A Veterans Recognition event was held Sunday, Nov. 6, at the VFW in San Fernando. The event was hosted by the City of San Fernando and the local chapters of the VFW.
“It’s important to have events like this because too often veterans have been forgotten and many are now homeless,” said Jay Jakar, commander of the San Fernando American Legion Post 176, who spoke at the event. “We need to remember them every day – not just on Veterans Day.”
The annual count of the homeless found that at least 3,878 veterans lived on streets and sidewalks throughout the Valley and Los Angeles County. Oftentimes veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, medical and mental health and substance abuse issues end up without a place to live because they are disabled and can’t navigate seeking help.
Jakar, a veteran of the Korean War, said people often say, “Thank you for your service, but never ask how they can help or what is it that you need?” Most veterans he said aren’t going to ask for anything, even those that need help.
Jakar said thanking a veteran for their service is such a common phrase that he’s heard it a thousand times, he considers it to be just like a buzzword – just something that is said over and over again.
“People rarely do more or ask what can I do to help you guys?”
Unknown to most, the San Fernando American Legion post on Pico Street is 103 years old. Over the last 100 years, it’s hard to estimate the number of veterans that have passed through their doors.
“It has been held together by a generation of veterans who were right between the big conflicts and most of these guys all came back to the community.
“It’s like a base – we don’t sit around and talk about where we served or tell old war stories, it’s a place where we understand each other and there are no strings attached.”
One of the missions of the American Legion is to help current and former members and help transition back into their community.
Jakar describes the Legion as not an “individual thing, but a group” where you can find someone in their 20s and others who are in their 80s who all have common ground, no matter what branch of the military they served.
People in the community can really thank veterans by helping them repair and maintain their post, Jakar explained.
The American Legion building like many of the veterans themselves has weathered much over the years. Due to a lack of funds, it has had too little maintenance and is badly in need of repair.
“It’s currently about $75-80,000 short of needed funds to rehab the post.
“It was built in 1932, and we found electrical wiring still in the building that was from 1946. We need new windows and a lot more. Supervisor [Sheila] Kuehl gave the Legion $5,000 that allowed us to get a new cooling unit over the summer and some of that also went to electrical wiring. The Legion is open as a cooling center for the community over the hot summer months.”
They hold activities and events throughout the year to raise funds and outreach to other veterans.
Some of their activities may seem small but can make a big difference. They collect laundry detergent, fabric softener and socks to deliver to the Sepulveda Veterans Hospital to help the veterans who live there.
They’ll have two floats in the Valley Veterans Parade and will gather for their own event at their post.
“We reach out to veterans that don’t get reached out to,” said Jakar. “Banners are nice but the community can help us by donating and supporting our programs and events.”