AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake The history books are filled with chapter after chapter about how our leaders and industrialists made this country great with their ideas and inventions. But none of it would have worked if it wasn’t for the men and women in uniform who made sure no one took those ideas and inventions – those freedoms – away from us. A lot of tyrants tried. A lot of tyrants failed. Our veterans made sure of that. So I have no patience for Veterans Affairs officials who talk about the need to cut or consolidate veterans’ benefits because of the rising cost of medical care. The deal we made with these older veterans when they were young was pretty simple and straight-forward: Leave your loved ones and go fight a war to keep us safe and free, and we’ll take care of you when you’re old and sick. That’s if you make it home, which many didn’t. In the next few days, we’re all going to be making ourselves promises we probably won’t keep. They’re called New Year’s resolutions. And if the past is any indication, most of them won’t make it out of January alive. But there is one resolution I’m hoping we can all keep this year: to continue supporting our veterans – present and past. Some people think I write too many columns about veterans and the groups and people who support them. I don’t think I write enough. Without them, we’d be living in a different world. One where we wouldn’t be taking freedom for granted. For the government to cry poor now and say we need to cut back and consolidate services at VA hospitals, including the Sepulveda VA in North Hills, is a disgrace. What kind of message are we sending to the young men and women in uniform right now when they read stories about old vets going hat in hand to get the medical care they need? They have to be thinking, What’s it going to be like in 50 years when we’re the old vets? We shouldn’t be downsizing our VA hospitals. We should be making them state-of-the-art medical facilities, with the best care you can find anywhere. And why not? The patients being served there are this country’s VIPs. Supporting our veterans is a New Year’s resolution we should all keep. When I criticize the VA, it’s only fair to balance the story with something it’s doing right. The Smoking Cessation Clinic at the Sepulveda VA is a perfect example. Every Friday, dozens of vets show up for individual counseling with volunteer Dave Wallace, who has run the program for 12 years. “More than 90 percent of them survived Vietnam and are mostly baby boomers ranging in age from their early 50s into their 60s,” Wallace says. They’re the guys we saw on TV back in the late 1960s and early ’70s in Vietnam with a cigarette butt hanging from their lips. The guys who got spit on and cursed at when they came home. A lot of them turned their backs on anything to do with the military when they returned. Even now, they won’t step a foot inside a VA facility. And that’s the problem, Wallace says. There are literally thousands of local veterans who do not regularly use VA services and are unaware programs like his exist. So if there are any veterans out there making a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, Wallace will be more than happy to help make sure you don’t break it. Nicotine patches and Zyban medication are provided, along with weekly counseling sessions. For more information, call the Patient Education Resource Center at (818) 895-9569. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!