By Robert L. Rosebrock
LOS ANGELES – John Rowan, National President and CEO of the highly regarded Vietnam Veterans of America service organization made an impressive visit to the 307th consecutive Sunday Rally of the Veterans Revolution to “Save Our Veterans Land”
On Super Bowl Sunday while most everyone was safely ensconced in the comfort of their own home with family and friends, tens of thousands of war-injured and impoverished Veterans in Los Angles were alone … homeless and hungry … struggling to survive in back-alley squalor and skid-row.
On Super Bowl Sunday, true Veteran Leadership stepped forward on their behalf as John Rowan joined fellow Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and Old Veterans Guard members in their dedicated Rally to expose the biggest land-fraud scandal in American history, and to “Bring Our Homeless Veterans HOME” to the largest VA property in the nation which is in the midst of our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans.
By the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) own account, nearly half (47%) of all of today’s homeless Veterans are of the Vietnam War era.
John Rowan added an even more sobering reminder: “Today, there are more homeless Veterans from the Vietnam War era than were killed during the war. These Veterans are elderly, frail and in declining health and are being forced to live in deplorable circumstances. Make no mistake VVA is fully committed to ending these inhumane living conditions by ensuring that our fellow Veterans get the quality housing and care they need and deserve.”
VVA is the nation’s only congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization (VSO) dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.
VVA’s founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”
In that regard, John proclaimed: “VVA advocates on behalf of Veterans of all eras, those who served before us and those who have served most recently in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have supplanted our war as the longest in the history of the Republic.”
John is from Queens, New York and his VVA office is in Silver Spring, Maryland. He was in Los Angeles to meet with VA officials including executive director Donna Beiter, who is a Defendant in the ACLU lawsuit regarding the misuse of Veterans property deeded 126 years ago as a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.
Today, these sacred grounds are a national disgrace as the VA has seriously misused this land while many homeless Veterans sleep on the outside of the locked front gates.
Vietnam Veterans of America is a major Plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit that recently rendered a Federal Judgment against Ms. Beiter and VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki for unlawful use of Veterans property with nine separate non-Veteran entities.
The Federal Judgment is being appealed by the VA and John’s meeting with Ms. Beiter did not reflect on any discussions regarding that matter.
Instead, he was investigating the grounds of the Los Angeles VA and how it is being operated overall, something that VA Secretary Shinseki should have done five years ago. If the retired four-star General had originally taken this advice proffered by Los Angeles Veteran advocates, then today he would not be a Defendant in an embarrassing lawsuit with a Federal Judgment entered against him, and the local homeless Veteran population would have been dramatically reduced.
Nevertheless, John’s presence at the 307th Rally truly added to the camaraderie and fellowship as he bonded immediately with all who were in attendance, particularly officers from other VSO’s.
He was greeted by Bettina Michaels, an 85-year old World War II widow and a loyal attendee of our Sunday Rallies. John also met and talked with Ted Hayes, a nationally recognized leader on homelessness and a longtime supporter of the Old Veterans Guard.
John was particularly inspired by 94-year old Aldo Dipre`, a disabled World War II Veteran, as he proudly proclaimed. “This is patriotism personified …. Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II when Aldo fought for future generations of Americans, he is now fighting for the greater good of his fellow Veterans who are generations younger than himself. What an American hero and role model!”
Aldo responded: “I am honored to be with my Veteran brothers and sisters, and I wish there was more that I could do to take back this land and open the front gates to every homeless Veteran who needs housing and care. Why do we have to fight our own government to provide for these very basic humanitarian needs for disabled homeless Veterans?”
David Bischoff, a decorated Vietnam War Combat Officer and long-time member of the Old Veterans Guard enjoyed sharing war-time experiences with John, and then offered this: “John’s presence is a bold statement of real Veteran leadership because he is independently stepping forward to protest the land-fraud while also fighting to end the homeless Veteran problem here in Los Angeles. Hopefully other VSO officers will soon follow his leadership and show up at our Sunday Rallies.”
Howard Hernandez, a Vietnam War Veteran and past State Commander of the American G.I. Forum, is also a loyal member of the Old Veterans Guard. Howard commended John’s presence: “It’s inspiring when a top-level National VSO officer will set aside time like Super Bowl Sunday to join fellow Veterans who are protesting the misuse of this land and stand up for our homeless Veterans who belong inside and not on the sidewalk outside of these locked front gates.”
Francisco Juarez, a Marine Combat Veteran of the Vietnam War is the past State Judge Advocate of AMVETS service organization. He is a lifetime member of VVA and long-time member of the Old Veterans Guard. Francisco applauded John’s leadership as displayed on Super Bowl Sunday. “Something is seriously wrong when only a few stand up to rally support of the many homeless Veterans. This land is for disabled homeless and not for political payback and cronyism. John’s leadership sends a powerful message to all Veterans … not just VSO officers … that we all need to unify and be the solidified voice for our homeless Veterans who have been silenced by the VA bureaucracy and politicians.”
Andy Rebulio, who served during the Vietnam War era is Commander of Post 295 of the America Legion in Cypress, CA. Andy is also a loyal member of the Old Veterans Guard and expressed his respect for John Rowan, stating: “This is what leadership is all about … standing up and defending the defenseless …. speaking up for the voiceless … and advocating responsible action from those in charge at the VA. Obviously, the current leaders at the VA have failed so it’s time for new leadership with the kind of selfless and dedicated service of John Rowan.
Gil Flores is a 26-year career Air Force Chief Master Sergeant E-9, a Vietnam War Veteran, and a lifetime member and Vice-President of VVA Chapter 785. Gil is from Garden Grove, CA and is the Adjutant for the American Legion, District 29 in Orange County, as well as a long-time member of the Old Veterans Guard.
Gil spoke highly of John Rowan’s leadership, noting: “While we hail John’s presence here today, this should be common-practice of every VSO officer. Let’s hope that his presence today will inspire more and more Veterans to attend these rallies in support of our homeless Veterans who need to be inside these sacred grounds, safely housed and cared for and not alone and destitute. When a National President of a major VSO spends Super Bowl Sunday rallying on behalf of disabled homeless Veterans, then this is the kind of leadership that is needed not just at all VSO’s, but as Secretary of the VA.”
Gil own professional leadership offers an inspiring vision toward the future by proposing that John Rowan be considered as the top choice to replace Eric Shinseki as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Who could argue with Gil’s compelling suggestion for the greater good of our Veterans?
At our Super Bowl Sunday Rally, we were also proud to have Ted Hayes, a national leader for homelessness and a long, loyal supporter of the Veterans Revolution. Ted was also inspired by the presence of John Rowan’s national leadership and spoke encouragingly: “John’s presence today gives new hope that we are on the verge of opening these front gates with an emergency and provisional housing program that will bring an end to the unnecessary suffering and misery of those who pledged their lives on behalf of our own safety and well-being.”
On Super Bowl Sunday, John Rowan exemplified why he was recently re-elected to a fifth, two-year term as National President and CEO of Vietnam Veterans of America by visiting his “ground troops” nearly 3500 miles from his command post in Maryland.
John astounded this proud member of VVA and the Old Veterans Guard when he presented me with the VVA’s “Achievement Medal.” This is a real honor and I am profoundly humbled to receive this award on behalf of all who have loyally fought together in this six-year Veterans Revolution which we wage for tens of thousands of war-injured and impoverished Veterans who are homeless and defenseless in Los Angeles.
While the 307th Sunday Rally was a special occasion with John Rowan’s attendance, the Old Veterans Guard respectfully acknowledges those members who have passed on but remain with us in spirit: Steve Palmer, 88-year old World War II Veteran, Dan Overmyer, 85-year old World War II Veteran, and Newt Young, 84-year old Korean War Veteran. These stalwart Veteran advocates were loyal attendees of our Sunday Rallies and strong advocates for this worthy cause. We truly miss their presence and inspiration, and we shall never forget their loyal dedication.
We recently received unfortunate news that Dick Breithaupt, an 85-year Korean and Vietnam War era Veteran of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, a “Son of the American Revolution,” and loyal member of the Old Veterans Guard, broke his leg and is recuperating in a convalescence home. His wife Betty keeps us posted on Dick’s progress and we thank him for his long and devoted service, and wish him a speedy recovery.
The Old Veterans Guard is proud to have such a dedicated national leader like John Rowan join us and we look forward to working with him, his staff and legal team in Maryland, and the ACLU legal team in Los Angeles in bringing an end to this shameful misappropriation of land that was deeded exclusively for disabled and disadvantaged Veterans so that we can finally begin the responsible process of re-building the Los Angeles National Veterans Home into a safe and honorable sanctuary for Veterans to heal from their war injuries.
We’d also like to acknowledge and thank Dick Southern, VVA Region 9 Director (California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines)
Dick has been a strong leader and our rock here in Los Angeles as he staunchly backs and supports not only our Sunday Rallies and this cause, but VVA Region 9 sponsored the “Veterans Grand Old Flag Memorial” and hosted the “Veterans Summer Celebration & Picnic” that help give our Vietnam War Veterans their long overdue respect and honor.
Veterans need new leadership at the Department of Veterans Affairs and John Rowan is the most highly qualified prospect to replace Eric Shinseki, and this change must happen now.
Please join our Sunday Rallies, 1:00 – 4:00 PM, outside the locked VA gates at the northeast corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards adjacent to the community of Brentwood.
God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!
U.S. Army, 1965-67, Schofield Barracks, Hqs., U.S Army, Hawaii. Director, The Veterans Revolution, Captain, the Old Veterans Guard, and Director, We the Veterans.