Please come in, have a seat and join me in the “way back machine,” as we take a short ride . . .
. . . It’s late summer 1999 and I am full-blown into my addiction. I find myself a drunkard and homeless. I am out of control and spiraling quickly. Ruth, a friend who brought me in off the street and let me sleep on her couch, had had it with my drinking; she put her foot down: either I get help to stop my drinking or get out (that meant being back on the street for me, sleeping under a bush on the side of the freeway). I know it’s time to do something about my drinking – I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, as the old saying goes. You see, I’ve been in this situation before; I was sober for eleven and one-half years prior to this most recent five-year binge. Ruth told me about the “East Bay Stand Down” (“Stand Down” or "EBSD") being held in the East Bay of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, set up by the local community to help homeless Veterans; it was to be held at Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin, California, beginning September 30 through October 3, 1999. I agreed to go to the very first East Bay Stand Down and seek help.
Buses were provided to pick up Veterans from certain areas. Ruth dropped me off on her way to work and I hopped on one of those buses and was whisked off to the Stand Down in hot, dusty Dublin, California. There were a lot of people there, both Volunteers and Veterans. I did the check-in thing and wandered about for a while; there was bottled water provided in buckets of ice so I did avail myself of that. It was so hot -- I can remember the heat of the sun beating down on my head. According to Old Farmer’s Almanac, the temperature reached 97 degrees on September 30, 1999 in Dublin and I was not wearing a hat. Mea culpa. Come around lunchtime I was given a hot dog and while sitting at a picnic table with some other homeless Vets, just about to take a bite of that hot dog, I had either a seizure or suffered heat stroke – it started at my feet and quickly overcame me -- everything just went black . . .
I came back to light from the blackness once and found myself strapped down on a stretcher, people were gathered round looking at me and someone was asking me questions, I blacked out again and then awoke in the hospital, where they had hooked me up to an intravenous feed of electrolytes (my guess); a chartreuse bag of liquid. I remember thinking that being a very large bag of fluid to be put into my body and it took two of those bags before I was released from the hospital and sent back to the Stand Down. I was not physically impaired; I was walking, talking and coherent after receiving care and release from the hospital. I can only think that I was perhaps in a mild state of shock because I could not understand what had just happened to me.
Little did I know there was more to come to add to my confusion on this eventful day in the summer of ‘99.
When I returned to Camp Parks (I think it was a V.A. Rep who gave me a ride from the hospital – he was my “shadow” thereafter as he became my personal escort for the duration), I was taken into a building where there was a group of about six to ten “officials,” at least one of whom was a woman. I say “officials” because they were all gathered around and talking about what to do with me, of all things. Yes, you read that right . . . they were discussing what to do with me. I remember the Head Honcho of the group saying, “Hell, no . . . he can’t come back here. I don’t want anyone dying on my watch.” The Head Honcho guy was talking about me; I had arguably almost died and here he was telling me to go away . . . go die somewhere else. I was standing right there – he said that literally to my face, and everyone else. The other “officials,” to their credit, argued against the Head Honcho’s decision, putting forth the argument that the Stand Down was about helping Veterans and to kick me out is quite contrary to the stated mission of the Stand Down. Alas, in the end, the Head Honcho prevailed; I was labeled persona non-grata, kicked out of the Stand Down and taken back to Concord and dropped off, with application papers to a V.A. rehabilitation program in hand.
I can remember the young guy who gave me a ride, my “shadow,” asking me about my car . . . he said that in my delirium I had mentioned my car . . . I did not own a car at that time so I must have been really out of it. He may have been one of the people standing around when I awoke on the stretcher and I was delirious – talking gibberish; I do not know. I also remember him asking me on the ride back to Concord: “what are you going to do now?” All I could do was shrug (I don’t know). It was all surreal. Not only was I confused, surprised and perhaps even angry at the time about what had just happened to me . . . I still had to face Ruth.
I must have walked back to Ruth’s house in Pacheco; Concord and Pacheco are neighboring cities. Needless to say, Ruth was happy that I had decided to go to the Stand Down and seek some much-needed assistance; she really cared about my wellbeing. Imagine her surprise when she came home and discovered me there – I was expected to be gone the whole weekend. I told her what had happened and she called me a liar, saying the Stand Down would not do something like that. I had to agree with her but it is what it is – it happened to me. Here I am, Ruth . . . I just lived through it. Even though I showed her the rehab application and a pair of Desert Storm boots I had gotten at the Stand Down before they gave me the heave-ho, she didn’t believe me. I also showed her the needle mark from the intravenous feed. As far as I know, to this day, Ruth still doesn’t believe me, or maybe she did. We never talked about it again.
So the East Bay Stand Down offered me help when I was seeking help, though when I tried to get that help was told to go away because I can only guess my health was a threat. All this happened in one day – I got there, to the East Bay Stand Down, succumbed to the heat or whatever, was transported to the hospital unconscious, was given an intravenous feed of a chartreuse liquid, back to the camp where I was summarily told to leave and then back to Ruth’s house before she returned home from work.
Overall, that day was not one of my best days, by a long shot. My only saving grace and the reason Ruth did not kick me out immediately was that I had the application papers in hand and had committed myself to using them.
I did fill out the application papers to get into rehab and was accepted and admitted October 18, 1999, to the detox at the Menlo Park V.A. Compound. I like to think my name was remembered by some of the people at the Stand Down that were sticking up for me that day, who may have “fast tracked” my application, in order for me to get into the rehab program on such short notice. It only took a little over two weeks from the time I was turned away by EBSD! I thank you. After spending a few days in detox to ensure I didn’t have any ill-effects from alcohol withdrawal, I was admitted into a 30- or 45- day First Step program. Upon completion of First Step, I was eligible and applied for entrance into Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program (“HVRP”), also in Menlo Park, California, at that time a nine-month, in-depth domiciliary program. Fortunately for me that the V.A. was there to help me pick up the pieces of my life and get myself back together.
While a resident in HVRP I heard a staff member make reference to “Dublin Man” to a group of residents sitting at a table as I approached, the female staff member departed as I joined the table. I remember one of the guys saying “So you’re the Dublin man.” I didn’t know what he meant and he was gently quieted by another resident sitting there with us. I did not follow up with anyone regarding this and took it to be a reference to the fact that people were talking about the incident that happened at the Stand Down and I was given that moniker to protect my privacy. I was actually embarrassed to talk about it back then. Did I flop around like a fish when I passed out or did I just slither off the picnic table bench? I don’t know; but to think I may have flopped around was embarrassing. Now, almost 20 years later, I don’t care. After all this time, any anger I may have had towards EBSD has evaporated as well. I tried to look up “Dublin Man” recently on the V.A. website and did not find anything. One would have to surmise that any kind of report regarding my expulsion would have been marked “Confidential – For Internal Use Only.”
I would like to take a moment and point out a couple of things: that the Stand Down was held at Camp Parks for the first three years and then moved to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, California, thereafter – they needed more space. Also, I have a vague memory that the woman “official” came up to me as I was being escorted from the Stand Down and talked to me. I do not remember what was said. Could this lady be the person who “fast-tracked” my application and spoke about me at HVRP? I don’t remember; it is possible. And, about whether or not the Head Honcho is a doctor; perhaps one of the other members of the group standing around that day was a doctor, or I just plain mis-remembered, I don’t know. I realize that after such a long time memories will fade or distort. Sometimes it feels as if this happened to someone else, almost as if this was a dream, and yet I did live it.
So here we are, back in the present, 2019. I decided it was time to see if I could find any information on what happened to me from the Stand Down’s point of view. When checking out the EBSD Org Chart I chose to contact the After Action Officer. The following emails demonstrate my attempt to gather information. The first email rehashes my experience already described above and requests assistance from EBSD; I include this email for the sake of completeness.
January 18, 2019 at 3:17 P.M.
My name is Edward XXXXX. I am a Marine Corps Veteran and was a participant of the 1999 East Bay Stand Down. Well, kind of a participant. I hope you will join me on this short trip on the "way back machine" and can see your way to help me.
I am contacting you, as the After Action Officer, to see if perhaps you could help me in my quest to finally get some answers to what happened back in 1999. For a little background: back in 1999 I was a full-blown alcoholic and on the verge of homelessness, again. My girlfriend told me either do something about your drinking or get out -- she meant it. I agreed to attend the very first Eat Bay Stand Down and seek help for my alcoholism.
I remember it was in Dublin, California and it was so hot. I succumbed to the heat and fell victim to either a seizure or heat stroke - I passed out. This was most likely caused by my extensive drinking prior to attending the Stand Down, coupled with the excessive heat of the day. I was transported, unconscious, to a hospital and given intravenous electrolytes (it was a nice chartreuse color) -- two bags before I was released. I don't even remember which hospital it was. I was taken back to the Stand Down and was put in the midst of a discussion of what to do with me, of all things. The head honcho said he didn't want me to die on his watch and wanted me gone (he literally said that), out of the Stand Down. The other people standing around voiced their disagreement, saying that the Stand Down was to help Veterans. In the end the head honcho guy had his way and I was removed from the Stand Down, taken back to Concord and was left on the street by the V.A. Rep, with an application for rehab in my hand. The V.A. guy was very nice and apologetic; I remember him asking me "What are you going to do now?" I also remember that I just shrugged (I don't know).
Well, I did fill out those papers for the rehab and have been sober for 19 years, not a drop. Recently I had a discussion with another Veteran and this incident in my life was brought back to the forefront of my mind and I would like to find out what happened. I know what happened to me; I would like to find out what happened to the head honcho and would like to see any reports that refer to me. There was a reference, while I was in Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program (HVRP) in Menlo Park, to "Dublin Man." I take that to be a moniker given to me for privacy reasons and would probably have been used in any after action reports, I would think, whether for the East Bay Stand Down and/or the Veterans Administration. I feel that my application for rehab was "fast tracked" and am eager to find out if that is true as well. I think those other people standing around that day, arguing with the head honcho, kept a look out for my paperwork.
As the After Action officer for East Bay Stand Down, do you have access to records of these events or can you point me to where I can find this information? I have no desire to open any old wounds and am not looking to sue anyone, get anyone in trouble or anything like that -- I have no ill will towards anyone involved. While I am not an attorney, I would think any potential liability is way past statute of limitations. I only want this information for my own knowledge and maybe will write a story about it.
Here is a link to a short "article" I wrote in which I had that conversation with another Veteran (Whiskey River); it was an emotional moment: http://www.writerbeat.com/articles/28738-THANK-YOU-FOR-YOUR-SERVICE
Perhaps the worst thing I still feel from this whole situation is the fact that my girlfriend didn't believe a word of it; she called me a liar. As all of us think, the whole idea of the Stand Down was help Veterans - but that day it didn't work out quite that well for me. To this day she still thinks I lied about that "fantastical event." So just for peace of mind, if nothing else, I would really like to show some proof.
My telephone number is below if you would like to call me and discuss. Any assistance you may be able to provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Chelle, the After Action Officer, was quick to respond and quite nice.
January 18, 2019 at 3:32 P.M.
Hi Ed -
I appreciate your contacting us with questions about your experiences from 20 years ago at our first Stand Down, and I am sorry it was not what you hoped for.
I have only handled After Action for the last 6-8 years, I have no documents or memories of what you have described. I am going to forward your email to people who may be able to talk with you, if that is OK with you.
Congratulations on 19 years of sobriety! That is an awesome achievement!
January 18, 2019 at 3:50 P.M.
Thank you, I would appreciate your forwarding my message along to anyone that might be of assistance.
The Stand Down was my first step towards getting into rehab - so it did serve its purpose for me in that respect - I did get help.
And thank you for the pat on the back - it's pretty much of a habit nowadays - not drinking alcohol.
I wrote the following thinking that the more information I provided, the better things would be. It was Saturday night and I wanted Chelle to see it first thing Monday morning. I was excited that I was possibly going to find out what the decision-making process was back then regarding me. Was a protocol put in place so it would not happen again? I was curious.
January 19, 2019 at 10:52 P.M.
Good morning, Chelle, and Happy Monday morning.
There is another bit of information I would like to share with you that may or may not matter to East Bay Stand Down: I also reached out to John XXXXX, Program Manager at Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program ("HVRP") in Menlo Park (Front Desk: 650-617-XXXX), to ask if he could help me in my quest; as of this writing, John has not returned my calls (he's a busy guy or may be on vacation, I get it). I know John from when he was a staff member at HVRP at the same time I was a resident so I was hoping he could possibly help with any records at HVRP. John has been there a long time.
Should it become necessary, or advantageous, for East Bay Stand Down and the Veterans Administration (whether it be John XXXXX at HVRP or another V.A. representative) to coordinate the gathering of my requested information -- I hereby consent to that coordination, should my consent be required.
And please, let me say again that I would much prefer this be handled in a low-key manner. No sense in getting people riled up for something that happened almost 20 years ago and, after all this time, probably no one (except me) is going to really care all that much because there is a sort of "happy ending" to this, after all.
I also wanted to assure you that I hold East Bay Stand Down and the Veterans Administration in the highest regard; I believe in what you do and what you stand for, helping my Brothers and Sisters. I have had the same doctor at the V.A. for more years than I can remember now, great guy.
I realize this is not a story that one hears every day and can appreciate any skepticism you, or anyone else who may read this, are feeling; remember, my girlfriend called me a liar even when I showed her the needle mark on my arm for the intravenous feed, application papers for rehab and some Desert Storm boots I was allowed to grab before being taken away from the Stand Down. That was a benefit for me I forgot to mention, I did get new boots.
Thank you again for taking the time to help me with this and I look forward to hearing from someone soon.
As always, I remain
And then, BOOM, to my great surprise . . .
January 21, 2019 at 12:15 P.M.
I am Jerry Yahiro and was the Director of the East Bay Stand Down (EBSD), 1999.
I do not recall the incident you related regarding your experience during the 1999 EBSD. There were some expulsions from the Stand Down but they were for other reasons other than passing out, from whatever the cause/s may have been.
The EBSD, because of the privacy of information, does not retain or track any of the participants that attend the Stand Down. Therefore, we do not have any records of the 1999 or any EBSDs since. The After Action Reports (AAR's) only cover what went well and what improvements could be made. No specific incidents are included in the AAR's.
Congratulations on being clean and sober for 19 years.
Thank you for your service.
East Bay Stand Down
Can you imagine my excitement when I found out that Mr. Yahiro was there at EBSD 20 years ago AND that he was the “Head Honcho?” Then you can perhaps feel my disappointment when I read further that he did not remember. How could he not remember something like that!? I was feeling some intense emotions at this time and did try to keep them in check as I sent the following.
January 21, 2019 at 2:09 P.M.
It is a pleasure meeting you and thank you for responding. Thank you, Chelle, for forwarding my query.
Wow!! I do not doubt your veracity when you say you do not recall the incident; I would have to conclude that what happened to me was not divulged to you, for whatever reason. If you are in contact with any of the "core group" of official staff from back in 1999, perhaps you could ask around; who was in charge the very first day, with enough authority, to make that decision regarding me? I assure you, this truly did occur.
I appreciate EBSD does not keep records on participants, but does EBSD keep records of the expenses of the 1999 EBSD? Someone paid for the ambulance ride and the emergency room visit for me, I didn't. Would you have kept records of that? Perhaps the V.A. would have picked up that tab?
Also, if you wouldn't mind helping me with these questions (perhaps Chelle could assist too?):
What were the exact dates for the 1999 Stand Down? My experience happened on the first day, when lunch was being served (because I remember eating a hot dog when I passed out). I can't seem to find the exact dates online. Knowing the dates would help me with the next question.
Which ambulance service and which hospital did the 1999 EBSD partner with? Were these services pro bono or paid for my EBSD or V.A.? The Stand Down was in Dublin so I would think it would be local. Knowing this will assist me in requesting any records from these organizations.
Is there a possibility that the person who told me to leave the Stand Down was a V.A. doctor? Did you have a counterpart at the time who was a V.A. doctor? I do recall at least one of the people sticking up for me refer to the man as "Doctor."
I mentioned to Chelle that I had reached out to the V.A. and have not yet heard back from Mr. XXXXX. I am attempting to get some information from them as well. After all, it was the Veterans Administration's application from the Stand Down that I ultimately completed and submitted.
As I also mentioned earlier, after 20 years I just want to know the whole story; it looks like I may have to do some digging. I very much appreciate the time you have given me and look forward to your answers to my questions.
Thank you for the kind words, Jerry, I accept them humbly.
As always, I remain
After thinking more about Mr. Yahiro’s email for a couple of days and receiving no response to my most recent email, I felt compelled to send the following to the After Action Officer (which, admittedly, I should not have done – I put Chelle in between me and her employer (not a good place for her to be) and I do apologize to Chelle for that; hopefully Chelle will read this one day and accept my apology):
January 23, 2019 at 10:36 A.M.
Good morning, Chelle,
Thank you again for forwarding my emails to Mr. Yahiro. I have to wonder if Mr Yahiro is Dr. Yahiro.
In my naiveté I thought pretty much everyone who was involved in my expulsion from the 1999 EBSD would be retired or gone now and I would be given a report of the event and all would be hunky dory. Obviously, I was mistaken.
After Mr. Yahiro's declination of any remembrance of my expulsion, it has given me more resolve to find personal closure in this matter. I hope you will find it in your heart to answer those questions I posed to Mr. Yahiro; I will find the answers eventually, it is only a matter of time and effort to request documentation from ambulance and hospital services. There are also records at the Veterans Administration that, by law, are available to me. If you have been told not to assist me, I can appreciate your position and wish you no ill will; though I will not relent.
I contend that any attempts at a cover up of my expulsion from the 1999 EBSD would be far worse than the expulsion itself. With that said, Chelle, I highly recommend you forward all of my correspondence and Mr. Yahiro's letter to legal counsel representing East Bay Stand Down.
I look forward to hearing from EBSD legal representation soon.
As always, Chelle, I remain
Hindsight is always 20/20, right? While I should not have sent the above to Chelle, I do stand by the content of this email. I probably should have explained my reasoning for recommending that my correspondence be forwarded to EBSD legal counsel, to wit: if I was a disgruntled Grunt just trying to cause trouble, the lawyers would know how to deal with me and, conversely, when the lawyers figured out I was a reasonable person asking for some closure, they would also know how to manage the situation. The After Action Officer did her job and forwarded my email, only not apparently to the legal team, to which I received the following:
January 25, 2019 at 3:13 P.M.
As I told you in my email message of January 21, 2019, due to Federal HIPPA regulations we do not retain any records from past East Bay Stand Down (EBSD). All records of personnel attending the EBSD are destroyed after each EBSD.
Therefore, I cannot help you in your request to provide you any records.
Do what you feel you must do. However, please cease any further communications with myself or any staff member/s of the EBSD.
“Do what you feel you must do . . . cease any further communications . . . .” What? I understand that all records of participants have been deleted or destroyed, according to HIPPA rules. I am not asking for names. What about changes made to standard operating procedures after the first Stand Down? Was a new protocol put in place to facilitate handling of a similar incident to mine in future Stand Downs? If Mr. Yahiro cannot remember the incident I described then why won’t he ask some of the other folks who were there in 1999? As I said earlier, I did not expect anyone from the 1999 Stand Down to still be around but I was proven wrong in that assumption. Perhaps there are more folks still around; perhaps some of the other Directors? Why won’t Mr. Yahiro answer my questions regarding who EBSD partnered with as far as medical and emergency transportation services? Surely that information has not been destroyed or is protected by HIPPA rules. I feel as if Mr. Yahiro is telling me to go away – you are dismissed.
Incidentally, Mr. Yahiro’s request that I “cease any further communications with myself or any staff member/s of the EBSD” could arguably run afoul of IRS Code relating to non-profits and certainly does not come close to measuring up to the EBSD’s own stated mission, vis-à-vis, helping Veterans. While I have not specifically requested to see either Forms 990 or 1023, Mr. Yahiro’s request could be taken as denying my rights as a member of the public. I stated above my reasoning for recommending that Chelle forward all correspondence to East Bay Stand Down’s legal counsel; this is just another example of why it would have been a good idea. In hindsight, I should have contacted the Legal Department myself, and still reserve that right, notwithstanding Mr. Yahiro’s request. As of this writing, I have not heard from EBSD’s legal team. One could argue, though, that contacting the EBSD Legal Department would be of little use for me anyway because the mandate of the EBSD’s Legal Department would be to protect EBSD and its employees – not help some guy find closure on part of his life that EBSD was involved in 20 years ago. Besides, I did not and still do not want to cause any trouble for EBSD.
John from HVRP and I finally connected and I very much appreciate him giving me some of his time to hear me out. While there was no information of me regarding the EBSD in the records available to John, there could still be outlying reports of my experience within the V.A. A Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) comes to mind; although I have opted to not seek these records at this time. John and I discussed a lot of things in the 25 minutes we spoke on the phone. I will not go into great detail of what we spoke, but his words of wisdom did mean a lot, and still do. Words such as we cannot dwell in the past; we cannot predict the future; we must try to live in the present. Well, at present, as of this writing, I feel like I described above – as if I were summarily dismissed. Another conclusion I came to resolve is that I do what is best for me at the present time. My peace of mind is what matters. I contend to you again that the V.A. continues to help me pick up the pieces cast aside by EBSD. At least the V.A. will talk to me. Thank you, John.
Just so you understand what I mean – this is not about revenge – I have said several times that I do not wish any ill will on anyone. I only want to know the whole story on what happened regarding my expulsion from the EBSD in 1999. At this moment though I do feel resentment; resentment that this person, Mr. Yahiro, basically tells me to go away, tells me you are not my concern then or now, do not contact me further – you do not matter. I just have to express myself here; I cannot keep my feelings suppressed, it is not healthy. I’ll get over it but, yes, there are resentments at the present where there were none before I asked for information from EBSD and was rebuked . . . again.
I would like to pose this question to you: If you were part of an arguably life or death decision 20 years ago, would you remember it today? I do. I cannot say definitively whether or not Mr. Yahiro was the Head Honcho who tossed me out of the Stand Down and put me back on the streets in 1999, though as the self-admitted Director of EBSD 1999, the buck does stop with him. I strongly doubt there was anyone else there with the authority to kick me out of the Stand Down, other than the Director. I hold no ill will towards Mr. Yahiro, I never have – he was probably doing what he thought best for the East Bay Stand Down. I will give Mr. Yahiro the benefit of the doubt and have to believe that he has never again denied anyone else in the way I was denied. I want to believe that I am the first and only person to have been expelled from the EBSD because of illness, or the threat of illness or even death; not for reasons of misconduct as Mr. Yahiro obliquely refers to in his first email response to me. Perhaps EBSD has received complaints from some of those expelled Veterans and think I may be one of them. They would be wrong. I will say fairly certainly that EBSD has not received an email like mine . . . ever before.
I can imagine a scenario wherein I was expelled from the 1999 Stand Down because there was no protocol in place to prepare anyone for what happened that day. Maybe the Head Honcho freaked out! Maybe the Head Honcho didn’t know what to do . . . I did almost die that day. It would certainly not look good if I had died . . . perhaps contributions would not be as forthcoming for future events as they were for the first Stand Down. I can also imagine that there was probably no one there to “keep an eye” on me for the whole weekend in case I had another bout of heat stroke, or something, and perhaps the liability was too great for them to keep me there . . . all understandable and, perhaps, even reasonable. I can accept this type of reasoning at this point in my life; although it would be nice to hear from someone who was there. You know, something like “Yeah, we kind of blew it, sorry Dude. We did not and will not let it happen again to another Vet. We’re so glad everything came out okay for you,” even though I did not request or want an apology when I began to ask questions of EBSD. I only wanted information. Chelle did apologize in her response to me, that was very much appreciated, and yet she wasn’t even there in 1999.
Another thing, I keep thinking about those other “officials” who were standing around sticking up for me when the Head Honcho guy was giving me the boot. What about that young V.A. guy who had to give me a ride back to Concord? He felt so bad for me and I am sure he was very embarrassed and ashamed to be the one to actually drop me back off in the streets. I remember it was a very quiet ride back to Concord, about an hour and a half, neither one of us was really interested in small talk. What about those guys sitting at the picnic table when I passed out? Do they ever wonder what happened? I'm guessing here, but I am pretty sure those guys must have really freaked out -- seeing someone pass out and go down while you're having lunch doesn't happen every day. I keep thinking it would be nice if they knew “that guy” at the Stand Down back in 1999 “made it,” he’s still alive, he got the help he was denied by EBSD and has been sober and productive for almost 20 years; don’t those folks deserve to know? Is it fair to keep them in the dark, for them to maybe continue thinking about “that guy” they were not allowed to help? Can we now clear their conscience if they don’t already know? Where is the compassion for those people? Maybe, just maybe, one or two of these folks, too, will read this one day. It is my hope.
Regardless of the fact that I perceive EBSD, and Mr. Yahiro, to be very dismissive towards me and my requests for information, I am all for what EBSD does. I like and appreciate that they help Veterans and their families and Mr. Yahiro is obviously very good at what he does – he’s been there for 20 years, after all. In fact, during my research in writing this essay I found that Mr. Yahiro and a group of others started East Bay Stand Down in order to help Vets. Mr. Yahiro is a co-founder of East Bay Stand Down and I think he is a Veteran himself. How can I not admire that? Thank you all, Staff and Volunteers of East Bay Stand Down, for helping my brothers and sisters who have put on the uniform of the United States Military.
Speaking of research; I finally found the dates for the 1999 East Bay Stand Down on Country Joe – a timeline (of the Country Joe and the Fish band) website, of all places. The dates were difficult for me to find. Open the website and click on 1999, then go to September 30 and it shows Country Joe played at the Stand Down for the whole weekend, entertaining the troops. I just thought I would share that tidbit with you. Also in the way of research, I have decided to not seek documents from the hospital or ambulance service at this time. The same goes for any FOIA requests to the V.A. What good would they do me now anyway? Mr. Yahiro and the East Bay Stand Down know that I am still alive and will tell my story.
Before I close this story, I would like to bring up the idea of “you create what happens to you.” I was reminded of this when I visited the HVRP website. One could argue that if I wasn’t a homeless alcoholic I would not have been in that position in the first place. That argument has merit. I’ll own it. I have always taken responsibility for my actions – always. One could also argue that if East Bay Stand Down did not extend their hand to me, I would not have been there in the first place either. It just didn’t work out, did it?
Finally, East Bay Stand Down proudly displays on its website home page:
“Standown is a term used during war to describe the practice of removing combat troops from the field and taking care of their basic needs in a safe area.
We don't leave our wounded behind...”
And this one as well:
“A community is often judged by how well it takes care of its own. Serving those who have served our Nation is the primary goal of the East Bay Stand Down.”
I certainly feel left behind at this point in time. Without any input from the EBSD to make me believe otherwise I feel as if I have been summarily dismissed, discarded and denied “taking care of their basic needs in a safe area.” I was not given a safe haven; I was put back into the “field.” And now, almost 20 years later, there again will be no assistance for this United States Marine from the EBSD. It is not my place to judge anyone – I have made many mistakes in my life. Two times I have reached out my hand to East Bay Stand Down for help and my pleas have been twice denied.
I have unloaded a lot today . . . it feels good . . . to put forth my story. I have not spoken of this to very many people in the past 20 years. In telling this story, I do not seek pity, sorrow, thanks or any such thing from you, the Reader – I only wanted to know why East Bay Stand Down made the decision that was made and to get this off my chest, so to speak. Was the decision to send me away as I speculated above? I believe so . . . people freaked and didn’t know what to do. Do I blame anyone? No. I will probably never know the full story as Mr. Yahiro and EBSD refuse to answer my questions and have told me to not contact them again.
I do take great solace in knowing that there are others who were there that day, September 30, 1999, who know that what I have laid out for you above is a true story, and yet I cannot help but feel a bit of resentment as well, East Bay Stand Down and Mr. Yahiro, they really did leave me behind then and summarily dismiss me today, notwithstanding the great work they have done and will continue to do for others. How does one reconcile that?