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Veterans Corner: Have you joined your local veterans service organization?

Over the last year I have spent many nights and weekends attending veteran service organization meetings and events. The one thing I have noticed during this time period is that it is almost always the same few veterans at these meetings. They are trying to keep these organizations alive.

Many of these veterans serve as officers in several veteran organizations because there are not enough active veterans to fill the positions. I have attended meetings where the only veterans in attendance were the officers of the organization. This is truly a very sad state of affairs for these organizations.

I am talking about the American Legion (we have four throughout Dickinson County), the Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars (we have three throughout Dickinson County), and the Marine Corp League. Also located in Hermansville is the Vietnam Veterans of America.

What do these organizations do in our community? They are the men and women who volunteer at the VA hospital, serving coffee, giving directions, transporting patients. They visit the veterans who are admitted to the hospital for care. They provide services to veterans in the community and act as resources for all veterans. Providing help transitioning out of the military by having contacts for employment, housing and other needs. They raise funds to help veterans and their families in times of need. The Marine Corp League, for example, is well known for the annual Toys for Tots program that provides toys for children in the community. Who hasn’t donated to the VFW Poppy Drive? That money is used to support the National Home for Children and many other activities at the local, state and national level. We have all seen the DAV bus driving through town transporting our veterans to and from medical appointments. If you have ever been in a VA facility you have been greeted, helped or given a cup of coffee by a Military Order of the Purple Heart volunteer.

On a warm summer night who hasn’t seen an American Legion baseball game being played? These are the things the public sees being done by our service organizations. What many are not aware of are the many hours spent meeting with legislators voicing the concerns of the nation’s veterans. These organizations have the ears of the government. They are responsible for many of the benefits and services that our veterans enjoy today. Veteran service organizations were founded to service and help take care of the current challenges in any veteran’s life.

I send out a challenge to all veterans, young and old, to join a veteran service organization today. If you are a member, be an active member of your organization. Come to meetings and have your voice heard. Change begins with you and your participation.

It seems to make sense to build a supportive community of veterans helping veterans. These organizations can only survive if new and old veterans come together. You must join ranks to fight and protect the rights you have and collectively work to make sure that the veterans of the future still have the same rights. Veterans organizations have been fighting for such things as the GI Bills, improvements to the Department of Veterans Affairs and for other veteran benefits. The Vietnam Agent Orange presumptive illnesses and most recently the passing of the Blue Water Navy Act. It is beneficial to have these organizations with advocates in Washington, D.C. Without active membership these organizations will eventually be gone and there will be no one to raise a voice for your veteran rights.

Scholarship available

The Dickinson County Area Veterans Alliance is offering a $500 scholarship as an award for an essay contest, to be awarded to a student who will be attending Bay College West campus, this summer, next fall, or winter. The essay topic is “The Sacrifices Of Gold Star Families.”

The winner of the essay contest must read the entry at the Dickinson County Memorial Day ceremony on Memorial Day in order to receive the scholarship money. This is open to any post-high school student who is enrolled in at least six credit hours in any field of study. Forms are available at local high school counselors’ offices, at Bay West student office, and the Dickinson County Office of Veteran Affairs office at the YMCA.

Upcoming events

Thursday — VA Town Hall at American Legion Post 50 at 5 p.m. Topics: Veteran health care information exchange, Whole Health Program Update, public comment to include questions and answer period. This is your time to ask the professionals so come ready to ask questions and learn about the VA system. Our office will be on hand to answer veteran questions and provide information on services.

Saturday — Dentistry from the Heart, at the John Fornetti Dental Center, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They will be providing the following free service: cleanings, extractions and fillings for anyone who needs services. Come early to fill out paperwork. Our office will be on hand to answer veteran questions and provide information on services.

Monday — Dickinson County Area Veterans Alliance Meeting at American Legion Post 50 at 6:30 p.m. Open to all veterans and the public.

Feb. 28 — Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry at Grace United Methodist/ Bethany Lutheran Facility in Norway. Distribution starts at 5 p.m.; a meal will be available before the food distribution.

March 3 — Dickinson County Office of Veteran Affairs Board meeting. Everyone is welcome to attend at 8 a.m. in the Veterans Lounge in the lower level of Bay College West in Iron Mountain.

March 8 — American Legion Post 50 breakfast, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Have a great month and think spring.

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