Special veterans brunch held at Wild Horse Pass
June 17, 2016
Thomas R. Throssell
Gila River Indian News
The Gila River Indian Community is taking steps to reach out to GRIC veterans.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis made a formal statement to establish a Community veteran’s office at a meeting in the Wild Horse Pass Casino and Hotel on June 10.
“This is a long time coming. This goes back to one of the promises I made…when I took office, was [to] make sure we took care of [our] veterans,” said Lewis.
He said that it is an initiative built upon the needs of the veterans on a variety of issues like healthcare, establishing a veteran’s database, job training and helping them seek behavioral health treatment.
The announcement is integrated into a fiscal year 2017 budget initiative that has been put into motion to establish the veteran’s office.
“[You] have given so much as veterans, especially those [that] never came back, those that have trouble adjusting to life at home and those who still need services for behavioral health issues,” said Lewis.
By Jan 1, 2017, the veteran’s office should be operational, but in the mean time, Lewis said, it would need the full participation of all veterans to make it happen.
Although, the details are still being developed, recommendations by veterans are going to be taken into consideration.
Haskell Osife-Antone Post 51 member David Anderson co-faciliated the meeting with Gov. Lewis, urging veterans to provide their questions and concerns on the matter.
With more veterans providing input, it will strengthen the need to have a veteran’s office in the Community.
Darrell Whitman and Chesley Juan Jr., both former servicemen who work for the AmeriCorp’s Veterans Serving Veterans program, presented a report that compiles the assessments they have taken from Community veterans.
The report gives an overview of the number of veterans in the Community, both living and deceased, and how many are currently serving in the armed forces.
“I would like for [us] to utilize this document for justification. Without [this] document, we would continue to talk about having an office, without anything happening,” said Anderson.
The report doesn’t stop there. There are other statistics on transportation needs, housing and how many are VA service connected for disabilities caused during active duty, including treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There are recommendations to continue working with Community veterans groups concerns regarding educating the public through topics specific to veterans.
The veterans want to see an accurate count of veterans living in the Community, ways of storing documents, like their discharge papers (DD214).
These documents are crucial for veterans to verify an individual’s proof of service and to receive VA care and other much needed services and treatment.
The Community veteran’s posts and groups have an interest in helping their servicemen and women to get the word out, about the assessment being conducted by the AmeriCorp VSV program.
Gov. Lewis assured the audience that the meeting will not be the only time to discuss the idea and that more opportunities for discussion will be planned in the future.