Valley veteran commitment to service never wavered

FRESNO, Calif.

One valley veteran is turning around his life and preparing to help others do the same. He lives on Calaveras Street in Central Fresno. 52 year old Richard Barns served in the Marine Corps but his return to civilian life wasn't easy. He bounced between staying with friends and being on the streets. All the while sharing his space with his best friend his Baby Girl. This dog may not be gorgeous but she is a loyal companion for a lost soul, "When you out there you're on the defense all the time. You're always looking over your shoulder ... it's real easy to get lost out there and get misdirected out there, really." Luckily he was steered toward a place where he fits in, the San Joaquin Valley Veteran's Office. That led to becoming part of the Veteran's Plaza, a transitional home in Fresno that is expected to open mid-March. It will house homeless veterans.

Vince Garcia is also a veteran who served two tours in Iraq. He now works for the San Joaquin Valley Veteran's Office, "The military life style is so drilled into your brain while you're in, and it never leaves." He says the safe haven on Calaveras will offer safety and stability for the 28 veterans who will share it, "They police themselves. Obviously their rank, they'll start talking about their rank and things just kind of fall into place."

Elizabeth Vasquez and Garcia work together, she too believes this haven will offer the opportunity to reconnect and succeed in their lives ahead, "We'll work hard to engage them, probably work hard to convince them, but we won't lose hope that eventually a lot of them will decide this is a better route."

And they invite the public to pitch in to furnish the two bedroom apartments. All forms of donations are accepted, furniture, appliances, clothing utensils, anything a home might need.

Meantime Barnes and his 'Baby Girl' are already on the job, keeping an eye on things after the workers go home. He will become the "Veteran's Plaza" night manager when it opens in mid-march and already proving his commitment according to Elizabeth Vasquez, "I think we've picked the right guy, to be a good house manager, be a good peer for other veterans."

They say those in military service take care of their own and at this Westcare Veteran's Plaza that bond continues. You will find more information on their website:

Facebook: WestCare California, Inc.

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