Nearly 1,000 veterans from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars gathered Sunday at a veteran resource fair in Whittier to learn about jobs, financial and health services.
Rose Hills Memorial Park hosted the event in which veterans like Bernard Remson, who fought in the Vietnam War, could connect with younger service men and women.
"We went through the same thing they're going through, and we don't want them to suffer," Remson said.
Sunday’s event comes as the nation marks the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, and ahead of California’s "Welcome Home Veterans Day" on March 30.
Veterans are encouraged to sign up with the Veterans Health Administration because the more veterans there are in the system, the more money Congress will allocate to benefit the men and women returning from war.
Not enough veterans are signing up for what’s rightfully theirs, said Bob Archuleta, presidential appointee to the U.S. military academy of West Point. A veteran himself, Archuleta oversees minority enrollment.
"From one veteran to another, we jumped on airplanes, we'd been shot at. Enough is enough. Come on, let's take care of our families," he said. "Let’s make sure your kids can go to college. Take advantage of the benefits that are there for you."
A Vietnam War veteran signed up for his benefits on Sunday, nearly half a century after returning home from the war. Experts suspect veterans don’t use their benefits either because they’re reluctant to do so, or because they are unaware of what’s available.
"We come out of bootcamp, it says you will never leave a comrade behind," Archuleta said. "We have taken ethos past the combat field in private life."
Veterans’ advocates urged President Barack Obama last week to expedite benefits to nearly 600,000 younger veterans whose claims are backlogged in the Department of Veteran Affairs.