It is said that each one of us can make a difference and together we can make a change. Out of 70,000 voices among the disabled veterans who live in Alameda County, we here would like our voices to be heard -- to speak as a single voice and make a change.
Over 70 years and through three major wars, thousands of workers and military men and women came over the bridges and through the tubes in the Bay Area, completing a ritual that did not go unnoticed by the citizens of Alameda or the Bay Area. Among those workers were returning veterans and your fellow citizens, and, interestingly enough within this busy complex, the California least tern found safe harbor from predators beside an active flight line, under the protection of the U.S. Navy.
But alas, in the late 1990s, Congress forced the Navy to weigh anchor, leaving our workforce disbanded and, more seriously, left our disabled veterans stranded, forcing them to struggle with minimal health care providers in the veterans' health care system. For more than eight years after the demise of the Alameda Naval Air Station, the Veterans Affairs Department with the help of the Alameda County Veterans Affairs Commission has fought earnestly to turn a small part of the air station into a new home for a veterans outpatient clinic. Furthermore, men and women veterans who paid the ultimate price will have a columbarium for a final resting place. The VA has no doubt that Alameda Point stands ready to provide the space to build a new, up-to-date medical facility to honor the promises our government made to our veterans.
Numbers speak for themselves -- more than 70,000 veterans make up the population of Alameda County, among them thousands of veterans who live in Alameda. And nine East Bay cities are also factored in the disabled veteran family. The numbers are growing with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. But these are not simply numbers -- they are living, breathing human beings, men and women who served their country with pride, honor and dignity. And now we wait patiently for the medical services we were promised when we entered the military -- never realizing that our wait for treatment may be longer than it took for us to complete our tours of duty. And if the nation asked us to serve our country once again, we would not hesitate to don our uniforms at a moment's notice.
Finally, President John F. Kennedy once spoke about the reverence and pride we have in our veterans -- "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that our highest appreciation is not to utter just words but to live by them."
Our veterans' appeal to you to support the Veterans Outpatient Clinic and the columbarium. We offered our expertise, and some their lives to support our way of life. Our nation owes it to our veterans to honor their service.
Mark Raymond Chandler is a veteran and resident of Alameda.