Group seeking names of local veterans
By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 30, 2013 1:50 AM
The county needs to know how many veterans live here, even if it means knocking on doors and making telephone calls, say members of the newly appointed Wayne County Veterans Services Advisory Board.
Just as importantly, there are people who do not consider themselves veterans because they did not serve in combat, or who were in the military for just a short time, the seven-member board said. Those people need to made aware that they, too, are veterans and included in the list.
Locating and chronicling the county's veterans are expected to be the board's initial top goals. However, most of the initial meeting at the Veterans Services Office was devoted to introductions, election of officers, setting a meeting schedule and discussions about bylaws and possibly adding three at-large members.
The members, all of whom are veterans and who each represents one of the county's six commissioners districts, are: District 1, Joe Marm; District 2, Carl Groover; District 3, Joe Lofton; District 4, Bill Carr; District 5, Donald R. Peters; and District 6, Victor M. Miller.
"I think that one thing that is lacking in Wayne County is that we don't know how many veterans are in our districts," Groover said. "We need to get hold of that because if we don't know who we have, we don't know their needs."
Miller said it is important for the list to include all veterans, whether they served in combat or not.
Groover suggested contacting the Veterans Administration. However, Wayne County Veterans Services Officer LaShaunne Moore said that agency would only have information about those who are receiving VA benefits. Veterans not receiving benefits are not included, she said.
According to the VA, there are more than 13,000 veterans in the county receiving VA benefits, she added.
"It does not count homeless veterans and, believe it or not, there are people who do not know that they are veterans," Ms. Moore said. "Because they did not serve in war, they do not think they are a veteran, and when asked, they always check 'no.'"
Groover suggested contacting U.S. Rep. George Holding to ask on the county's behalf for any lists of veterans' names. That, he said, should help get quick results.
Board members will serve three-year terms, except for the initial appointment when three members will serve two years to create staggered terms.
To decide that question at their first meeting, members drew dates from an envelope to determine whether their term would end in 2015, Marm, Groover and Peters, or 2016, Lofton, Carr and Miller.
Appointed by commissioners, the board is designed to act in an advisory capacity to the Wayne County Veterans Services Office on issues facing veterans in the county. It also will make recommendations to commissioners on such issues when requested by commissioners.
The Veterans Services Office advises local veterans and their dependents on their legal rights and entitlements under veterans entitlement laws. It also assists veterans in filling out and forwarding necessary documents to the North Carolina Division of Veteran Affairs, and supports all local veterans' organizations as well as the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition.
Each member of the Veterans Services Advisory Board has one vote and six members will be required to have a quorum. Commissioner Bill Pate, an ex officio member, presided until the board elected officers.
Board members agreed that they initially should meet on a monthly basis. They also supported Pate's suggestion to broaden the scope of the board by adding three at-large members.
County commissioners earlier this month changed the board's bylaws to add the three at-large members, who also are veterans. They also agreed that the board should meet at least every other month or more often if needed.