The Santa Clarita Elks Lodge hosted its first appreciation day for local veterans and first responders at the lodge’s Canyon Country location on Saturday.
The event was created to express gratitude to those who are serving, or have served, in the armed forces, law enforcement, firefighting, or as a paramedic. But the event also served another purpose: to connect all of these people together and bring awareness to the resources at their disposal.
Event organizer and U.S. Army veteran, Jeannette Fisher, said making sure veterans and first responders know they’re not alone was pivotal to the appreciation day’s success. Her husband, Mike Fisher, also helped organize the event.
“We have a nationwide model in Elkton that basically goes… ‘As long as there is one veteran, the Elks, we’ll never forget them.’ And that’s something that’s a nationwide basis. We’ve always been very, very supportive of our veterans,” said Mike. “The Elks will never stop supporting the veterans – unless there comes a time when humanity can just get their head wrapped around each other and we have no need for war and horrible things like that… we will always, always remember those people.”
“It’s our very first event of this kind at this lodge,” said Jeannette. “But our lodge really supports the veterans and we thought it would be a great idea for our community to know what’s out here for veterans, as well as the public to just learn about what Santa Clarita has to offer.”
As attendees waited for their lodge-made barbecued tri-tip sandwiches (the secrets of which were not disclosed to The Signal) they could visit the many booths set up in the parking lot, which housed representatives from a local Los Angeles County Fire Department station, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, the Young Marines, a mounted division of the U.S. Marine Corps, Veterans Affairs, and the Santa Clarita Veterans Services Collaborative.
Dan Bradley, a Vietnam War veteran who was there representing the Veterans Services Collaborative, said that since there is a large population of veterans in the area, it’s important they know what’s available to them. Bradley served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1971.
“There’s a large veteran community in this area and anything that can be done to help them, and to get information to them, is important,” said Bradley.
Standing next to Bradley, and also representing the Veterans Services Collaborative, was fellow Vietnam War veteran Jeff Stabile, who echoed Bradley’s sentiment. Stabile served in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1967.
“A lot of veterans don’t realize what benefits they’re entitled to. They figure, ‘Oh, I don’t deserve this.’ But that’s what we’re here to do is say, ‘Look, we’ve got all of these referral resources that we can give you. In addition to VA benefits, we can help with your housing, medical, financial, legal, all by companies volunteering,’” said Stabile. “We offer all of these things, and we just try and get the word out to the veterans: come down here, see what’s available, and we can help [you] with a number of things.”
In addition to resources and information, Stabile said the veterans center also offers vets the opportunity to form a sense of community, often giving them a chance to share stories or traumas that may offer them a therapeutic reprieve by divulging those stories to another who’s experienced something similar.
“I’ve had veterans come in, sit down and sit and talk for about an hour or so, and then let us know, ‘I’ve never told any of my family members,’” said Stabile. “So it’s an environment where they can say what they want to say, they can talk about things that they don’t feel comfortable talking about (with) anybody else. And when they leave, you can see that they enjoyed that time because they’ve been wanting to talk about it, and just never get a chance to do it. That’s what we’re there for, besides providing the resources. We’re there to listen.”