Sadly, Novato does not reach out to veterans to ensure that they feel genuinely valued and meaningfully included in community life. By contrast, I’ve been working professionally with the veteran community for a long time. As an example, in 2006, my clients at the Veterans Administration asked me to expand my scope of work to include outreach to veterans who were afraid to engage the VA health care system.
Until then, the VA had asked me to focus on end-of-life vets, to help ensure dignity and meaning in their transition by documenting their passage. I worked with a team of medical professionals, veterans advocates, and educational specialists to build communications and training for palliative care professionals, as well as dying veterans and their families.
In my new assignment, I saw the scope of the problem: most veterans distrusted government. From the feds on down, vets saw themselves overlooked and disrespected. They were skeptical about engaging anyone in government for anything — even life-saving free medical treatment was, in the eyes of many vets, not worth the risk.
Sadly, it’s still that way today. Government is distrusted. Novato itself has made almost zero effort to engage vets. They don’t figure at all in our Strategic or General Plans. The word veteran is literally not mentioned.
My father was a founding member of our Novato VFW. (He originally came to Novato via Hamilton Air Base.) Which is to say that my interest in veterans is both public and personal. In these days of profound cynicism about politics and politicians — largely justified cynicism — I want people to know that my engagement on this issue has been, and always will be, genuine and deep.