Ocean Beach VFW Outpost Being Forced Out After 27 Years

by on November 11, 2010 · 25 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Ocean Beach, Popular, Veterans

VFW mural andy-ed-sm

Since 1983 war veterans of Ocean Beach have had a place to call home.  Since 1983, VFW Post 1392 at 4944 Newport Avenue has served as a refuge.  It’s not much.  It’s a small storefront facing an alley.  The inside is not fancy; a big screen HDTV, a pool table, and your usual assortment of stools and tables (all handmade by Outpost members).

There is nothing fancy about the décor.  The walls of the canteen are decorated with various insignias representing different units of different branches of the military where the members were so proud to serve.  The POW/MIA flag appears on the wall behind the bar, and waves above the hand painted mural outside.  The Marine Corps flag hangs between the entry steps and the wheelchair ramp.  Various award plaques hang on the wall throughout.

 

VFW andy Honor Wall-sm

The Honor Wall. All photos by Andy Cohen.

 

On the north side of the building, just inside the entryway, is the Honor Wall, which features photos and memorials to deceased members of the post.  And above the door hangs the outpost’s most prized decoration:  A custom surfboard shaped by John Neve in honor of his father-in-law who survived the beaches of Normandy in World War II.  Mr. Neve has shaped various surfboards with a military theme that have been auctioned off to benefit VFW Post 1392, but not this one.  This one’s special.  This one means something.

The post isn’t much, but it has been built and nurtured by hand by the members who seek solace inside its walls.  Members do all of the maintenance work themselves; all of the plumbing, all of the electrical work, anything that needs to be done gets done at either the members’ or the post’s expense.  The mural above the entrance to the canteen was hand painted by a homeless VFW member who asked for nothing in return.  He just wanted to share his art with his friends.

 

VFW andy Neve Surfboard-ed-sm

The Neve Surfboard.

 

For 27 years the landlord has received a monthly rent check with no complaints and no requests from the Quartermaster.  Whatever they need, they find a way to provide it for themselves.

After 27 years of calling 4944 Newport Ave. home, VFW Post 1392 is losing their home.  The longtime landlord, Cocking Partners, LP, has made a “business decision” and has chosen to rent the canteen and the accompanying VFW thrift store to someone else, presumably for more money.  Renovations to accommodate the new tenants are already under way, and the outpost’s future hangs in limbo.

VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 1392 is an oasis of sorts to its members.  In order to become a member, you must have served during combat operations in a military action on foreign soil.  Think of it as a place like in the TV show “Cheers.”  You know the one, “where everybody knows your name?”  The analogy, though, does not do justice to what the place means to the veterans who pass the time there.

 

VFW andy In Crowd-sm

The "In Crowd" at the Post.

 

The members view themselves as part of a family of people who share common experiences, common stories, common nightmares.  Every man—and the handful of women—who are members of the VFW nationwide have been a part of the horrors of war.  They have all survived war.  Many return with physical scars; all return with emotional scars.

And that’s what makes the VFW post so valuable and so important to these veterans.  Mary Leffler, USN (retired) served in Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield.  Mary became the first female lifetime member of the Ocean Beach VFW.  The emotional trauma, Mary says, typically cannot be adequately dealt with by seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Sure the doctors understand the clinical explanations of what is happening in a veteran’s mind.  They understand the chemical reactions and how the coping mechanisms work.  They can listen to the stories, nod their heads, take notes, sympathize, and prescribe medications or other forms of therapy.  But they can never truly understand what these veterans have seen, what they’ve experienced.   They cannot fully comprehend the humanity that must be shoved aside and locked in a closet in order to survive.

It’s when the veterans return home that the closet door flies open and the camaraderie and understanding of the VFW post becomes a life saver, because in that place they can find people who KNOW what they’re going through, what they’ve seen and experienced, and are coping with the same nightmares.  It’s a place where fellow servicemen and women open their arms and their hearts to lend a hand, an ear, or just sit and have a beer.  Conversations drift in directions and depths that no other group can fully grasp.

VFW andy Pool Table-smVic Tulsie is the newly elected Quartermaster of VFW Post 1392.  Vic joined the Navy shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and served six years as a Navy cryptologist.  He took part in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and the Global War on Terrorism.  To sit and listen to him and his predecessor, Mary, talk about THEIR post and the possibility of losing it, it’s hard not to get a sense of just how important a role the post plays in their lives, and how heartbreaking the thought of losing it is.  It is their temple, the place they go to gain a sense of sanity.  It’s a place where young and old alike feel a sense of belonging.

Talking to them, you get a sense that they might just be lost without it.

The VFW is not, however, simply a way for the members to connect with each other.  It is a way for them to connect with and serve their community.  Have you ever noticed the American Flags that line Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach on national holidays?  Post 1392 is responsible for that.  Its members raise 97 flags and take them down again for every national holiday.

Members care for the flags at the Vietnam Memorial in Ocean Beach.  It was Mary Leffler that designed the plaque at the memorial.  That plaque has been copied and installed at memorials in Hawaii, Virginia, Florida, and Washington State.

Every year for Thanksgiving, the OB VFW sponsors food drives and provides meals for Ocean Beach families in need.  This year they are sponsoring eight families.  Every Christmas they host toy and food drives to provide for needy OB families.  Every toy recipient gets a toy suitable to his or her age group.

Post 1392 is a strictly non-profit organization that operates by the revenues it generates in the canteen (the bar) and the thrift store it operates next door.  The thrift store survives on donations of goods (and money), most of which it sells for a very modest price.  However, they will never turn away someone in need, particularly a vet in need.  They often donate clothes or blankets to homeless folks right out of the thrift store.

A few girls from Pt. Loma High were even able to find prom dresses at the thrift store last year; they couldn’t afford new ones, so some of the women from the VFW came through for them.

Proceeds from the canteen and the thrift store also allows Post 1392 to contribute to the 25 different charities they support—most of them local—including the OB Christmas Tree Fund, the OB Christmas Parade, Point Loma Little League (their support earned them “Sponsor of the Year” honors in 2009), the OB Women’s Club, the OB Street Fair, the Special Olympics, and Point Loma High School Athletics, to name a few.  In fact, they make it a point to keep almost all of their support within the OB community.

The post, for the first time, was a part of the Ocean Beach Restaurant Walk, where they found three new members (they served Jell-O shots), and will be sponsoring a BBQ for the OB Street Fair.

But all of that could be coming to an end if Tulsie and Leffler cannot find the post a new home.  They desperately want to remain in Ocean Beach, a part of the Ocean Beach community.  Of great concern to them is the fate of some of their older members:  Several of them live close by and walk to the canteen to find brotherhood.  Unable to drive, if the post left OB, these members would be stranded and left with no place to go.

Further exasperating the post’s plight, the landlord has seen fit to begin renovations on the adjoining stores.  The construction workers have been using chemicals as a part of the job that has made the thrift store uninhabitable.  They have had to close the store down for a total of 14 days since the construction began, eliminating that much needed revenue that not only keeps the canteen and thrift store open, but would provide some of the necessary funds to facilitate a move should the post find a new, suitable location.  Tulsie has enlisted the help of an attorney who has taken on the effort to recover the lost revenue on a pro-bono basis.

On this Veterans Day, 2010, please give a thought to those who have served our country and community with honor, dignity, and pride.  And if you can lend a hand to those veterans of Post 1392 who have been so quick and eager to lend a hand to others, please let them know.  They would normally happily accept donations of clothing or goods that they can distribute to the needy or sell in their thrift store, but in this hour of such uncertainty in search of a new home, your financial support becomes even more crucial.

Please let them know that you care, even if it’s only a voicing of support and encouragement.  You can reach the post canteen at (619) 225-0921, or contact the thrift shop at (619) 223-3024.

Happy Veterans Day!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar J. Bleyer November 11, 2010 at 10:34 am

I have heard that The Electric Chair wants to expand and may be taking over the hallway area — perhaps they are moving into the thrift store and VFW spaces as well.

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avatar Abby November 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

From what I’ve read, it seems the landlord just found a better paying tennent to rent the space to.

Can we help them move to a new space (if one can be found)?

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avatar Andy Cohen November 11, 2010 at 11:23 am

That’s the problem. The have to find a place that’s suitable, which to this point they’ve been unable to do. They’re open to suggestions, though…..

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avatar frank James November 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm

ssin these days who is better paying than for over 15 years?

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avatar BillRayDrums November 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Damn…..they got Cocked huh… Note to self- never rent from a company whose name is 1 degree away from the F word!

In case you forgot…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26UA578yQ5g (language…you’ve been warned)

:D

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avatar Jon November 11, 2010 at 3:13 pm

How sad, this VFW post really does a lot for OB. Great article Andy. Let’s hope they can find a great new place to call home here in Ocean Beach. And seriously…”Cocking” Partners? You can’t make that shit up.

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avatar Kristin C. November 11, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Sad. Really sad. Keep us all posted on the outcome, would ya? Would be happy to help any way I can. Excellent article.

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avatar Pat November 11, 2010 at 5:10 pm

My brother the late Rich James helped found this post.
On the day of his memorial the post closed for an hour in his honor.
The son of the owners of this property worked for us many years ago and I consider him a friend.
I realize this is a business decision.
I also realize sometimes business decisions suck.
I wish the best for Post 1392, you are truly a part of the fabric that makes OB a great community. God bless you all on this Veterans Day 2010.

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avatar frank James November 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Pat…your brother and I use to frequent a few places together and are fellow “charter members” ….let’s pray and work towards making the post happen and help like it always has! Frank James

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avatar obkat4ever November 11, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Hey Pat!

Very well said.

PEACE

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avatar Goatskull November 11, 2010 at 6:59 pm

This is absolutely DISGUSTING. I do not belong to any VFW post and do not really desire to, but taking one away from people who really value it is inexcusable. I don’t give a damn about a “business” decision. I will be bold here and say the land lord can go fuck himself. My hatred is real and unrelenting.

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avatar Danny Morales November 12, 2010 at 4:39 am

Goatskull- WELCOME TO MY WORLD-WELCOME TO THE OB CITY OF DREAMS!

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avatar Gary Gilmore November 12, 2010 at 8:43 am

I would like to have read quotes from the landlord and heard greater details on his decision. Meanwhile, I’m trying to think of other locations around OB. I’d check out Bacon between Voltaire and W. Pt. Loma. Possibly on Point Loma between Sunset Cliffs & Ebers or maybe Voltaire around Catalina. I’ll be keeping my eyes open.

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avatar Andy Cohen November 12, 2010 at 9:59 am

Gary-

The owners made their statements to the Beacon in the story I linked to, and all they would say was that it is a “business decision” and that it had been brewing for several years. I decided not to contact them, partially because of the story from the Beacon, partially due to time constraints, but mainly because I did not want them to become the focus of this story–I wanted to keep the attention on the VFW and the people who really count on it.

I just didn’t see a need to vilify the building’s owners. A decision has been made, and they’re very much within their rights to make it. You can draw your own conclusions about the landlord and their motives. But the bottom line is that the members of this particular VFW outpost have been there for the community for 27 years, and now they need the community’s help. We probably cannot change what has already been done, but perhaps we can help them find a new home.

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avatar Goatskull November 12, 2010 at 11:16 am

I suppose you have a point and at this stage all focus needs to be on finding a new home. Still, I can’t help but feel a sense of hatred for the building owners. These are people who served their county, went throught the most horrific expierence any human being could ever go through, and for those who are Viet Nam vets comeing home to a disgustingly and inexcusable indifferent American public. Yes the owner has a right to do with his building anything he wants, but I have a feeling he’s going to face some unintended consequences for his decision.

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avatar liveinOB November 14, 2010 at 5:14 pm

whatever opens up in the space, I will not shop there in support of the VFW
hit them where it hurts people!
don’t even go in

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avatar obsteven November 12, 2010 at 9:40 am

I am not a huge pro military guy. I don’t always get along with the enlisted. Personality conflict usually. So sue me.
I do however find it disgusting that the V.F.W. has to move. I do believe that the same government that sent them over to fight wars should send any landlord that rents to a V.F.W. a check to help compensate for lost rent so that the property owner doesn’t have to make a business decision that is so painful for so many.
I used to ride the bus to La Jolla quite often and would see many homeless veterans going to the V.A. for medical treatment. I would just sit there and think about which was tougher for them, fighting in a war or living as a homeless veteran in the country they served for. I would sometimes ride the bus by the run down barracks near the airport and wonder why the local homeless veterans couldn’t live there.
I find it so sad how sometimes the government can treat it’s former soldiers like disposable batteries. Disposed of after they’re drained of all their energy and of no use.
Just my opinion though. I could be and am often wrong about things.

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avatar Goatskull November 12, 2010 at 11:02 am

That’s one of those things I’ll never figure out either. It’s quite horroble in my opinion. The other and less known sad fact is there are actually homeless active duty military. Though rare, it happens sometimes do to bueurocaracy and just out and out wrong imformation given to a service member when he/she transfers from one locality to another and unfortunaly there is no accountability for people whose job it is to give the service member proper and accurate information when they transfer, and as a result, their pay gets screwed up and they often fall into dept.

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avatar Gary Gilmore November 13, 2010 at 8:33 am

Yaknow, OBsteven, that’s a pretty good idea….put the homeless vets up in unused barracks. It would give them a place to live, they would have access to food and probably some medical support. They would have the comraderie of other military personal.. I wonder what is stopping the military from doing this? I mean, there are lots of unused barracks in San Diego ( at least I think there are). I’d like to hear other thoughts on this subject.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 13, 2010 at 8:42 am

Who pays for it?

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avatar Goatskull November 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

” I wonder what is stopping the military from doing this? I mean, there are lots of unused barracks in San Diego ( at least I think there are).”

The answer to your first question. Once a service member is out they are out. The military couldn’t care less after that. As to the second question, not really. The remaining unused buildings at Liberty Station were never barracks. All the barracks buildings have been torn down. That doesn’t mean they can’t be converted to some type of housing but you good and well the local residents in the surrounding area will not put up with any kind of homeless housing. That just won’t happen.

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avatar Norb MacLean III November 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Great article. I’m very saddened to hear that this is happening. Some of my time in OB was spent at this VFW and it is indeed a very special and unique place. This VFW Post also does a great deal for the OB community. I’m presently at my home in Sydney and sent an Express letter to the landlord to see if something can be done.

Norb MacLean III
(U.S. Navy 1989 – 94)
Former Obecian 2002 – 07
Sydney, Australia

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avatar Vic Tulsie November 12, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I have to say thanks for all your support. The veterans of America truly thank you. I had no idea that these many people supported us until now and your support is appreciated. You are all an inspiration. The men and women of this institution have fought for all of you and it is incredible to see all of you fight for us. Thank you again.
-Vic Tulsie
Quartermaster
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States of America Post 1392

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avatar OBT November 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm

As a VFW member, this is truly heart breaking I lived in OB three years (Just left a few weeks ago) and I would always enjoy stopping by this post. There really is a great crew down there and they do help the community. I hope they find a suitable space to relocate. There were a few empty spots over by Voltaire a few weeks ago. I think Gary Gilmore may be onto something.

Post 1392, my heart and thoughts are with you.

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