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Mark Chandler on Veterans Needs.

Dear Editor,

Military bases and VA medical facilities have been closing or downsizing throughout the nation for over twenty years, particularly affecting the entire Veterans Health Care system. Budget constraints and discretionary funding puts the VA at the back of the line when it comes to setting aside funding for medical facility construction and upgrading advanced medical training. And the results of this callous lack of foresight is our veterans are treated like second class citizens and their contributions and sacrifices are all but ignored.

Communities are hard pressed to reclaim the land that once supported the tools of our military efforts and the histories of these magnificent facilities have become simply footnotes to our nation’s history. Hamilton Air Force Base has been marking time for over twenty years with very little resolution to its future. Oaknoll Hospital bit the dust and Livermore medical facility is waiting for the final blow. The Oakland Veterans Outpatient Clinic is suffering diminished resources and is located in an area that suffers the lack of economic development and its prestige is diminished by the location it was initially built at. It too faces fiscal reevaluation for the future..

The mirror of the past reflects yet another magnificent military base – the former Alameda Naval Air Station that suffered the same fate as many of the other military bases. Its future is the subject of developer’s greed and exotic, futuristic planning that ignores the quiet ambiance that once appealed to a simple family lifestyle.

Alameda’s John J. Mulvaney, was a visionary. Back in 1917, he scouted the west end of Alameda, then known as Alameda Point, and envisioned a naval base that might be erected on the seventeen hundred acres of marshland. Through determination and vision his dream became a reality. And for over sixty years Alameda and the East Bay benefited from the activities that maintained our ships and repaired the military aircraft. Over 41,000 service men and women and federal workers were employed on these 2,270 acres of marshland, and the funding benefited not only the military but the city of Alameda and surrounding communities. To be sure, Mulvaney’s vision had a positive effect on the economy of our Alameda community.

Mulvany’s vision has been muted and other cities both north and south have benefited from Alameda’s demise. Alameda has no visionaries – . no one with the foresight to recapture the excellence and potential that John J. Mulvaney envisaged over half a century ago. Now our aging veterans and maimed and suffering military men and women returning from the Middle East scramble to find suitable health care close to home. Some travel to health facilities as far away as Travis Air Force Base. And the Veterans Administration stands at the end of the line to receive discretionary funding to support our wounded warriors.

Well, my friends, someone does have a vision. Struggling to keep pace with our aging veterans and wrestling with exotic diseases and severe physical injuries our soldiers are bringing back from the Middle East, the VA is systematically seeking to upgrade existing medical facilities across the country in an attempt to provide adequate medical services to thousands of ailing veterans in Alameda County.

Enter the vacant, contested land at Alameda Point. Under the able leadership of VA Directors Claude Hutchinson, Larry Janes, and Don Rinker the Veterans Administration is proposing to build an up to date campus that includes a technically updated two story outpatient clinic, a potential for a long term care facility for our aging veterans, possible partnership with Alameda Hospital that will benefit both Alamedans and our veterans. In addition they envision a 53 acre Columbaria that will serve over 322,000 veterans. Their vision includes partnering with the Peralta Community College’s School of Allied Health for Nursing training, building a heliport for emergency medical needs as well as serve the community in event of regional disasters. The Air Force, Army and Native American veterans and their families will also benefit from these visionaries.

You sent us off to war to defend the principles and values that were meant to free us from the bonds of hatred and undisciplined demagoguery that pervades an unstable world. We did our job and served our country with honor and pride. Alameda has the chance to revisit that vision John J. Mulvany perceived over half a century ago. This community can make a dramatic contribution to the well being of our servicemen and women by making a commitment to put Alameda back on the map again. Let Mulvaney’s vision work for peace. For the sacrifices and contributions our veterans made on behalf of our nation our veterans ask only to heal their wounds and help them put their lives back together again.

– Mark Raymond Chandler, Alameda

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