Their mission: rescue vets from the streets
Out near LAX, a dozen military veterans man a war room, strategizing day and night. Their mission is to bring other vets in off the ledge, to gather them up from the streets and shake the dust off them.
With a budget of just half a million dollars a year, the team of “wild cowboys” is intent on saving lives, says the general of the nonprofit National Veterans Foundation — an Alabama-raised, Lebanese Catholic Vietnam vet named Floyd “Shad” Meshad.
Meshad used to have a big job at the West L.A. Veterans Affairs complex, but he’s a guy with no patience for bureaucracy, so he had to get out, way back in the 1980s, and start his own thing.
His outfit runs a crisis hotline and bushwhacks through bureaucratic jungles for weary vets. Twice a week, his crew heads out to Venice, Hollywood and skid row in a big white van stocked with provisions, fishing for soldiers sleeping on cold pavement and in damp ivy beds. They feed them, befriend them, console them and sometimes talk them into housing.