A brilliant blue sky looked down at the field of American flags planted by the Film Strip fountain in front of the Vets Memorial Building at the corner of Overland and Culver Boulevards. A brown and yellow Mourning Cloak butterfly drifted through, seeming to stop at one flag and then the next as the honorary color guard assembled before the event.
Hosted by the Exchange Club, Culver City Rotary Club, the Culver City Woman’s Club and the Culver City Chamber of Commerce, the collection of service organizations were all there to support a tribute to heroes; not just the military veterans, but first responders, firefighters and police as well. Several dozen community members were in attendance.
The presentation was emcee’d by the Exchange Club’s John Cohn, who noted the history of the building, dedicated in 1950, and the challenges still faced today by many veterans who suffer from mental health issues and homelessness.
State Senator Sydney Kamlager presented honors for the military veterans to Earl Eskridge, the most senior veteran in the community. Exchange Club President Jeff Cooper offered remarks, and Mayor Alex Fisch reinforced the focus on the need for homeless veterans to get the support they deserved.
Chris Crowley from New Directions for Veterans spoke to the gathering, asking for support for their organization, whose mission is ‘to empower men and women who served in the military, and their families, to lead productive and fulfilling lives.’ Noting the challenges of life after military service often caused veterans to deal with mental health issues by self medicating, the slide into addiction and homelessness was a far too frequent tragedy. Getting veterans housing and social welfare support was the ‘new direction’ that the organization was helping people move towards. Cohn asked the audience to make contributions at NDVets.org.
The gathering was closed with poem by Culver City’s Laureate Emeritus Dr. Janet Hoult, entitled “To Save the World,” ending with the lines –
“Our living veterans
and those we have lost,
should be honored,
Not just on Memorial Day and Veterans Day…
Don’t those still with us
Deserve to be cared for
And cherished The rest of their days
For serving their country
For putting their lives on the line for us?”
As the gathering disbursed, the butterfly continued to travel from one flag to another, stopping to watch the color guard depart.