(Left to right) Ruben Salgado, Sunny Farrand, Lupe Duggins and Gil Reynosa cook hamburgers during a barbecue at "Balboa Naval Hospital" in San Diego on May 24. Photo by Sandy Huffaker

California’s H2H program busy in May

The Department of California’s Heroes to Hometowns program is one of the most active in The American Legion. It was especially busy during the month of May, hosting a barbecue for Army wounded warriors at the Naval Medical Center San Diego - commonly known as “Balboa Hospital” - and maintaining a booth at the Navy and Marine Corps Combat and Operational Stress Control Conference, an event focused on finding ways to make servicemembers’ transition into civilian society more seamless.

The barbecue is a monthly event for Army wounded warriors stationed at Balboa, arranged by H2H California Chairman Richard “Sunny” Farrand. In a city known for its maritime presence, Farrand says it’s important to remember the soldiers who are at the hospital.

“There really is a low amount of support here for the Army wounded warriors because this is a Navy and Marine town,” he said. “I try to support the Army through barbecues, and I have several other organizations who sponsor them with me.”

Those organizations include the VFW, Patriot Guard Riders, and 173rd and 82nd Airborne Divisions. Non-military entities have also been known to provide sponsorship. Earlier in May, In-N-Out Burger provided about 30 wounded warriors with $50 gas cards, $25 iTunes gift cards and about $1,500 in gas cards for Farrand to distribute to other servicemembers or military families in need.

Farrand says dedication to events like the barbecues is the key to providing servicemembers the support they need.

“I’m here early, and I leave late. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Earlier that week, Farrand and other representatives from California’s Heroes to Hometowns program operated a booth at the Combat and Operational Stress Control Conference at the Town and Country Hotel in San Diego. Farrand and his cohorts distributed informational resources on post-traumatic stress, the H2H program and the upcoming Hiring Our Heroes Career Fair at Camp Pendleton in San Diego on June 6. Veterans, active military and their families are encouraged to attend the free career event.