Pacific Lodge Boys Learn From Positive Male role Models

Positive male role models are scarce for the boys who live at Pacific Lodge in Woodland Hills - a home for troubled adolescents in the foster care system.
They have come from broken homes in neighborhoods where a rap sheet is a badge of honor, and toughness, not smarts, translates into respect.
A few Sunday’s ago, these boys had a chance to meet some of the toughest, most respected male role models in the country – a handful of old combat war veterans who stopped by for a barbecue and a chat, one-on-one.
Under the shade of an old elm tree on a sweltering day, they shared some steak, cole slaw, and potato salad with an extra side of tough love.
In the old days, boys like these were labeled as “wayward kids,” heading for a hard fall. The Dead End kids from the movies – not bad at heart, just too tough and stubborn for their own good.
The men who dropped by to talk with them were even tougher as kids, but they didn’t join gangs and fight each other in the streets. They joined the service and fought for their country.
They didn’t commit burglaries, do drugs, or commit crimes that had a judge sending them to homes like this for one more chance. They got married, had kids, and became role models.
“These boys needed the kind of straight talk us old-timers could give them,” said Ed Reynolds, a Vietnam veteran who dropped by with a handful of World War II and Korean War veterans.
“Some of them are already fathers at 16 or 17,” Reynolds said. “Their fathers failed them, and now they’re on the same road to fail their own kids.
“They’re lost and unsure of where they go from here. They have big ideas, but little know-how in making them happen. We tried to offer realistic suggestions with a lot of tough love thrown in, too.
“Did we make a dent? Yeah, I think so. But one visit won’t do it. We’ll be coming back with even more vets next time because these boys are too important to our future to let fall through the cracks,” Reynolds said.
The meeting was set up by the Rotary Club of Woodland Hills, a hands-on service organization that actively seeks out individuals and groups in its community that need help.
[Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from Dennis McCarthy August 4, 2016 Daily News column.]