Veteran Picnic in the Park | Connecting Point | Oct. 3, 2018


>>>MILITARY VETERANS CAN FACE
CHALLENGES WHEN THEY TRANSITION FROM SERVICE TO CIVILIAN LIFE,
AND IN SOME CASES, THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH ISSUES LIKE
UNEMPLOYMENT OR HOMELESSNESS. BUT LOCAL VETERANS’ SERVICES AR
WORKING ON AN EVENT TO HELP CONNECT VETS WITH EMPLOYERS AND
SERVICES TO ASSIST THEM. CAROLEE
MCGRATH SAT DOWN WITH THE ORGANIZERS OF THE UPCOMING
“VETERAN PICNIC IN THE PARK” TO FIND OUT MORE.>>IT ACTUALLY CAME ABOUT WITH
MY CONFERENCE WITH THE SENIOR CENTER. I WAS WITH MY TOWN MANAGER, AND
OUR VETERANS SERVICE OFFICER, AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT HAVING
ANOTHER EVENT, BECAUSE THERE’S BEEN BREAKFASTS AND THINGS LIKE
THAT TO HONOR VETERANS, IT REALLY DRAWS IN YOUR OLDER
VETERANS, THAT’S PREDOMINANTLY WHO WE SERVE, OLDER VETERANS,
BECAUSE THEIR OFFICE IS LOCATED IN THE SENIOR CENTER. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN CONCERNED THE
YOUNGER OFFICERS AREN’T ACCESSING SERVICES IN TOWN AND
THEIR FAMILIES AREN’T RECOGNIZING WHAT THEIR MOM OR
DAD DID. SO IT JUST KIND OF CAME ABOUT
THAT. I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW OUR
COMMITTEE CAME ABOUT, IT WAS A GRASSROOTS THINGS.>>Reporter: SO TELL US SOME OF
THE SERVICES THAT WILL BE AVAILABLE TO VETERANS AND THEIR
FAMILIES AS WELL?>>ABSOLUTELY. THE SERVICES THAT WE’LL HAVE
AVAILABLE IS EVERYTHING FROM FEDERAL TO STATE AND LOCAL. ON A FEDERAL LEVEL, WE’LL HAVE
THE V.A. THERE OFFERING FREE
HEALTHCARE ENROLLMENT ON THE SPOT. FROM THERE, THEY WILL HAVE THE
SPRINGFIELD VETS CENTER THERE OFFERING READJUSTMENT SERVICES,
AND THEN ON THE STATE AND LOCAL LEVEL, YOU’LL HAVE MYSELF, ALONG
WITH MY COLLEAGUES LIKE TROY, WILL BE THERE TO OFFER THINGS
LIKE STATE BENEFITS, CHAPTER 115 BENEFITS. DD214 PULLING IF NECESSARY. OTHER TYPES OF STATE ANNUITY
ASPECTS AND THEN WE’LL HAVE OVER 30 VENDORS OFFERING VETERAN
SERVICES. FROM EMPLOYMENT TO EDUCATION TO
JUST DIFFERENT TYPES OF VETERAN ORIENTED SERVICES.>>Reporter: YOU MENTIONED
EMPLOYMENT, WHICH I THINK IS KIND OF SAY BIG THING TO OFFER. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR
MILITARY BACKGROUND AND WHY THIS EVENT IN PARTICULAR, ESPECIALLY
WITH SERVICES LIKE EMPLOYMENT AND HEALTH CARE, IS SO
IMPORTANT?>>ABSOLUTELY. WHEN — I WAS IN THE NAVY FOR
TEN YEARS, FROM ’06 TO BE16. WHEN I GOT OUT, I WAS A
FIREFIGHTER IN THE NAVY, WHEN I GOT OUT, I WAS LOOKING FOR A
JOB, AND I — AUTOMATICALLY IN MY MIND, I THOUGHT THAT WOULD
HAVE BEEN SOMETHING SIMPLE, TEN YEARS MILITARY SERVICE, ROSE TO
THE RANK OF CHIEF PETTY OFFICER, MID-LEVEL MANAGEMENT. I THOUGHT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A
SHOO.>>IN EVERYWHERE. MANY PLACE I APPLIED TO, THEY
SAID TO ME, THIS IS ALL GREAT, DO YOU HAVE A DIPLOMA. I APOLOGIZE, I DON’T HAVE A
DIPLOMA. I DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO GET ONE. I’M CURRENTLY WORKING ON GETTING
ONE NOW. AND THAT IS A HUGE ISSUE THAT WE
SEE, IS THE FACT THAT WE DO GET RECOGNIZED EVERY DAY, WE GET THE
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, WHICH WE DO APPRECIATE AND LOVE,
IT’S SOMETHING THAT A LOT OF OUR VETERANS OF THE PAST DIDN’T
GET. BUT THE THING WE ARE LOOKING IN
IS A THANK YOU FOR THANKING ME FOR MY SERVICE, BUT SHOW ME WHAT
YOU CAN DO FOR ME AS A VETERAN WITH ALL MY EXPERIENCE.>>Reporter: YOU’RE WORKING ON
YOUR COLLEGE DEGREE?>>YES.>>Reporter: I KNOW THAT YOU
SERVED IN THE ARMY FROM ’93 TO 2013, AND IN IRAQ AND
AFGHANISTAN, DID YOU HAVE A SIMILAR SORT OF EXPERIENCE THAT
JARED HAD?>>MY EXPERIENCE WAS A LITTLE
BIT DIFFERENT. I CAME OUT WITH A DEGREE, GOT AN
ADVANCED DEGREE AFTERWARDS, AND THEN RIGHT INTO VETERANS
SERVICE. DIRECTLY AFTER WORKING FOR A
NATIONAL NONPROFIT. A LOT OF WHAT I SEE AND HEAR
FROM SERVICE MEMBERS THAT I SERVED WITH, THEY STRUGGLE. WHEN THEY GET OUT TO FIND
EMPLOYMENT, A LOT OF IT IS, YOU KNOW, LACK OF EDUCATION, LACK OF
BEING ABLE TO TRANSLATE THOSE MILITARY SKILLS. THAT’S WHY THESE EVENTS THAT WE
PUT TOGETHER WITH THESE SERVICE SOARINGSES, NONPROFITS THAT —
ORGANIZATIONS, IT TRANSLATES THEM INTO CIVILIAN SKILLS AND
HELPING THEM FORM THAT INTO A RESUME. FOR 20 YEARS, I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT
A RESUME LOOKED LIKE. THESE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT FOR
THESE YOUNGER GENERATION OF VETERANS, LIKE MYSELF AND JARED,
TO COME OUT TO THESE EVENTS AND SEE WHAT’S AVAILABLE, AND
THERE’S SO MUCH AVAILABLE AND THE COMMUNITY DOES SO MANY GOOD
THINGS TO HELP TRY TO BRIDGE THOSE GAPS. HERE. ONE IS THAT WE ARE LOOKING TO
CONNECT OUR OLDER VETERANS WITH OUR YOUNGER VETERANS, SHARE SOME
EXPERIENCE THEY’VE HAD IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS SO OUR
YOUNGER VETERANS WHO MAY NOT THINK THEY’RE ELIGIBLE FOR THESE
BENEFITS GET INTO THE SYSTEM, SO TO SPEAK, NOW, BECAUSE LATER ON
WHEN THEY A NEED THESE BENEFITS, IT MIGHT BE MORE DIFFICULT. IT’S ALSO TO CONNECT OUR
VETERANS OF ALL AGES WITH THE COMMUNITY TO SHOW THE COMMUNITY,
HEY, LOOK, THESE ARE THE SERVICES WE OFFER. YOU KNOW, WHY DO WE HAVE TABLE
THERE IS OFFERING EMPLOYMENT, BECAUSE OUR VETERANS ARE LOOKING
FOR EMPLOYMENT. THAT’S WHY. IT’S HARD FOR THEM TO GET
EMPLOYMENT. THAT SOME OF THEM AREN’T
100 PERCENT SURE OF THEIR EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS THAT THEY
HAD. THAT’S WHY WE’LL HAVE SOME
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS THERE. AND JUST ALL OF THAT TIED
TOGETHER. THEN ANOTHER ASPECT OF IT IS
BRINGING — GOING TO BE A FAMILY ORIENTED EVENT. WE WANT VETERANS AND THEIR
FAMILIES AND FRIENDS, TO BRING CHILDREN THERE, BECAUSE WE WANT
TO SHOW CHILDREN, FIRST, THE APPRECIATION THAT WE HAVE FOR
OUR VETERANS B. JUT BUT THEN AGAIN, A LOT OF OUR KIDS MAY
THOUGHT KNOW WHAT OUR VETERANS HAVE DONE. WE REALLY FEEL THIS WOULD BE A
GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO SPREAD THAT KNOWLEDGE DO YOU THROUGH THE
GENERATIONS.>>Reporter: SUPPORTING FAMILIES
IN PARTICULAR IS SO IMPORTANT BECAUSE, OBVIOUSLY, YOU SERVE,
BUT YOU HAVE FAMILIES AND CHILDREN. HOW IS IT — HOW WILL THIS EVENT
HELP SUPPORT FAMILIES AS WELL?>>WELL, I THINK IT’S SO
CROSS-GENERATIONAL. I THINK IT WILL DEFINITELY
SUPPORT — AND AGAIN, EVEN THOUGH I WORK AT THE COUNCIL ON
AGING, IT’S THE YOUNGER VETS THAT I FEEL JUST KNOWING OTHER
FRIENDS THAT HAVE SERVED, THEY DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT’S
AVAILABLE. THAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST
LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR ME, IT WAS EVERY MEETING WE HAVE HAD. WE HAVE TO GET THIS
ORGANIZATION. I WAS OVERWHELMED, THERE’S SO
MANY SERVICES, EVEN AGENCIES AND COMPANIES THAT SERVE VETERANS,
THERE’S NO WAY THAT I THINK VETERANS WOULD KNOW ALL THAT. SO THIS IS JUST A START, I
THINK, THIS TYPE OF EVENT, THAT INCLUDES EVERYTHING.>>VETERAN PICNIC IN THE PARK
WILL BE HELD AT HERITAGE PARK I EAST LONGMEADOW THIS SUNDAY FROM
11 TO 5.

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