If you were not able to attend our June 26 meeting, you missed an exceptional interchange on veterans and services for them. Each of the 22 participants shared their experiences and perspectives. Some were veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, and Joseph who is based at Mayport is still actively serving.
We heard from a variety of organizations that support veterans. Marianne from Hope Therapy uses equine exercises to help veterans who are dealing with PTSD. Chris, one of the veterans who has benefited from her program, now runs a nonprofit Under The Rainbow Ranch with a goal of helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Maureen who heads the Clay County Writers group told us about a 2-hour program that helps those dealing with stress to get relief by expressing their emotions in writing.
Allie of Big Brothers/Big Sisters highlighted how veterans can be mentors to young people and how that interaction benefits both. David from the Penney Retirement Community shared how 100 out of 500 residents are veterans and the many things that the organization does to recognize them. Each veteran prepares a profile of their service which is added to a binder. Jennifer from the Arthritis Foundation spoke about her group’s assistance to veterans.
Art and Jenny of Heritage Guides invited us to join the Parade of Flags at the Penney Retirement Community on July 4th. Heritage Guides does tours, storytelling, and veteran tributes throughout Clay County. Callan from the YMCA’s Take Stock in Children program spoke about the affect of deployment on children and what they do to help. Dee has many family members in the military (wife, mother, grandmother) and does outreach to politicians in Washington D.C. on behalf of veterans.
Paul from the Vietnam Veterans of America raised the issue of suicides among the military. He spoke about the rejection faced by the Vietnam Veterans when they returned home. He suggested that today we say to them “Thank you for your service, welcome home”, a welcome that they didn’t receive decades ago. Rose from Veterans Services highlighted the many services they provide including assistance in filing for educational benefits, VA home loan certificates, medical treatment, and service connected compensation. Mitzi of Community Hospice spoke about the services that they provide to veterans and others.
Gary from Vietnam Veterans of America spoke about working with veterans who have ended up in prison and getting them homes and job ready when they get out. Rescue dogs are trained by the prisoners to become therapy dogs for those in need outside the prison.
Jerry from Career Source spoke about the many career services that his organization provides to veterans. Herb was there from the Military Museum reminding us of the benefits of a visit to his museum. Sandy, a member of the Orange Park Friends of the Library was there to find out what veteran services were available in the county so she could share this information with others. Sylvia spoke about her gratitude as someone from Trinidad who has experienced the great works of the U.S. military. Carla who is running for Clay County School Board in 2016 and is an elementary school teacher shared her vision for providing support to students when their parents are deployed. Of course Doug, Samantha, and I were there to add to the discussion.
There was a suggestion that Shaping Clay organize a speaker’s bureau of people who have stories to share in the community, not just about veterans, but about seniors, health, etc. This is an idea that the group will explore.
Doug suggested that we revisit the topic of veterans at the beginning of 2016. Of Clay County’s approximately 200,000 people, some 30,000 are veterans. Any suggestions for how we can keep connected to share resources and services for veterans before we meet again would be welcomed.
Peace and Joy
From your Shaping Clay Team
Karen Wintress Samantha Bane Doug Greenberg Jackie Kujala 609-933-2666 904-881-6697 904-272-5988 904-449-4957