Molokai Veterans Group Comes a Long Way
Ten years ago Patti Berg had a vision, and Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans was born. Patti, Wendy De Fretias and I paid for three months’ rent, the rest is history. Molokai has approximately 600 veterans – 300 belong to MVCV. Before the organization formed Molokai veterans had limited VA benefits and medical services. Because we lobbied the Senate and Veteran Council, today MVCV has an on-island veteran physician, Dr. Hafermann; regular visits from psychiatrists; a social worker; psychologist; and benefit counselors. There are about 200 vets enrolled in the Veteran Health Care System on Molokai. Many have overdue benefits. Here are the highlights of the past 10 years:
• Molokai vets relay walk from east to west Molokai in tribute to 9/11 victims, and presented a vial of Molokai sand and soil to the mayor and senator of New York, governor of Pennsylvania, and officials at the Pentagon. We have a letter from the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton acknowledging mahalos.
• Originally received land from Molokai Ranch at Holomua junction and exchanged for land on Wharf Road.
• The Molokai vets lobbied the state of Hawaii and received $250,000 to build a Veterans Center.
• Told by Maui officials to apply for a minor SMA permit to build; the beginning of the nightmare.
• After many stumbles from county officials in the permit process, after six years we finally got our building permit.
• Unfortunately, we had to file a lawsuit in federal court to seek justice.
Next is to resolve issues with the County of Maui in front of a jury. When center is built my part is done and the commander position will be available. The person ought to be accessible, approachable, available, and focus on keeping all veterans together as one; willing to volunteer his/her services with no gratis. Caution – there will be insurgents that will try to highjack the organization, not for the benefit of all veterans but for self-interest. My hope is that the Veteran Center will be a place of refuge, sanctuary, and counseling for Molokai Veterans and their families. A place for visiting veterans and for the Molokai community when available. Also, my hope is for a positive spirit to be the only motivation for Molokai.
Truth and justice goes along way – sometimes it takes a long time.
Larry Helm, Commander
Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans