World War II Veteran Loren Major participating in the Veterans’ Resource Fair. (Daniela Sanchez/Lariat)
Saddleback College hosted its ninth annual South County Veterans Resource Fair on Tuesday morning. Dozens of veteran organizations had booths in the Student Services Quad offering information to students, as well as retired and active-duty military personnel about the transition back to civilian life.
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that veterans make up at least 11 percent of the homeless population. Commander Wayne Yost of Dana Point’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9934 and others like him have been aiding veterans with their disabilities and financial difficulties.
“In the last 12 years, we have assisted 433 veterans, and we’re very proud of the fact that we have a 100- percent success rate in getting every single one of those claims resolved and disability payment over to them,” Yost said.
Yost was a sergeant in a specialized unit that was ranged in combat, reconnaissance and intelligence with the South Vietnamese Special Forces Majors Group during the Vietnam War.
“We have a very active homeless veteran program and “Our mission is to keep veterans from becoming homeless and those that have become homeless to get ‘em back and to a stable situation,” Yost said.
World War II veteran Loren Major, 91, is also a part of the VFW Post 9934.
“I learned that war is hell,” Major said. Having fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the largest battle that the Americans ever fought on the German offensive during World War II that determined the fate of the war in favor of the Allies. Major was fortunate to be sent home when he contracted pneumonia.
“I was very fortunate enough because at the end of the Bulge we had that victory there and that ended the war but I’d gotten double pneumonia,” Major said.
As fortunate as he was to be sent back, his injuries stuck with him. Major contracted double pneumonia. Major has a husky service dog and a cane to help him with his mobility problems. He said, “war is hell,” but he treasures every day.
Vice President Aaron Seibert of the Warrior Built Foundation said his organization plans to help realize new hopes and dreams for veterans. Seibert’s organization worked together with Task Force Heroes to build a bike designed specifically for a combat veteran who lost his arm. According to Seibert, WBF allows veterans to be with other veterans who can talk to them.
“That camaraderie starts coming back and that feeling you have somebody to lean on all the time and you always have a place to come or a person to talk to or a battle buddy that really needs to have your back. If you don’t have that sometimes you’re lost,” Seibert said.
Seibert spent 20 years in service and got injured with pieces of shrapnel on his third mission to Iraq. His experience as a former corpsman in the Marine Corps and as a retired Navy Chief has led him to observe that veterans find it difficult to return home because U.S. civilians care more about trivial things compared to what the veterans have gone through.
As a result, they end up feeling that life has no meaning anymore. Seibert said that the WBF is very thorough in utilizing resources to improve veterans’ outlook on life after their service.
“We wanna see something all the way through. We really wanna carry on and create a new memory,” Seibert said. Referring to veterans, “we want to bring a rush of adrenaline to their lives and make it mean something.”
To find more veterans’ resources, go to this website or to room 207 at Saddleback’s Student Services Center.