Like all vulnerable populations during an economic downturn, vets have shouldered more than their fair share of the burden. Our country likes to pump its fists, yell “USA! USA!” and send the Blue Angels into the air to glorify our military, but we are less than willing to properly support soldiers returning from war.
San Francisco is planning a memorial to veterans at a cost of 2.5 million; about 2/3 of the funds required has already been raised for the project.
The memorial, a series of three reflection pools, will be located between the War Memorial Veterans Building (which, by the way, doesn’t house any entities having do with veterans – it’s a performing arts center) and the War Memorial Opera House (ditto). Both buildings, completed in 1932, were constructed to honor the soldiers of World War I. These are lovely civic buildings with character, but exactly how these edifices honor vets, I am not sure. I doubt that anyone entering these buildings for a performance or lecture or art show thinks about soldiers, or sailors, or airmen and women. Civic buildings and art can certainly honor vets, but the link here is tenuous.
The new veterans memorial will no doubt provide a haven for opera goers and those attending events at the War Memorial Building to meet before a performance. It may also provide a place for those busy people (who work in the area but can't afford to dine in the area’s numerous restaurants) to sit and rest for a bit and eat their bag lunches under the soothing influence of the reflecting pools.
Now that’s fine – calm, peaceful public spaces are an asset to any area. But how that memorial will help or “honor” vets, is frankly, beyond me. I suppose homeless vets can hang out at the reflection pools, pondering their lives, but more than likely, they will be asked to move along. We can’t have homeless folk congregating by a lovely memorial; they will detract from the memorial’s peacefulness and beauty.
San Francisco enjoys many pubic art installations and memorials can be a wonderful way to remember important events and people, but why create a memorial that will not in any way help vets in a time when they need help? Why not take that funding and create a memorial that actually helps veterans – why not use it to provide some low-cost housing for homeless vets?