Community partnerships make Veterans Day a success
Thousands of veterans, workers and community members turned out this year for our annual Veteran’s Day event. The celebration at the OC Fair & Event Center provided a day of fun for the whole family, and an opportunity to connect veterans to good jobs and the services they need now that they have come home.
This year’s Veterans Day was particularly special because it marked the dedication of Heroes Hall, the County’s first ever museum honoring veterans. Conceived by former OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino, who is now President of the Heroes Hall Foundation, the museum demonstrates what is possible when workers and the community unite for a common purpose. Along with Nick, I have the privilege of serving on the Foundation Board to help raise money and steer the vision of the museum, which was 100% constructed by union workers.
The event also included a special recognition of Vietnam War Veterans. The conflict in Southeast Asia (1965-1975) divided the nation, and our returning service men and women were often treated disrespectfully when they came home. The Veterans Day celebration provided an opportunity for working men and women to say “thank you” and “welcome home” to these veterans.
We also collected a record-breaking haul of food for veterans in need! Thank you to every OCEA member who donated food at your work site. Ironworkers Local 416 in Norwalk collected more than 2 tons of food and goods alone, and Orange County Firefighters also joined in the pre-Veteran’s Day collection efforts.
On Veterans Day morning, televised calls for donations on KTLA 5 led to a steady stream of people wanting to help.
Ultimately, the food drive brought in more than 5.6 tons of food, surpassing last year’s 4-ton record. The food and supplies were distributed through Disabled American Veterans, which provides free, professional assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits earned through military service. There is no better feeling than to see the pantries at veteran’s homes fill up with needed items.
As many of you know from reading our email blasts or from the many partnerships we struck to promote the event in the newspapers, our nation’s veterans too often don’t receive the support or the services they need when they return home. OCEA has been part of a massive statewide effort among California labor unions to change that. The Veterans + Labor: Partners in Service project began four years ago, to help ensure that we all give back to veterans just as they have given so much to us.
The Labor Movement is leading the effort, but we also have the help and support of the community including businesses, non-profits and individuals who care about our servicemen and women long after the parades and welcome home ceremonies are over. Our Veterans + Labor: Partners in Service event creates a bond between our movement and the veterans we serve. And it also creates a bond between the many unions and community members who put on such an ambitious event.
Working shoulder-to-shoulder, we helped to make Heroes Hall a reality and provide veterans with a voice they can use to teach our children about their service.
Standing together, we made it all happen because that’s what working people do.