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Our view: The need continues; So does the commitment

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Vets Home Memorial

Mike Chiurco, the lead groundskeeper at the Vets Home, created a heart sculpture that he placed near the impromptu memorial for the three Pathway Home staff victims. One of the women was pregnant, thus the fourth, smaller heart for the unborn child. 

The future of the Pathway Home may be uncertain, but what is certain – and perhaps even more clear than ever – is the need for programs to support our veterans, to meet the crushing weight of trauma that many of them have brought back from war.

In the wake of the horrific shootings at the facility on March 9, in which a former patient killed three staff members, along with the unborn baby of one of the women, before turning the gun on himself, the Pathway Home was thrown into a kind of limbo. Without a usable building or key clinical staff members, the board was forced to suspend their treatment programs indefinitely. But the Pathway Home continues to exist as a non-profit entity and therefore could rise again.

The Pathway Home board is “examining a range of options to continue the important mission of the Pathway Home, helping the nation’s post-9/11 veterans with mental health services and wellness support in a network of local and national public and private partners,” it said in announcing the suspension of its current program, which was serving seven vets at the time of the shooting.

For a decade, local social service clubs and non-profits have embraced the Pathway Home, donating money and countless hours of volunteer time to help the roughly 450 veterans who have come through the program, seeking treatment for severe PTSD from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That philanthropic spirit will continue, no matter what becomes of the Pathway Home itself.

Organizers of the annual Cycle for Sight – Rotary Ride for Veterans event, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars every year for the Pathway Home, among other good causes such as Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind, say their event will go on as scheduled on April 21. At least some of the proceeds will go to supporting the families of the three women killed — Executive Director Christine Loeber, 48, therapist Jennifer Golick, 42, and psychologist Jennifer Gonzales (Shushereba), 32. Gonzales was 26 weeks pregnant.

“As we mourn and honor these dedicated women we remain committed to supporting the Pathway Home and similar programs who strive to heal the hidden wounds of war,” the Rotary Club of Napa, the sponsor of the ride, said in a statement this week. “Please join us on Saturday, April 21, as we honor the purposeful lives of these three heroic women and the successes of the Pathway Home.”

Club President Brian Gross said Rotary will consult with the Pathway Home board as it considers its future. If they are able to use the money raised at the event, they will get it, but if for any reason they are not, he said, all that money will go to support other veteran-focused causes.

Rotary and other groups that have supported the Pathway Home, including the local association of Realtors, will remain committed to raising funds for veteran issues, whether or not the Pathway Home is able to remain the vehicle for that charitable giving.

Rotary member Gary Rose, who has been active in organizing the ride and spent considerable time with the Pathway Home residents and staff, said he hopes this awful event doesn’t eclipse all the great work that the organization has done for veterans over the years. He said he has been receiving messages from former patients, expressing their anguish at the shootings and testifying to the profound positive effect the program has had on their lives.

“The Pathway Home lifted my family out of an abyss … This place gave us our hope back,” the wife of one graduate told him. “Years later, even though the staff has changed and their program focus is slightly different, it’s still home.”

As another graduate told him, “I gotta remind myself ‘the weak stay down’ and no matter whatever type of evil knocks us down we gotta continue to stand up and keep fighting for those we’ve lost along the way. Gone but never forgotten!”

We commend all those who have supported the Pathway Home over the years, and we applaud the great work that the staff and board of the organization have done. We hope the Pathway Home can rise again in some form, but if not, we know that the commitment of our veteran-focused community remains undiminished.

We urge all of you to continue to support the Cycle for Sight – Rotary Ride for Veterans and other fundraisers to help veteran-oriented programs. We hope to see you on April 21 at the ride to help remember those who we have lost and to remind those who remain of our commitment to the future.

The Napa Valley Register Editorial Board consists of Publisher Brenda Speth, Editor Sean Scully, and public members Cindy Webber, Ed Shenk, Mary Jean Mclaughlin and Chris Hammaker.

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