By Rick Rogers
Host of Front & Center: Military Talk Radio
The big news recently for San Diego County veterans was both expected and relieving.
The Aspire Center, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposed 40-bed medical facility in Old Town, finally won approval.
Local veterans suffering mental and emotional wounds after their service will finally have a place of their own to recuperate under the best care available.
That San Diego County, home to the most Afghanistan and Iraq war vets in the country, waited a decade for such a center is a real puzzler.
But at least there’s one on the way.
On Tuesday the San Diego City Council unanimously approved the conditional use permit allowing the $30 million Aspire Center to move forward.
Had countervailing forces succeeded, the San Diego VA Healthcare System would’ve lost crucial VA funding and the Aspire Center would’ve been setback at least 18 months.
The decision did not surprise. The San Diego City Council had signaled its intention to approve the center last month at a standing-room-only meeting packed with Aspire Center backers.
Elected council members had little choice but to vote for the much-needed project. To do otherwise would’ve risked political doom in such a pro-military town on such a hot topic.
To the Council I offer a polite golf clap.
But the standing ovation goes to the veterans and their advocates who showed what’s possible when people rally behind an important issue and stand toe to toe with a bully and tell him where to go.
Once the substantial forces of the San Diego County veteran community were fully engaged – and enraged – it was no contest.
That’s what Old Town Academy Charter School officials found while stopping at little in attempts to derail the Aspire Center.
Old Town Academy shouldn’t be faulted for opposing the Aspire Center. Who really wants struggling veterans moving in across the street? Neither is stirring up public sentiment or seeking political redress necessarily wrong.
And their security concerns were altogether fitting.
But what they did went well beyond what was prudent, civil or decent.
Their public disrespect of veterans and their reliance on fear mongering instead of facts undid them and painted them as nothing more than elitists and NIMBYs.
With no history of service themselves, they never let irony stop them from impugning the character of those willing to do a job they were not.
Their suggestion that Aspire Center veterans would harbor sexual or violent predators waiting to pounce on Old Town Academy school children would be comic if not for the stakes.
Well now all that is all sorted out. Old Town Academy and the VA have come to a living arrangement.
Let’s move on without forgetting.
All it takes for the Old Towns of the world to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
Rick Rogers has covered defense and veterans issues for nearly 30 years. He hosts Front & Center: Military Talk Radio Sundays, 11 to noon, Pacific Time, on KCBQ AM 1170 (www.kcbq.com). Podcasts at www.DefenseTracker.com. Contact him at (760) 445-3882 or Rick.Rogers@defensetracker.com.