The Santa Clarita Veteran Services Collaborative held its “Visit with a Vet” event on Saturday, Sept. 11 in front of the Starbucks in the shopping center at the corner of McBean Parkway and Decoro Drive to provide local veterans and their families with an opportunity to connect with veterans’ resources.
Jeff Stabile, director of business development for the collaborative, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, announced to the 70-person crowd that the Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN) offered by Los Angeles County recently became available at the collaborative’s space on Lyons Avenue three days a month on the first, second and fourth Thursday of each month.
“It’s not just for the veterans, it’s for the families, too,” he said of the resources offered by the collaborative, noting that more than 8,000 veterans call the Santa Clarita Valley home. “The only questions we ask is, ‘What can we do for you?’”
Stabile also shared that the collaborative offers books, movies, mobility support and food to veterans and family members who need the help.
Veteran Anthony Rodriguez was providing resources to veterans at the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) table. He’s attended events like this one across Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
“This one is really nice because you can tell they care about the vets,” he said of the SCV event, which opened with the singing of the national anthem by Hart High student Claire Tester. “Here, there’s a real sincere sense that they really want to help.”
Larry Bustetter was at the event representing the Blinded Veterans Association. He said he thought it was appropriate to have held the veterans’ resources on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“I think those all serve as marvelous reminders that we dare not forget those that died,” he said, noting other commemoration of the events 20 years ago in the SCV.
Nearby, Fred Gesin, a volunteer with the collaborative, said he thinks the community needs more events like the resources event Saturday evening.
“The best thing about it is trying to get vets together,” said Gesin, a Vietnam veteran, who retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1982.
Gesin served two tours at the Pentagon, one of the locations targeted and struck by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
“It just really upset me that they hit the Pentagon and we allowed it to happen,” he said.
Wayne Aragon, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, had just picked up a pamphlet from the CalVet table.
He said having a veterans’ resources event on Sept. 11 reminds the community that through service Americans have always risen to a challenge.
“Take a look around, you’ll see a variety of different people here are veterans and their spouses and probably other non-veterans that recognize and reflect the service that’s provided,” he said. “(The event) commemorates both service to country and reflects honor, valor and courage.”
Rose Large was enjoying a plate of free food provided by Valencia’s Wolf Creek Brewery.
Her father and two brothers all served in the U.S. armed forces.
“You can’t support them enough,” she said of veterans. “It’s a wonderful event to see people coming out to support the veterans.”