08/30/13 — Veterans gather to unify efforts

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Veterans gather to unify efforts

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 30, 2013 1:46 PM

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Vic Miller, chairman of the Wayne County Veterans Advisory Board, talks about some of the ideas and goals discussed to help ensure that veterans know about, and have access to, services that are available to them.

More than 12,000 veterans call Wayne County home, and they all have need for a "lot of different services," Wayne County Commissioner Bill Pate says.

How to ensure that veterans know about and have easy access to those services was the goal of a nearly five-hour "visioning session" held Thursday at the Lane Tree Golf Club.

The meeting was sponsored by the county's Veterans Services Advisory Board.

Wayne County is one of only a handful of counties in the state with a Veterans Services Advisory Board, Pate told the nearly 50 people in attendance.

The board has some vision, but isn't sure just how to "steer the ship," he said. It was with that in mind that the board decided to hold the Thursday brainstorming session, Pate said.

Pate said he had met with County Manager Lee Smith, Wayne Peedin, the North Carolina Veterans Affairs acting director, and LaShaunne Moore, the county Veterans Services Office director, to talk about getting the Thursday group together to help determine what services are provided for veterans, and what ones might still be needed.

The Veterans Services Office provides a lot of help for veterans, Pate said. But there are a lot of things in the community that veterans need, he added.

Pate said he had spent a lot of time working with veterans during his more than 32 years in workforce development.

"I always felt like if they could get a better job, the other services might not be needed," Pate said.

Pate said that in planning the meeting he had tried to reach out to every organization that he could think of that touched veterans.

The session included representatives from the county Health Department, Social Services, Literacy Connections, as well as Wayne Community College, Joblink, the Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee and various veterans' organizations.

They, along with Peedin, took turns outlining services their agencies offer to veterans.

County staff was discussed, and participants discussed priorities, duties, gaps in services and the next steps for veterans.

Participants were asked to write down their ideas and what services they think are needed.

The ideas were grouped into six different broad categories: one-stop shop for services, quality of life issues, job services, education and communications, services and benefits, and medical services.

Some of the ideas posed were a reference card or brochure detailing what services are available and who veterans need to contact, helping veterans find jobs, visiting veterans in nursing homes, helping the families of veterans, and holding health and job fairs focused on veterans.

"I thought we had a good crowd and had what I consider the heavy-hitters here, people from the community that can make things happen," Pate said after the session. "I think we had the right people here today who can make a difference in our community for our veterans -- people who are decision-makers and people who can make it work."

Pate noted that former state Rep. Efton Sager and retired Col. Joe Marm, who have been appointed to the state's new Military Affairs Commission, are the county's liaison "right up to the top."

"This starts at grassroots, but we have got to have support all the way through Raleigh up to the federal government in Washington, D.C.," Pate said. "We really do.

"These people deserve it because they have served and they have given everything to this country."

Pate praised facilitator Wanda Sykes, faculty emeritus at N.C. State University, for pointing out and "bringing together some things."

"Actually the whole group did," he said. "They identified areas of concern, the things that they wanted to see happen.

"There are some doable things in there. Of course there are some visionary things in there also. We can go and ahead, get started and get to work so we can know where to navigate the ship."