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Veteran respect, help, urged

Older generations urge support for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

November 11, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, The Valley Sun
(Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff…)

Of all the words bandied about during the recent election season, very few were about American military service members now coming home from combat in the Middle East.

So to mark today's Veterans Day observances this year, La Cañada Flintridge veterans are calling on their neighbors to bring their youngest brothers and sisters in arms back into the public conversation.

"If you don't know anyone in the service, you tend to be oblivious to the wars," said George Kritzman, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War who has lived in La Cañada Flintridge for 38 years.

"These guys are sacrificing their lives and getting wounded," said Kritzman, who was shot in the arm and suffered a debilitating bullet wound to the leg in Korea. "Let's give them some respect when they come home."

Respect, in this case, isn't just a state of mind. For local veterans, the term also means an awareness of and advocacy for veterans' needs, including medical and psychological care, emotional support, job training, education assistance and assistance for their family members.

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Marine Capt. Andy Graham, who served three tours in Iraq after graduating from La Cañada High School in 1997, sees the issues firsthand as a congressional fellow dealing with military affairs for Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

"We've seen the full spectrum. We have guys who have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and who've gotten out and are unsure how to move on. There are those who need help with job skills or job placement and accessing G.I. Bill benefits," said Graham. "You have the older generation aging and developing chronic ailments and a tremendous influx on new veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who are still very much in that transitional period assimilating into civilian lives."

Graham, 31, and Kritzman, 87, are at the bookends of La Cañada Flintridge's small but relatively well-connected veteran community, which on the younger side has experienced more than its fair share of loss.

La Cañada High School graduate and Army 2nd Lt. Todd Bryant — "a great friend; we were the two smallest guys on the football team," Graham recalled — was killed in October 2003 near Fallujah, Iraq.

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