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Veterans mark day of remembrance

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet Staff
Saturday November 11, 2000

No one truly understands what a veteran has gone through in a war better than another vet, says Bob DeRiti, Commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 25.  

On Friday DeRiti was out in front of the downtown Berkeley BART station, soliciting funds for the Berkeley-Emeryville-Albany chapter’s operations. His friend, Douglas Boyce was over at the post office doing the same thing. 

Usually the group comes out to ask for funds at the Berkeley Safeway on Veterans’ Day, DeRiti said. 

This year, members decided to honor the strike action against Safeway’s distribution agent, forgo the Safeway site and come downtown. “Berkeley’s a labor town,” DeRiti said. 

The Veteran’s Day solicitation brings the group more than funds, DeRiti said, just before a man came by, identified himself as a disabled vet, and exchanged phone numbers with DeRiti. 

“We picked up two (other) new members today,” DeRiti said, adding that the tabling also gives disabled vets a chance to dialogue with the general public. 

These days “Berkeley is showing respect to disabled vets,” he said. It wasn’t, of course, always that way. The unpopular Viet Nam War was hated in Berkeley. And the hatred carried over to the men who fought in it, said DeRiti, a vet from both the Viet Nam and Korean wars. “There was a big dislike for the Vietnam vet. Berkeley accepts us now,” he said. 

The Disabled American Vets do a lot of outreach to veterans, especially homeless vets. 

“We take homeless vets into our homes,” he said. One member allows people to camp out in his back yard. “So many of our Viet Nam (vet) brothers have died on the streets,” he said. Others “have made it, have become pillars of our society.” 

With different lifestyles, economic levels and political viewpoints, they all have something in common. “What we had to do haunts us for a lifetime,” he said. “It causes severe anxiety.” 

Disabled veterans can contact the Berkeley-Emeryville-Albany DAV at 549-1240.