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STOCKTON (CBS SF) — Not even a pandemic could quash the birthday bash for Maj. Bill White, believed to be the oldest living U.S. Marine, who celebrated turning 105 on Friday.

When asked how it feels to be 105, Maj. White, who fought and was wounded in the battle for Iwo Jima said, “Feels just as good as it did at 104.

Maj. White received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered from an exploding grenade on Iwo Jima but he went on to serve through both World War II and the Korean War, retiring from active duty in the 1960s.

“He was in Shanghai before World War II and the Japanese invasion and all that; Iwo Jima — got hit. Blown up with a grenade. Recovered from that. Spent a total of 30 years in the Marine Corps. Just an amazing guy,” said Tony Walker, communications director for The Oaks at Inglewood, an assisted-living facility in Stockton where Maj. White has lived for the past several years.

For his family members who have not been able to visit much because of the coronavirus, this celebration was special.

“It’s very heartwarming … it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston said.

In February, Maj. White made national headlines after what came to be called “Operation Valentine’s Day,” where a social media campaign resulted in more than 500,000 cards and gifts being sent by well-wishers from around the world, including a special note from NASA and President Donald Trump.

At the drive-by festivities, Maj. Bill embraced this birthday milestone and indicated he was already looking forward to the next big celebration.

“Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS Sacramento reporter Adrienne Moore contributed to this report

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Opinion: A 5-year plan to end homelessness in Santa Clara County

Throughout the past several months, we have seen the horrible toll of the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable people in our community. For the tens of thousands of residents who were living paycheck to paycheck in Silicon Valley, the financial hardships of 2020 have pushed them even closer to the brink of homelessness. For our neighbors already living on the streets, the absolute necessity to have a safe place to stay has never been quite so clear.

Collectively, the many public, private and non-profit partners in the Santa Clara County Continuum of Care (CoC) have been working toward the goal of ensuring everyone in our community has a home. Over the past five years, we have housed more than 14,000 people. But the crisis continues to grow because the systemic factors driving homelessness are pushing more people into homelessness faster than we can house them. Even before COVID-19 hit, for every person we housed each month, two to three more found themselves without a home. It’s only likely to get worse.

We know we must do much more. We need to continue to expand successful programs and initiatives such as the homelessness prevention system, which has helped more than  1,400 families stay in their homes since its launch in 2017. We need to invest in underfunded safety net programs (such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) to ensure vulnerable residents have the resources they need to obtain and maintain housing. And we need to improve the quality of life for unsheltered individuals throughout our county and create healthy, safe neighborhoods for all.

These are just a few of the strategies embedded in the 2020-2025 Community Plan to End Homelessness, which the CoC will present to local jurisdictions this fall — starting with the county Board of Supervisors and San Jose City Council on Aug. 25. Developed with input from thousands of community members, people with lived experience, service providers and advocates, this new Community Plan will serve as a roadmap for ending homelessness in our community.

There is no single strategy or silver bullet called out in this plan; instead it is a collaborative work that seeks to end homelessness for the nearly 10,000 people in our county living outside and turn off the spigot pushing people into homelessness once and for all. No matter how many people we are able to house, we know that this crisis will not abate unless we start addressing how people become homeless in the first place.

The new plan also acknowledges the stark reality that those on the streets and in our shelters are disproportionately people of color. Homelessness is an extreme manifestation of poverty. Along the continuum of safety-net services, our supportive housing system is at the end of the line. Together, we must work to ensure our systems — from local land use laws to the criminal justice system — no longer perpetuate the centuries of structural racism that has excluded historically oppressed people from achieving stability and self-sufficiency.

Just as we have come together to respond to the daunting challenges of COVID-19, it is up to all of us to get this work done. The Community Plan is a living, breathing document owned by the community and designed to make our region a better place for every person in this valley. In the years ahead, we will need to support new affordable housing developments, advocate for meaningful policy change, and push harder when things aren’t getting done. No one agency, entity or individual can end homelessness. To do that, we all must come together and drive for lasting change.

Miguel Márquez is chief operating officer for Santa Clara County. Jacky Morales-Ferrand is the director of housing for the City of San Jose. They sit on the Steering Committee of the Santa Clara County Continuum of Care and the board of directors of Destination: Home.

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