A California state veterans council is pushing Governor Newsom to allow VFW posts and halls to reopen.
In a letter sent to the governor last week, the California
State Commanders Veterans Council (CSCVC) claimed VFW posts are being wrongly categorized as bars, and keeping them shut down is preventing veterans from accessing critical services and support.
"They've helped me with my paperwork; now they're hard to access because of the virus and it's hurting everybody, veterans included," said Gary Caldwell, a valley veteran who served in the U.S. Navy in the 80s, spending five years aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Robinson off the coast of San Diego.
This Veterans Day he and his wife Becky Goebel set their van up to enjoy a drive-in movie at the Palm Springs Air Museum.
They said they've waited months to get assistance with a Veterans Affairs disability claim.
"Without the posts being open, it's hard to talk to anybody," Goebel said. "For 8 months, 9 months now, we've not been able to make contact and that's crucial in getting this done."
In La Quinta Wednesday, Daniel Prentice with VFW Post 3699 in Indio was giving out buddy poppies for donations, one of the only ways VFWs can fundraise in the pandemic.
Prentice said despite regular zoom meetings, veterans are missing out on important socialization due to posts being closed.
"That's so important for older people and veterans, especially those with PTSD," he said. And while some VFW services have been made available online, many veterans don't have that capability.
"If veterans aren't real internet savvy, that is an issue," Goebel said. "How do they make contact? They're used to being able to see a person, interact with a person."
Still, some veterans worry about getting back together in person as the pandemic continues to worsen.
"I'm in a high risk group," Prentice said. "At a meeting, we could have 25 to 75 members in the hall and there's not room for everybody to really get separate and some people aren't careful with their hands and their masks."