The steel framework of the 3,600-square-foot building going up on Moffat Boulevard is more than just the future home of the Manteca Veterans Center.
It is a monument to the ability of man to move on.
Veterans, especially those who have served in combat zones, know the immense power of not allowing the past to consume you. By letting go, it can set you free and improve your tomorrow.
Think of how much different the world would be today if World War II veterans held lifelong grudges toward Japan, Germany, and Italy. The same holds true for other nations and their people Americans have gone to war with and spilled the blood of our sons and daughters.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6311 Commander Carlon Perry sees the building going up on Moffat as a way of helping those whose lives were disrupted and marred by war while serving their country to move on. It is why the building will be referred to not as Jimmie Connors Post 6311 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the Manteca Community Center but rather by the all-inclusive moniker “Manteca Veterans Center.”
Perry, and the Post membership that is hovering around 150, have a vision of being a welcoming place for all veterans. It will be a place where they can go to access services, veterans’ health care, and share camaraderie.
Already the growing and vibrant post has utilized its collective resources and contacts to help a new generation of veterans who have come home from the Global War on Terror.
Included among those is a young man who was desperate to find a job to support his young family. Post members went to work, made calls and landed the veteran a job.
Making all veterans in the greater Manteca area understand they have a place they can turn to is what is driving Perry and other post members.
The social aspects of a post with its own home after 79 years are just as important. All veterans are brothers – and sisters – in the truest sense.
And the Jimmie Connors Post 6311 family plans on doing what families do – help each other.
Perry has a strong sense of family. Just ask his kids.
And his commitment is just as deep to another family – the community of Manteca.
Perry was elected to two terms on the City Council and served four years as mayor.
During that time there was political squabbling of Titanic proportions.
He found himself often times as the polar opposite of Willie Weatherford in terms of the best course for Manteca to pursue regarding municipal investments, management, and policies.
There will be no rewriting of history. The council level struggles were terse, at times spirited and sometimes myopic to the point of insanity.
But beneath it all, even then there was no contempt or animosity. It may not have looked that way at the time to the public, but Weatherford and Perry never let adversarial political roles personally consume them. That doesn’t mean they were buddy, buddy. They weren’t. They didn’t hold grudges even though in most instances neither budged from their positions. And although an almost constant 3-2 council standoff on key issues produced episodes that in retrospect can be described as sheer lunacy, both remained fairly cordial to each other.
Fast forward to last year: Weatherford was in his 12th and final year of mayor, a post he secured after defeating Perry in his bid for re-election in 2002. Perry was immersed in an effort to breathe new life into the post. It was clear that a lot things that needed to be done for veterans couldn’t be done without a place they can call their own.
Perry called up Weatherford. They met for a cup of coffee.
To make a long story short, Weatherford joined Perry in his vision. And now in relatively record time for a City of Manteca undertaking, the Manteca Veterans Center is going up on Moffat Boulevard and heading for a July 4 dedication.
Both are quick to say it took the entire City Council, staff and post members working together to make the Moffat project a reality.
It also took one other thing: a willingness to move on.
Veterans have returned from the horrors of war since the dawn of the American republic and set about doing their part to build a stronger country. Part of that effort has always involved helping comrades that had a bumpier road back.
You never get completely over war or things that have happened to you that leave an emotional or physical mark. But you can certainly move on.
And that’s exactly what is happening today on Moffat Boulevard.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.