Friendship Spanning 45 Years

War forges bonds, but often a shared experience has the same effect. Take these two Vietnam Veterans, Max Cleland and Shad Meshad. They didn’t serve together in Vietnam, but for over 45 years they’ve been brothers working to care for all Veterans.

Max Cleland and Shad Meshad
Max Cleland and Shad Meshad

Shad and Max met in the mid-1970s in Los Angeles. Shad was working on the streets of LA; Max was a consultant to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. President Carter appointed him Secretary of the VA in 1977. Max had heard about this “wild man” in LA. He came out to have a look for himself.

A triple amputee, Max got a firsthand look at the lives of other Vietnam Veterans as Shad pushed Max’s wheelchair all over Venice Beach. They drove the streets of LA and into the Santa Monica Mountains where Vets were living in encampments.

The time they spent together was rich and resulted in the creation of the Vet Center Program, now in over 300 locations nationwide. The program was based on the model Shad developed working with Vets after he returned from Vietnam. Max went on to serve as a U.S. Senator.

War forges bonds, but often a shared experience has the same effect. Take these two Vietnam Veterans, Max Cleland and Shad Meshad. They didn’t serve together in Vietnam, but for over 45 years they’ve been brothers working to care for all Veterans.

Shad and Max met in the mid-1970s in Los Angeles. Shad was working on the streets of LA; Max was a consultant to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. President Carter appointed him Secretary of the VA in 1977. Max had heard about this “wild man” in LA. He came out to have a look for himself.

A triple amputee, Max got a firsthand look at the lives of other Vietnam Veterans as Shad pushed Max’s wheelchair all over Venice Beach. They drove the streets of LA and into the Santa Monica Mountains where Vets were living in encampments.

The time they spent together was rich and resulted in the creation of the Vet Center Program, now in over 300 locations nationwide. The program was based on the model Shad developed working with Vets after he returned from Vietnam. Max went on to serve as a U.S. Senator.

They’ve kept in close touch over the years, mostly by phone. But last month, Shad was visiting a group of USMC Veterans in the Southeast, and the two friends had a chance to talk together in person, a luxury in this time of pandemic.

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