Weatherford Democrat

October 20, 2013

VETERANS’ CORNER: Veterans stepping up to help meet veterans’ needs


Weatherford Democrat

— By JIM VINES

In the last weeks I have received some emails regarding veteran housing, especially from individuals personally responsible in assisting our veterans. One is a former Green Beret, 81-year-old Richard Simonian, an independent successful homebuilder, and the other is the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation, chaired by Ret. Col. Robert Siegert.

John Stryker Meyer, of Oceanside, Calif., is a board member of a non-profit veterans group, as well as the president of the Special Operations Association and author of “Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam,” a book about about his experiences as a Green Beret (5th Special Forces) in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Meyer came in contact with Richard Simonian when questioned as to the needs of veterans. Meyer’s response was short and sweet: “Housing, especially for elder veterans.”

Simonian took on the challenge. He has 40 developments with manufactured housing that have been opened to veterans, with more than 7,000 units throughout the western United States. This is not a government program according to Meyer. “Just a guy making sure fellow veterans who need help with housing get it,” he said.

More than 100 veterans have been helped with housing thus far and Meyer says, “We could do a lot more if veterans knew about it. Veterans in various communities are so important because they help get the word out regarding health care, benefits and housing.”

Meyer can be reached at idahooonezero@sbcglobal.net or 619-893-5983 for information regarding veterans housing. Go to www.ocregister.com/articles/simonian to find a detailed article written by Orange County Register’s Nicole Gregory, dated Aug. 12 about Simonian.

The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed Foundation), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization working to meet the unmet needs of military personnel and their families, is putting the finishing touches on the nation’s largest free hotel for veterans undergoing medical care. The Defenders Lodge, made possible through a generous donation by Lee and Penny Anderson, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Palo Alto, Calif., in the next weeks to officially open for guests in January 2014.

The new Defenders Lodge is expected to serve up to 20,000 veterans annually who travel each year to Palo Alto for treatment. PenFed volunteered as the primary sponsor of constructing the hotel, a $17 million initiative in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2010, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, assisted with a $10 million low-interest loan to help get construction under way. The PenFed foundation is working on raising the additional private donations to help cover the cost of construction.

Alison Beckwith may be reached at media@penfedfoundation.org or 301-699-0148 to schedule a conference with Christopher Flynn, President and CEO of PenFed Foundation. Mr. Flynn is available anytime.

Thanks to those that participated in AmVets' annual Crazy Water Car Cruise and Car Show. Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.