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November 12, 2013

Richmond celebrates Veterans Day
Richmond Confidential
Sea Scouts Art Carrion, Dennis Metoyer and Quentin Levin stand in uniform on the deck of the SS Red Oak Victory. (Photo by: Mark Andrew Boyer)
Sea Scouts Art Carrion, Dennis Metoyer and Quentin Levin stand in uniform on the deck of the SS Red Oak Victory. (Photo by: Mark Andrew Boyer)
Jeff Wright, Richmond Museum of History board member, emcees the Veteran’s Day event at the Port of Richmond. More than 200 people attended. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

From left: Veterans Lou Berg, George Coles, Orlo Mellon and Dee Davison smile after tossing a memorial wreath from the deck of the SS Red Oak Victory during the Veteran’s Day celebration at the Port of Richmond. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

The memorial wreath and flowers float in Richmond harbor following a Veteran's Day celebration onboard the SS Red Oak Victory. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

Veteran’s Day attendees file onboard the SS Red Oak Victory at the Port of Richmond for a memorial wreath toss. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

Visitors explore the SS Red Oak Victory prior to the memorial flower wreath toss. (Photo by: Mark Andrew Boyer)

Veteran’s Day observers gather on an SS Red Oak Victory gun deck during the celebration at the Port of Richmond. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

Vocal trio the JACs, from left, Charrie Cobler, Alan Sauer and Jan Gill, perform at the Veteran’s Day event. (Photo by: Kevin N. Hume)

Major General Daniel Helix and John Spradlin share a laugh at Veterans Memorial Hall in Richmond (photo by Mark Andrew Boyer)

Richmond officials and military veterans listen a Veterans Day speech delivered by Rhonda Harris (photo by Mark Andrew Boyer)

'Veterans know the incredible sense of pride of saluting the flag when the National Anthem is played,' USV Major General Daniel Helix told assembled veterans at Veterans Memorial Hall (photo by Mark Andrew Boyer)

By Mark Andrew Boyer and Kevin N. HumePosted 1 hour ago
Richmond residents donned red, white and blue and showed their support for military veterans at two separate events in the city on Monday.
The Richmond Veterans Collaborative, a group of organizations that provide assistance to veterans and military families, hosted a breakfast at Veterans Memorial Hall. Rhonda Harris, founder of the Veterans Resource Program, served as the master of ceremonies, and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, County Supervisor John Gioia, and city council members Tom Butt and Nat Bates all delivered short speeches.
More than 200 people gathered at the Port of Richmond to celebrate Veterans Day inside the newly restored Riggers Loft and onboard the SS Red Oak Victory. A ribbon-cutting ceremony to recognize the building’s remodeling took place during the festivities.
The event featured World War II-era music by vocal trio the JACs, a ceremonial flower wreath toss off the deck of the SS Red Oak Victory and tours of the historic locations.
The Rosie the Riveter Trust, National Park Service, city of Richmond and Richmond Museum of History organized the celebration, which was sponsored by Chevron.
Program helps homeless veterans find shelter
Vietnam War veteran Ted Wilson has been living at the Veterans Resource Program since June. (Photo by: Mark Andrew Boyer)

Wilson and Harris display a sketch of a mural by artist Ann Reesman that will cover the side of the house. (Photo by: Mark Andrew Boyer)

Rhonda Harris founded the Veterans Resource Program in 2011 to provide a place for military veterans to stay. (Photo by: Mark Andrew Boyer)


Wilson and Harris display a sketch of a mural by artist Ann Reesman that will cover the side of the house. (Photo by: Mark Andrew Boyer)
By Mark Andrew Boyer Posted November 11, 2013 11:02 am
Rhonda Harris was beaming when she arrived at the Veterans Resource Program with a rolling suitcase in tow. “We’ve got good news: We got $4,000 for our mural,” she said with a fist pump. “It’s a grant – it’s our first grant!”
Harris unrolled a sketch of the mural by Air Force veteran Ann Reesman, which will honor military veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mural will blanket the house’s eastern face. The money will come from arts grant awarded by the city of Richmond. It won’t cover the entire cost of the mural, but Harris hopes it will help her secure matching funds.
The mural would be the most prominent display of welcome and gratitude emanating from the two-story house at the corner of Maine Avenue and Harbour Way South. The house, acquired in 2011, is a place where veterans can get information about filing benefits claims and finding help for PTSD and other wartime symptoms.
Providing housing for older veterans has been a major challenge for federal and local governments. The 2013 homeless count found 277 homeless veterans in Contra Costa County, about half of whom were unsheltered. Other organizations, like Shelter, Inc. of Contra Costa, also provide a place to live for veterans. But those groups aren’t able to meet the needs of all area veterans, according to Harris.
“It’s a major issue,” she said. Harris estimates that more than 175 veterans have visited the house since it opened. The four-bedroom facility sleeps up to seven, providing temporary shelter for homeless veterans.
Five veterans are living in the home now, including Vietnam War veteran Ted Wilson, who is about to celebrate his first Veterans Day outside of prison in almost two decades. Wilson was released from San Quentin State Prison in June after serving 17 years on drug charges.
Awaiting a claim for military benefits, Wilson didn’t have anywhere else to go. “She took me in without anything – just on my word,” Wilson said. “If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably be on the street, or I’d probably be back in prison.”
Those who are financially stable are expected to pay rent and buy their own food. But Wilson and two other veterans are staying at the resource program for free. “I’ve had many who come here, who I’ve allowed to stay for no money,” Harris says.
Wilson is looking forward to receiving his benefits and being able to pay rent. “I don’t want to be a charity case. I’ve always paid my own way, and this is kind of new to me,” he said. “I’m 64 years old, and I’ve taken care of myself since I was 16.”
In prison, Wilson participated in a program called Veterans Healing Veterans from the Inside Out aimed at addressing combat-related emotional issues. That’s where he met Harris.
Harris regularly attends meetings with veterans at San Quentin, and she says there are several inmates who want to live in the home upon their release. Once all the rooms at the Veterans Resource Program are filled and there is a wait list, Harris plans to open another house to accommodate more needy veterans others.
In the meantime, Harris is working on improving the two-story Victorian house and adding to the programs it offers. “We have quite a bit going on,” she said. PG&E recently selected the Veterans Resource Program for free energy-conservation retrofits. Harris is also in the process of filing for nonprofit status, and she is planning to expand her staff, which consists only of all volunteers now.
With all that’s happening in the run-up to Veterans Day, the mural is the thing Harris is most eager to talk about. “It will inform people that Richmond is for veterans, and that the resource program is a place where you can come and get your needs met.”
Veterans and residents flock to homefront shore in Richmond for Veterans Day
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted:   11/11/2013 03:36:57 PM PST
Updated:   11/11/2013 04:57:33 PM PST

Soldiers march down Market Street during the 95th annual San Jose Veterans Day parade in San Jose, Calif. on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)
Soldiers march down Market Street during the 95th annual San Jose Veterans Day parade in San Jose, Calif. on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)
RICHMOND -- Between the long procession of admirers, young and old, who thanked him for his service, George R. Coles took a moment to reflect as he stood tall on the deck of the SS Red Oak Victory.
"I'm just amazed right now that I'm alive and able to enjoy this," said the two-time Bronze Star recipient and 91-year-old veteran who survived several island landings in the Pacific during World War II.
More than 250 people flocked to the city's historic waterfront to celebrate Veterans Day on Monday, where organizers put on a celebration at the site of one of the world's most productive wartime shipyards that blended nostalgic touches from the 1940s with nods to restored attractions that have become the hub for the city's Homefront National Park.
The event was billed as a salute both to the military and Bay Area homefront heroes, including the women who supported Richmond's vital role in World War II history. The celebration featured a reflection on Richmond's wartime contributions, a memorial flower toss, tours of the historic Riggers Loft, Red Oak Victory ship and surrounding attractions, musical entertainment and an advance look at how the Richmond waterfront is starting to be reborn.
Preceding the ceremony was a ribbon-cutting to dedicate the newly restored Riggers Loft, one of the historic buildings of the World War II Kaiser shipyards. The historical restoration represented a collaboration by the Rosie the Riveter Trust, Port of Richmond, the city and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.
Dignitaries including Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia and Chevron Richmond General Manager Kory Judd addressed the crowd, many of whom were aging veterans in crisp uniforms.
"It's awe-inspiring to be surrounded by American's greatest generation," Judd said.
Judd went on to pair adulation for the sacrifices made at home and abroad during World War II with what he called "a rebirth" of the Richmond waterfront, thanks in part to cultivating assets developed during wartime.
After the presentations, revelers scaled the wobbly, suspended steel stairs to the SS Red Oak Victory, an ammunition cargo ship built during World War II and berthed in 1944 that now serves as a floating museum.
Veterans tossed a wreath of red flowers into the Bay in memoriam for the lives lost in war.
"It's really a time to remember, to bring attention to what this country can do," said Cliff Warren, a 65-year-old U.S. Army veteran. "(World War II) was a time when we were organized and came together as a nation for a purpose, and that is something that we've lost some of but we can get it back."
Coles, still standing on sturdy sea legs in his tenth decade of life, looked on as children scampered around the war vessel's deck. A U.S. Army veteran who served as a medic in some of the most hellish fighting of the war, Coles wore his impeccably pressed green "Eisenhower Jacket" and a persistent smile on his ruddy face.
"Why is it important to remember the history of the war?" he said. "Maybe so that we don't get ourselves in another one."
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/SFBaynewsrogers