Residents fear that Veterans Village of San Diego is drifting from mission
Five Vietnam veterans set out on a mission.
In 1981, unhappy with the VA’s offerings, the group of men formed a new institution — Vietnam Veterans of San Diego — to tackle the trauma and addiction they had struggled with firsthand.
“What we learned was that we couldn’t deal with the war as long as we drank or used, and we couldn’t deal with the using until we dealt with the war,” said Jack Lyon, one of the founders. “They sort of had to be dealt with simultaneously.”
A former lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Lyon said he relied on drugs and alcohol to push down the memories of the war. It wasn’t until he was institutionalized in the late 70s that he became sober, and he wanted to give back to other veterans in need.
Lyon and the other founders established Triple Threat, weekly meetings at the San Diego Vet Center for veterans to discuss war and addiction. Then, with the support of then Mayor Pete Wilson, the group placed more than 1,000 veterans in new jobs. They also created The Landing Zone, a recovery home for people with heroin addiction.
By 1990, the organization had gained enough traction to build a rehabilitation center on the site of an old motel, where the campus still sits today with a new name: Veterans Village of San Diego.
“It’s a two-way street, that contract,” Lyon said. “I go to war, you take care of me when I come home.”
“That’s not the VA’s job, that’s our job,” he added.