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Veterans Garden Reopened as Rehabilitation Tool

The newly restored historic Women Veterans Rose Garden at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration will give veterans an opportunity to heal outdoors.

The Veterans Administration (VA) Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and the Veterans Park Conservancy (VPC) hosted an event on Monday to celebrate the completion of renovations made to the historic Women Veterans Rose Garden located on the National Veterans Park grounds.

The conservancy raised more than $1 million in private donations for the garden, which will be used in outdoor therapy for veterans housed on the VA grounds, according to the group. Future plans call for the renovation of an adjacent building to also be used for yoga, tai chi and other relaxation therapy classes.  

The VPC has been active in the administration of veteran land since 1986.

"We helped get the Cranston Act passed, (where) property in the back near the ... was saved from being developed on," said Nancy Freedman, VPC board member and Brentwood Community Council chair, in an interview with Patch. "The people who have given money to this project are very proud of themselves and it's not money that would have gone anywhere else. It's not money that would have helped the homeless program, it's not money that would have helped in anything other than people interested in giving people an outdoor environment."     

Longtime homeless veteran advocate Robert Rosebrock thinks the rose garden is a good start in the right direction.

"We should have the gardens throughout the whole property here, but our biggest concern is that we've got some 20,000 veterans who are homeless and we'd like to get them shelter," Rosebrock told Patch. "There's just a lot of things that we need to be working together on. I'd like to see more veterans service organizations involved."

Rosebrock, a columnist for Veterans Today and director of the Veterans Revolution, a on the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente boulevards, was recently involved in an ACLU lawsuit against the VA.   

"When you have a name like a Veterans Healthcare System, it's not too inviting, (some homeless veterans) are trying to avoid the system. We need some name changes. More than just changing names, we need to live up to those names."

But the homeless veterans issue isn't the conservancy's mission, said Craig Parsons, outside communications consultant for the VPC.

"We share (concern for) the welfare of veterans, we're just taking on a different area and that's the health issue," Parsons told Patch. "Obviously we're sympathetic to the homeless issue, but that's not what we do."

Two veterans gave their testimonies about how the rehabilitation program helped them. One of them, Thomas Sells, left Vietnam 45 years ago to the week, he said.

"The first 20 years when I left Vietnam, I wandered the streets of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area in an alcohol- and drug-induced stupor," Sells told the crowd of about 100 people. "The things that are available to me today were not available then."

Some of those things include yoga, acupuncture and tai chi, Sells said. Tai chi in particular, Sells said, has helped to heal his body inside and out.

"Healing is more about external wounds and a lot of our veterans … have many layers of internal wounds—trauma, PTSD—and these programs are the vehicle to provide a doorway in for them to look at their healing in a different way," said Sandy Robertson, VA patient-centered care coordinator, in an interview with Patch.

Robert Rosebrock December 08, 2011 at 05:44 AM
Robert Rosebrock There’s already a 2-acre Japanese Meditation Garden between the public golf course and private Brentwood School athletic field on Veteran property, but the Garden is padlocked and off limits to Veterans. As long as thousands of Veterans remain homeless and hungry while trying to survive in back alley squalor, of what benefit are healing gardens and Tai Chi to them? First, we need to heal this land itself as there’s a horrible history of what took place in these 80-year old buildings with lobotomies, raped patients, etc. These are not “historic” buildings! They are an atrocity to a civil society as they represent some of the most horrific crimes against humanity on American soil. They all need to be demolished and replaced with new, modern, state-of-the-art Resident Halls and more Veteran services, and it needs to happen posthaste. The ACLU lawsuit filed against the VA for misusing Veterans property and abusing homeless Veterans will finally restore this land as a “Veterans Home,” first and foremost.
ELAYNE MACKEY December 09, 2011 at 01:34 AM
It would be good to see the beautiful campus of West LA VA be a leader in the wonderful proposed programs. A stress disorder not only claims the minds and bodies of the one that suffers with it but that of their family too. The gardens must be beautiful and serene. According to Mr. Sells it has helped ease his pain. This is great as I understand this is a valid treatment that holds promise. I agree with Mr. Rosebrock. We have a homeless problem in our nation which seems to be claiming or claimed every era of Veteran. In the 1800's a homeless Buffalo soldier was court ordered into an Arizona insane asylum, receiving no help from his government. Upon his death he was buried in a lone dirt plot. Years later it was discovered that he was an 1889 Medal of Honor Recipient. In 2009 Isaiah May's remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Isaiah Mays quietly faded away thinking that no one cared. Many homeless Veterans avoid any type of help. There are many that have become helpless due to their current situation - homelessness. They feel there is no help; no one cares as people avoid them or think they are all suffering from an addiction. Wouldn't it be great if all of the groups seeking change for our Veterans could combine their talents? As Mr. Rosebrock said, "There's just a lot of things that we need to be working together on." When we have so many working in the right direction, the results could be phenomenal. We must never forget. War does come home.
John h December 12, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Who was responsible for the landscape work?
Jared Morgan December 12, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Good question, John. I'll find out.
Craig Parsons December 13, 2011 at 07:56 PM
The Veterans Park Conservancy developed the Rose Garden with the input and oversight of advisor Jim Folsom, Director of the Huntington Gardens, consultant Art Luna of Art Luna Garden Inc. and VPC board member (and Marine veteran) Thomas Givvin, owner of the Marina del Rey Garden Center.

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