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World War II vets shouldn’t have to ask for generosity from the community

After the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and the Pledge of Allegiance recited, Ed Reynolds opened the first 2023 meeting of “Wings Over Wendy’s” on New Year’s Day with some good news.

For the first time in a long time, he had no member deaths to report or funeral notices to pass on, the 86-year-old, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel said. Everyone was present and accounted for.

The room broke into applause.

It’s been 22 years since a handful of World War II flyboys living in the Valley had lunch at a Wendy’s in West Hills, plotting out the details of a new club they wanted to start for military aviation veterans.

Little did they know they were throwing out a lifeline for hundreds of older veterans to help combat the silent killer attacking so many of them, loneliness. Wings gave them a home, something to look forward to every Monday, camaraderie with men who talked their language and had fought the same war.

But it didn’t stop there. It invited in widows and grown children of veterans, people who supported veteran’s issues, and anyone who wanted, needed, a safe haven from loneliness.

Reynolds raised his gavel and continued the meeting, asking the 85 members in attendance to say a prayer for all the veterans who physically couldn’t make it out of their homes anymore to attend meetings. Half a dozen or so could be seen on a screen behind Reynolds zooming from home.

It’s been a turbulent last four or five years for Wings, losing their meeting place at the Wendy’s on Platt Avenue when the building was sold, and then leaving the Wendy’s in Woodland Hills in early 2020 when breakfast was added to the menu, and it became a hardship to hold the group’s Monday morning meetings there.

Add COVID-19, which had members scrambling to learn how to Zoom to stay in touch, and it was a monumental job Reynolds and his crew did to hold the group together. In March of 2020, they moved over to the El Camino Charter School auditorium in West Hills, and that’s where they remain today.

At the meeting Monday, the chairman of the board at the charter school, Brad Wright, asked to speak to the group to apologize. Because Wings meets on Monday and six national holidays are on Monday, no staff would be at school to let them into the auditorium. Because it is a charter school operating under different union rules than regular LAUSD schools, he was going to have to charge them $250 for the four-hour overtime salary of a union worker to come to the school and open and close the auditorium.

Wright’s hands were tied, he said, pulling a $100 bill out of his pocket and handing it to Reynolds as a personal donation. It was a class act and Wright did it for all the sacrifices the veterans had made for him, and his family, he said.

It’s a sacrifice we all share.

This isn’t about the money, it’s about ASKING our vets for the money. When we asked them to protect us, they didn’t charge us overtime for fighting on holidays.

They don’t charge us when they go out to schools to talk to kids about patriotism and serving their country. Or when they organize food banks and march in parades.

The argument is that if you give the vets a pass, you have to give all the groups wanting to use the auditorium a pass, as well.

Really? Why? No group has done more for this country than veterans. The union should be paying $250 for the privilege of opening that auditorium door for them.

Dennis McCarthy’s column runs on Sunday. He can be reached at dmccarthynews@gmail.com.

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