City of Portland Takes Lead in Supporting America's Troops
Support from the roots in Portland, Oregon
By Sean T Lewis
VeteransToday.com Staff Writer
Over the past five years, many towns and cities across the United States have passed resolutions to "support the troops". With only rare exception, these resolutions have been limited to pledges of moral support while military veterans have been left homeless, without health care and other necessary resources, or struggling to navigate the labyrinthine system of the Veterans Administration on their own.
On June 6 of this year, that changed.
Once again, the city of Portland, Oregon has taken the lead in real action to support America's troops and veterans not only with words, but with actions.
In the 1970s, the Mayor's Veterans Task Force took action to see to it that Portland's veterans would be cared for by the community while the Veterans Administration and the rest of the federal government were still trying to figure out how to avoid liability for the Vietnam War and what it had done to those who served.
In 2005, Vietnam veteran Grant Remington, who was integral to the "vets for vets" movement for his generation, sought to revive the task force. Initially stymied by the City Council's apparent indifference, Remington continued to lobby local government as other individuals and groups joined the call, often unaware of each other's efforts. On the 63rd anniversary of D-day, two years after his initial appearance in the council chamber on the issue, the City Council of Portland, Oregon not only paid customary lip-service to veterans, but passed a resolution pledging action and resources to assist returning veterans.
Agenda item #670 was introduced by City staffer Bob Durston, and cosponsored by Portland Mayor Tom Potter, along with every member of the City Council. After each of their remarks in support of the resolution, the microphone opened up for public testimony.
For 90 minutes, the council chamber was filled with testimony from representatives of the Oregon National Guard, the Veterans Administration, Portland Police Bureau, Portland State University Student-veterans, Veterans for Peace, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as individual unaffiliated veterans of four wars, and members of the community who work or volunteer in various forms of outreach to returning veterans. The testimony was inspiring all on its own.
Many cities have passed resolutions to "support troops", but the Portland resolution is unique in that it pledges support to veterans not only with words, but with actions, and a commitment of resources.
The Portland resolution does more than acknowledge the service and sacrifice of veterans. It is a promise from the city to act as a central repository of information, and a liaison between the various organizations to assist veterans in the metropolitan area. Summit meetings with all interested parties will follow the resolution to facilitate and establish the necessary contacts for this new office to function.
The Portland resolution is an acknowledgement that the weight of war and the plight of forgotten veterans fall on the streets of the nation through additional burden on social programs, homelessness, and local police activity. Portland should stand proudly as they take on these issues in a straight-forward and reasonable manner — before the issues become problems.
The resolution passed by unanimous vote of the City Council, showing America how communities care for their own.
Sean T Lewis is a disabled veteran of the Persian Gulf War now living in Portland, Oregon as a single parent, activist, and writer. Sean is a member of several veterans' organizations, a local officer of Veterans for Peace, board member of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, and webmaster for soldiersheart.org.