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Sunny Dosanjh, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A mosaic of photos honoring former U.S. Air Force Sergeant Sunny Dosanjh as Volunteer of the Year for 2018 is on the wall at Sunnyvale Pathways.

The San Jose resident, who served in the military from 1986 – 1990, is part of the Pathways Home Health & Hospice organization’s “We Honor Veterans” team. He visits veterans in hospice and conducts a pinning ceremony. He presents them with certificates of appreciation for their military service and Veteran pins inscribed “Proudly Served.”

Dosanjh, a member of American Legion Post 419 in Santa Clara, is also captain of the Honor Guard for Santa Clara County, which provides funeral honors for fallen veterans.

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He is doing research on how to help veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) by using high-tech tools such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality.

A dual British and American citizen, Dosanjh traveled to London, England, over Memorial Day weekend. He presented a military plaque from American Legion Post 419 to the Royal British Legion Isleworth (London) branch that he is also a member of.

“It’s symbolic for recognizing the end of WWI and the formation of both the American Legion [in 1919] and the Royal British Legion [in 1921],” said Dosanjh. “This is in acknowledgment of the special relationship that the United States has with the United Kingdom.”

All of this, and yet Dosanjh classifies himself an invisible veteran.

“Veterans who served in the Cold War period between wars don’t get acknowledged,” said Dosanjh at an American Legion Post 419 event earlier this year. “We don’t exist. We’re the invisible veterans.”

Dosanjh, who served during the brief Panama Conflict between Dec. 20, 1989 – Jan. 31, 1990, narrowly qualifies for American Legion membership and benefits. However, veterans who served in the gaps between wars, rather than during federally-defined war eras, are ineligible.

“The Legion will die if new members don’t come in,” said Dosanjh. “The stronger the American Legion becomes, the more things we can do to support veterans, their families and in the community.”

Dosanjh knows firsthand the value of American Legion and Veterans Administration support.

“The vets saved my life,” said Dosanjh, who was diagnosed with PTSD. “The journey’s been long. I hit bottom. I ended up at a homeless shelter. I know the challenges vets go through — lost paper work, misdiagnosis.

“Now, I give back by volunteering as I do,” Dosanjh continued. “It heals me just as much as the people I help. It’s a balance between giving and taking.”

May was Mental Health Awareness month in the U.S., and Dosanjh encourages the community to remember Veterans suffering from PTSD and other traumatic brain injuries.

Dosanjh just published an article he wrote about PTSD. You can read it here: https://www.psychreg.org/d-day-ptsd/

 

U.S. Senate Bill 504

U.S. Senate Bill 504, introduced on Feb.14, 2019, would authorize The American Legion to determine the requirements for membership in The American Legion. This would enable it to admit any honorably discharged veteran, not just those who served during war eras.

Called the “Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act” or the “LEGION Act,” it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

“A lot of vets are isolated and don’t know how to fit in. If the community reaches out to us, it’s like an olive branch — then we’re no longer invisible,” said Dosanjh. “Vets have a great love for country.”

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a column where we casually interview people we meet in Santa Clara. The column hopes to highlight what makes Santa Clara special — the people who live, work and play here.

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