It was a celebration and a protest on Sunday, March 3 outside the front gates of the National Veterans Home at the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente boulevard in Brentwood.
Many gathered to reflect on the 125th anniversary of the deed of 1888, which granted locating and constructing a permanent home for disabled veterans. It was a day to honor those who granted the land, and a plea to expand access for disabled veterans on the West L.A. Veterans Affairs campus.
"We want to thank all the veterans here today and those that have proceeded them for giving us the freedom to gather here," said Anneke Barrie, guest speaker and granddaughter of Carolina Barrie, representing her family to honor the March 3, 1888 deed.
"It is unconscionable our government's representatives in charge of the West Los Angeles VA will not allow us to hold this celebration of the deed on the land deeded them," Barrie added. "The lack of action by our elected officials and those chosen by them to guard this precious heritage and unique gift is beyond shameful. It is criminal."
According to Robert Rosebrock, director of the Old Veterans Guard organization which hosted Sunday's event, Barrie's grandmother is a plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the VA. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the federal government from renting some of its space to private companies that do not provide health care-related services.
In January and admittedly more than five years late, the VA broke ground to start renovations on Building 209 on campus for transitional housing for 66 veterans with mental health and medical needs.
"The National Home was meant to be a domestic environment to provide a home catering to the whole person.... intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical," Barrie told the crowd. "A place where veterans are provided living quarters, food, recreation, amusements, religious instruction, employment opportunities and medical care. This land was never to be sold, traded, bartered or leased."
Barrie said that in 1922 the West L.A. VA was a fully functioning, self sustained home for veterans of the Civil War and Spanish American War, and the facility had 722 acres of grounds, of which 150 acres were under cultivation. It had 742 hospital beds and served 4,000 hot meals daily.
"Over the years especially, since the Vietnam War, we all have witnessed the degradation and misuse of the land in violation of the donors’ intent," Barrie said. "Look at it now."
Rosebrock said they are proud for Barrie's passionate words, and she represented the descendents of Arcadia B. de Baker, who, along with Sen. John P. Jones in 1888, donated the land with the express purpose of creating a National Home for Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"We have great faith for the future because Anneke is very passionate and focused on helping get this land back that her Arcadia gave for veterans use only," he said.
The celebration was also hosted by AmVets Post 2 and the National Veterans Coalition.
A special thanks to Old Veterans Guard for supplying the photographs!