The grounds had been opened earlier in the day for a church service and the West L.A.VA had known about, and had approved, the use of the grounds by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the sponsors of the event.
"Aside from being stunned, my first reaction was 'do I have the wrong date or the wrong time'" said Veteran Activist Robert Rosebrock, "It didn't take long to sink in that this was the VA we're dealing with and this is a deliberate attempt to mess up this event."
This was the third year that the "Veterans Appreciation Day" has been held on the West L.A. grounds and for the past two years, the grounds have always been open.
This year, the 35 to 40 people who arrived to celebrate were met by padlocked gates and two VA police squad cars with two officers who observed them.
One of the DAV leaders, Valley resident Sam Cordova, an 80- year-old disabled Korean War Marine Combat Veteran, asked why the gates were locked. The VA police replied that the DAV did not request to have them open.
Vets and friends listen to speakers on the black top.
On Friday, the Asset Management Office called the DAV and told them their insurance for the event was unsatisfactory and the event would have to be cancelled.
However, the DAV was able to demonstrate that there was nothing wrong with the insurance and the event could go on as planned, except for the locked gate.
The VA police finally opened a black top parking lot and Veteran Appreciation Day was held there. However, not all of the 60, 70 and 80 year old veterans were able to maneuver their wheel chairs into the parking lot and so they watched from afar. The vets were told that they couldn't use the VA toilet facilities either.
The VA did manage to send staffer Blake Jeffries to keep an eye on things. When Jeffries was asked why he did not order VA police to open gate, he said he didn't have the authority. It may be a coincidence that the man who does have the authority, Ralph Tillman, Asset Manager for the VA, is one of the major targets of the veterans' protests.
It could also just be irony that the land that was denied to vets for their event, the Grand Lawn, is the parcel that the VA wants developed into a public park which is the cause of the protests the vets have launched against the VA.
In a very angry letter sent to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, on Monday, the vets wrote, "Your Department has worked overtime to try and destroy this event and they did a good job of it. Yesterday was a disgraceful display of intentional cruelty and injustice promoted and provoked by your LA VA bureaucrats."
The vets are waiting for a response.