Last Friday, we celebrated Independence Day, which was the 232nd Anniversary of the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence from Britain.
While we celebrate this momentous occasion every year, the sacred Document they signed would be just another piece of parchment paper if it hadn't been vigorously fought for and defended during the subsequent Revolutionary War that required seven hard years of continuous battles before freedom and independence were finally achieved for our new nation.
Equally important, or more than two centuries the men and women of America's Military Forces have steadfastly carried out this traditional responsibility of defending the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, which ensures our unparalleled way of life.
On December 3, 2007, the Veterans "Declaration of Enforcement" was signed and put forth to become an Amendment to the Deed of 1888 that will protect and preserve the Los Angeles National Veterans Home in perpetuity.
Although fellow Veterans have signed the Declaration to protect and defend the independence of our National Veterans Home from a neglectful VA and greedy land grabbers, our battles must also continue to be waged until full victory is secured.
On March 2nd, 2008, fellow Veterans and supporting members of the community joined together to celebrate the 120th Anniversary of the Deed of 1888 and to pay tribute to the benevolent Land Grantors, John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker.
Even though we celebrated the anniversary of the Deed, we still cannot truly experience the sacred promise that was bestowed upon this hallowed land, which was specified six different times, "To be permanently maintained as a National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers."
Those who attended the 120th Anniversary will recall that Veterans united from Irwindale, Orange County, San Fernando Valley and Thousand Oaks and proudly read aloud the Veterans Declaration of Enforcement.
To our astonishment, a VA bureaucrat intervened and claimed that this was a violation of our use permit, while Veterans declared that it was a violation of our First Amendment Right, and we subsequently terminated our Anniversary Celebration in defiance.
On the other hand, soon after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and 11 years before we even had a U.S. Constitution, and 15 years before the First Amendment Rights were ratified, the early Colonists had more Rights than today's Veterans because they read their Declaration out loud in the public arena without being condemned or chastised like we were when we read our Declaration of Enforcement on Veterans' exclusive land.
What makes this so reprehensible is that it's the Veterans of America's Armed Forces who have protected our U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights over the past two centuries that were being denied these very Rights.
Consequently, on March 9th 2008, We the Veterans called for a "Veterans Revolution," albeit a peaceful and non-violent one, "To Save The Home" from a manipulative VA and an opportunistic community by holding our first Sunday Rally to protest the proposed 16-acre public park on Veterans land.
As we know, the VA, with the blessings of the politicians, essentially gave away this billion-dollar parcel of land, rent-free, to the residents of Brentwood for a public park, while Veterans healthcare needs are woefully underfunded and 20,000 of our fellow Veterans are homeless.
After only a few Sunday Rallies of standing on the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards with signs in protest, some Veterans asked, "What good are these Rallies really doing?"
Well, let's look back upon the brief history of the Veterans Declaration of Enforcement and our Veterans Revolution, and explore the many battles we have already fought and our own reasons to celebrate.
Consider the following:
At our first Sunday Rally on March 9th, more than 100 showed up to protest and it included Veterans from around Southern California. Gene Simes, a Vietnam War Veteran and CEO of "Operation Firing For Effect," (OFFE) flew in from Rochester, New York to broadcast the event live on his national "StarBurst" radio program.
Dr. Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Baptist Church of La Brea and a two-tour Vietnam War Veteran, interviewed fellow Veterans while broadcasting live on his world-wide "CrusadeRadio" program.
The "Los Angeles Daily News" featured a story the next day that included several photos of the Rally.
In addition, fellow Veterans who are residents of the New Direction (ND) program at the Veterans Home joined the first Sunday Rally and it was truly an inspiration as they marched to the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente chanting in unison: "USA, USA, USA."
They stood proudly with signs that read, "No Public Park" and "Save Our Veterans Land," and chanted loudly in unison: "SAVE THE HOME, SAVE THE HOME."
Their camaraderie and unified spirit was inspiring to all and the event was highlighted when they organized everyone together and led the singing of "God Bless America."
The next day, an e-mail was sent to John Keaveney, Chief Operating Officer of New Directions, a fellow Veteran and a signer of the Declaration, thanking him for sending the ND Veteran residents to Rally: <<Thanks! It was great enjoyment for these Veterans who love their country (not necessarily their government) and they were very proud to be defending their National Home. It no doubt offered some very positive therapy for them.>>
John e-mailed back stating: << No Bob thank you and Frank [Juarez]. I read the article and we must increase the participation. We need more media. So lets plan a date for the next one so we can do an e-mail blast>>
In spite of Mr. Keaveney's enthusiastic letter of thanks and promised support, neither he nor the ND Veterans attended any more Rallies. When questioned about this, he said the VA prohibited ND Veterans from any further participation as protesters to the park.
Immediately, "We the Veterans" aggressively challenged this suppression of Veterans' First Amendment Rights through articles in the media, e-mail correspondence and phone calls to seek help.
Fortunately, Rees Lloyd, a prominent Civil Rights attorney and a past Commander of the American Legion's 21st District in the Inland Empire area, stepped forward and questioned the top executives at the Greater West Los Angeles VA and New Directions about resident Veterans being denied their Right to assemble and protest, and both executives assured him that these Veterans would not be denied their individual Right to join the Sunday Rallies and protest the land grabbing.
However, when Mr. Keaveney was notified that ND Veterans were now free to exercise their Constitutional Rights as they see fit, and not fear retaliation for attending the Rallies, he defiantly stated that he "could now not allow any New Directions Veteran joining the Sunday Rallies because it would be harmful to their treatment and rehabilitation." He went on to say that "the excitement of protesting would be harmful to their treatment and rehabilitation."
On May 19, 2008, Mr. Keaveney was challenged about his contradictory and dubious claim and asked to provide the medical and psychiatric tests of just "one" Veteran to corroborate and document his statement that joining the Rallies would be harmful to ND Veterans treatment and rehabilitation. Mr. Keaveney never responded and still has not furnished any evidence of his unilateral claim.
It's important to know that "We the Veterans" fully supports the overall mission of New Directions and will continue to do so. Nonetheless, we will also continue to challenge Mr. Keaveney as to why he has unilaterally denied our fellow Veterans under his control their Constitutional Right to make their own decision whether or not to protest against the public park. As to why or how, one day Mr. Keaveney could highly support the Sunday Rallies and endorse the Declaration of Enforcement, and another day, deny other Veterans from joining the Rallies or supporting the Declaration, remains a curious mystery.
The foregoing notwithstanding, we advanced forward and introduced our new 15-foot long banner that colorfully, proudly and boldly declares: "Save Our Veterans Land." This powerful message greets thousands of passing motorists every Sunday. (Approximately 250,000 cars pass through this intersection every day).
The "Save Our Veterans Land" banner was voluntarily paid for by fellow Veteran Roy Crummer who has also been a frequent participant at our Sunday Rallies.
At the May 4th Sunday Rally, Francisco Juarez, Co-Director of "We the Veterans," along his wife Clara, our Secretary, brought American flags of all shapes and sizes and tied them together side by-side-across the front gate and fence for a "Wall of Flags" tribute. The flags were sent by OFFE's New York HQ's and some of the flags had flown above the U.S. Capitol, American Legion Post headquarters and at the funerals of our fellow Veterans. It was truly a Glorious day as "Old Glory" waved proudly and freely in the winds to show Her support of our Sunday Rally.
While we struggled to understand the impact of our Rallies, on Sunday, June 8th, fellow Veterans Dick Breithaupt and Gil Flores held the American flag upside down to send out the "Distress Call." This became necessary because the local VA had rented out Veterans property for the weekend to a raucous AIDS carnival fundraiser that included a gigantic Ferris wheel, water slide, circus tents and men dancing as drag queens while disabled Veterans were trying to convalesce in the required quietude of this hallowed land.
One week later, the American G.I. Forum of California with 5,500 members, answered the Call and signed a petition at their State Convention stating "The Forum supports 'We the Veterans' and their Mission to hold Sunday Rallies until the public park agreement is canceled and the Declaration of Enforcement becomes an Amendment to the Deed of 1888." Gil Flores, a fellow Veteran who religiously drives up from Orange County to our Sunday Rallies, presented the Resolution and was a co-signer as well.
Mr. Willie Galvan, the California State Commander of the American G.I. Forum, sent a subsequent e-mail confirming: "We will support all efforts with resolutions, etc., to assist in stopping abuses of Veterans' land."
Then, Rees Lloyd stepped forward with another leadership role and the American Legion of the California State Department, with 160,000 members, answered the Call by signing his District 21's Resolution at the State Convention in Bakersfield.
The Resolution, authored by Mr. Lloyd, states that the California Legion would "not endorse the establishment of a public park for use by the community generally on land donated for the exclusive benefit of veterans, and should not endorse any use of the property at the Veterans Home Land which is not for the “sole purpose of providing veterans a place to heal from war.”
Getting the Legion's Resolution passed was no easy feat because the local VA, with the help of the pro-park group, tried to run interference and have the Resolution tabled. Thanks to Mr. Lloyd's professionalism, alertness and tenacity, he stopped their attempted end run and the Resolution was unanimously passed by California Legionnaires.
In defiance of the Resolution, Donna Beiter, Acting Director of the Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, had written a letter to the American Legion's Service Officer trying to downplay the abuse of Veterans land by stating that Veterans Park Conservancy had an agreement to "renovate and landscape a section of the West La campus for use as a park. However, this is not a public park."
The VA's letter in itself is a major victory because it actually confirmed the merit of our Sunday Rallies to stop VPC's blatant braggadocio that they were building a "public park" for the entire community on Veterans property.
While we applaud Ms. Beiter's confirmation that "this is not a public park," Veterans will continue protesting until VPC's "sharing agreement" is canceled in its entirety and the land is reverted back in accordance with the Declaration of Enforcement, Articles IV and V.
Recently, the American Independent Party (Constitution Party) held its State Convention in Los Angeles. Their presidential candidate, Chuck Baldwin, honorably answered the "Distress Call" by attending our June 29th Sunday Rally in support of our cause to save Veterans land.
Candidate Baldwin proudly and unhesitatingly endorsed the Veterans "Declaration of Enforcement" and then challenged the other presidential candidates to do the same.
Larry Breazeale, chairman of the National Veterans Coalition that has 3,500 members, also attended the June 29th Rally along with his wife Rebecca who videotaped the event. They drove from Orange County and Larry expressed the dedicated support of Brigadier General Charles Jones III, USAF Retired, founder of the National Veterans Coalition. Larry signed the "Declaration of Enforcement" on behalf of the National Coalition.
At the Rally, candidate Baldwin challenged 17-term Congressman Henry Waxman, whose 30th District in West Los Angeles encompasses the largest VA in the nation, to sign the Declaration and further demanded that Congress provide the necessary funding for Veterans healthcare and to stop the VA from leasing this hallowed land.
He also challenged Senator Diane Feinstein to fulfill her pledge "to build the finest healthcare facility in the nation for America's Veterans" on this West Los Angeles site.
Candidate Baldwin spoke individually with each Veteran at the Rally instead of at them as a group. He stayed for three hours and stated that he was "not here asking for Veterans support, but here to give my support for Veterans."
When was the last time any politician ever made that kind of an offer to America's Military Veterans? When was the last time any of the politicians responsible for protecting this hallowed land have ever supported Veterans rights to it? To the contrary, they've all supported the public park and actually facilitated this egregious land grab.
Candidate Baldwin was overwhelmed with pride and admiration of the older World War II and Korean War Veterans who were in attendance to protest the land grabbing and government's complicit giveaway.
He praised how they fought to defend our nation and liberated other countries around the world more than six decades ago, and now they were standing on one of LA's busiest street corners on a hot, sunny day defending and protecting this land that was deeded specifically for Veterans healthcare services 120 years ago.
Chuck talked about how they could be spending the afternoon with their families, but instead, chose to stand shouder-to-shoulder with fellow Veterans and defend this sacred land that was entrusted to the U.S. government for Veterans use only. He praised them as great American patriots and challenged others to join in the noble crusade to save this land for today's Veterans and future generations.
Among the stalwart protesters were Steve Palmer, an 85 year-old WW II Veteran in a wheel chair, two 82 year-olds and two 80 year-olds of WW II and the Korean War, and a 73 year-old Korean War Veteran, along with several youngsters in our 60's of the Vietnam War era.
There were also community supporters (Bettina Michaels never misses a Sunday Rally) who enjoyed fellowship with Veterans over hot dogs donated by Jay Handal, chairman of the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and owner of San Gennaro Cafe. Jay coined the phrase "Veterans Land For Veterans Use Only" and is a staunch supporter of Veterans causes. He is also secretary of the "Coalition For Veterans Land."
Attendees also enjoyed some cool and refreshing apple cider and apple-pomegranite juice donated by S. Martinelli & Company, which was founded twenty years before the Deed of 1888 was signed, and five years after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
While the local VA denied us our Right to "Freedom of Speech" on Veterans property, we have been given an open forum to "Freedom of the Press" with the "Greater West Los Angeles Business Monthly," Newspaper of the Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce with a distribution of 10,000.
"The Front Page On Line," a popular Internet news website for local interests has also published many of our articles, and Ari Noonan, the Publisher and Editor, has written his own articles about our cause and Sunday Rallies.
"The Veterans Today Network" has published numerous articles about our cause. The Network is a group of sites that are Networking News and Information Sites for those who served n the United States Military. It is a service network of 63 web sites that service the U.S. Military and Veterans Community. With 50,000 + unique visitors and 700,000 + combined page views per month, it is a growing dynamic interactive conglomerate of information, service, and product sites serving the U.S. Military Veterans market.
Recently, Rudy Garcia, a leader of the 11th Airborne Association of Southern California, sent out a letter "To Veterans and friends of all Veterans around the world" and requested: "Please send a letter from your V.F.W., American Legion Chapter, yourself personally and friends stating that this property is to be for VETERANS USE ONLY!"
Rudy is also Chairman of the Los Angeles County Advisory Commission and we consider his support to be extremely vital.
John L. Stamatiades, past Commander of District 17 of the American Legion, Department of California, and recently appointed to the Legion's National Legislative Counsel, is a regular attendee at our Sunday Rallies and an endorser of the Veteran's Declaration of Enforcement. We proudly look to John as a major ally and leader in our cause.
Rusty Rustin, the California Director of the New York headquartered OFFE has steadfastly fought on behalf of fellow Veterans with California's U.S. Senators and Congresspersons.
Rusty personally delivered our "Congressional Complaints" against Senator Feinstein's West LA office for negligence, and other Complaints, including a demand that VPC repay the $1 million of Veterans seriously needed healthcare money that they finagled from the VA to pay for their pretentious fence to beautify the entryway to Brentwood.
Rusty's "Voice For Veterans Services" website has a special link on his website that links to our cause: http://www.vfvs.com/LaVeteransHomeInBrentwood_LandGrab.html
Ted Hayes, U.S. Congressional candidate of the 35th District, has endorsed the Declaration of Enforcement and is a regular attendee at our Sunday's Rallies. He is a staunch defender of all Veterans rights and causes and he has dutifully challenged the ongoing abuses and neglect of the Deed of 1888.
Lady Cage-Barile, candidate for the California State Assembly's 47th District also attends our Sunday Rallies.
Yes, the Veterans "Distress Call" is being answered in many ways and we are all extremely grateful for everyone who has unhesitatingly and unselfishly stepped forward and given their loyal support to this noble and just cause.
It's important to remember that the last sentence before the Founding Fathers' signed their names testifies: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
After signing the Declaration, Benjamin Franklin forewarned: "We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately."
The same can be said about Veterans, because the battles ahead to protect and defend the Deed of 1888 and the National Veterans Home will not be easy, but they must be fought -- and we must fight together.
This Sunday, July 13th, we will be holding our 18th Rally to "Save Our Veterans Land" and all we're asking is for Veterans to pledge just three hours of your time every Sunday afternoon until we force the eviction of all who are in violation of the Deed of 1888 and the Declaration of Enforcement becomes an Amendment to the Deed, so that today's Veterans, and future generations of America's Military Veterans, will always have a National Veterans Home for their healthcare and rehabilitation needs.
Join the Veterans Revolution and support this most noble cause by showing up every Sunday from 1:00 - 4:00 PM at the Northeast corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards in Brentwood.
Equally important, please sign the attached Veterans "Declaration of Enforcement" on page 18.
And please ask the political candidates of your choice to endorse the Declaration and to also join us at our Sunday Rallies. To be clear, "We the Veterans" does not endorse any candidate, but we encourage all candidates to support our Veterans and endorse the Declaration of Enforcement.
Thank you, and let's celebrate a new Declaration that will protect and defend in perpetuity, the Deed of 1888 and the Los Angeles National Veterans Home.
Robert L. Rosebrock
Co-Director, We the Veterans