, France; however, the fighting actually stopped seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
WWI was deemed as “the war to end all wars” but sadly that was not the case. Veterans have been returning from serving in the military since long before and long after WWI. They have worked to blend back into a society they had left behind.
Organizations like Wellness Works in Glendale help to bridge that gap between military life and coming home.
According to the U.S. Census, there are over 18 million veterans living in the United States.
“That is 8% of our national population,” said Cliff Ishigaki, board president of Wellness Works and a veteran of Vietnam.
Wellness Works representatives look at those numbers and the needs of veterans in terms of the era they served. For example, those who served in Vietnam are aging and have specific medical needs. Some are battling the health effects of Agent Orange, a tactical herbicide used by the U.S. military during Vietnam. The herbicide was sprayed on vegetation, exposing veterans to the chemical. It is called Agent Orange because of the orange bands that wrapped the barrels holding the herbicide.
“Those [vets] who served in more recent conflicts are dealing with the transition to employment,” Ishigaki said.
Vets who are returning from service today have the major portion of their work – their careers – ahead of them.
“But the military has taught them to be part of a group and to follow instructions,” Ishigaki said.
Wellness Works helps veterans reclaim their individuality so they can work as an individual as well as in a group. They have resumé workshops, offer physiological support and help in dealing with what can be the emotional impact of returning home.
“We try to straddle both worlds [military and civilian],” he said.
Some of the workshops provided help veterans on several levels, including a writing workshop where the veterans write about their experiences.
“We have outreach programs at Pasadena City College and Glendale [Community College],” he said. “There is a Wellness Works representative who works with the veterans office on campus.”
Walking that fine line between being part of a group and being an individual is something Wellness Works representatives deal with on a daily basis. In addition to helping vets transition to the workforce or higher education, there is also another statistic that Wellness Works focuses on – suicide.
“Suicide is the biggest emphasis [of our program]. If we get to know the vet and we discover there is a real potential for [self harm] with too much stress [we] get them into individual therapy,” Ishigaki said.
According to a study done by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs there are about 20 veteran suicide deaths a day.
“Many of these [suicides] are our older vets, from Korean and Vietnam,” he said. “They are a hard-to-reach group.”
There are also issues of homelessness in older and younger vets. Ishigaki said in Glendale veterans can find support with apartment complexes like Veterans Village, a 44-unit complex for veterans and their families.
Wellness Works partners with other VA approved veterans organizations, including local American Legion Posts.
For more information, and to donate to help support veterans programs, visit the Wellness Works website at wellnessworks4veterans.org or call (818) 247-2062, or stop by the offices at 540 W. Broadway in Glendale. The hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.