By Tim Preston - CNHI News Service
June 19, 2013 —
The cost of freedom was a common theme during Friday’s East Kentucky Veterans Expo at Boyd County Middle School.
The school’s gymnasium, hallways and lobbies were filled with agents, employees and representatives of government agencies, private business and other organizations who signed up in hopes of providing information and resources which veterans, as well as active duty military personnel, might want to take advantage of.
Some came looking for potential employees while others offered information about medical or financial benefits, as well as mental and physical health.
“We saw the need to bring services to this part of Appalachia and put lots of resources in one place,” said Max Ammons, director of military initiatives for Morehead State University.
Ammons said organizers and participants alike wanted to let area veterans know they are appreciated, and added, “You represent the best of us.”
MSU President Wayne Andrews, himself an Army veteran, said the school’s campus is very “G.I. friendly,” and dedicated to making sure those who’ve served their country have the opportunity to pursue further education.
“We realize veterans have a wide range of needs,” Andrews said, adding when he enlisted, he did not realize the influence his own military experience would have on his life.
Kentucky National Guard Brigadier General Steve Hogan reminded the audience that ongoing wars are coming to an end, and that veterans will be returning at the highest rate since the Vietnam War. Hogan said employers should consider hiring veterans because of their discipline and mission-oriented attributes, and noted the transition back to civilian life can be especially challenging for many soldiers.
State Sen. Walter Blevins made a point of praising Spc. Cheyenne Jenkins of the Kentucky National Guard for her rendition of the National Anthem.
“She sang it with heart and we appreciate that,” Blevins said before recalling his own days as a soldier serving in Germany during peace time.
Acknowledging today’s active-duty military personnel, Blevins said he sees the same type of resolve in those soldiers, “who often come back not whole,” as he has seen in “members of that special generation” who fought against the tyranny and plans of Germany and Japan during World War II.
At the end of a hallway, Jacqueline Long of Mountain Comprehensive Care Center said she had spoken to many veterans that day, with many of them asking about resources and programs for veterans dealing with PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as health care for the homeless.
Long said her main mission of the day was informing visitors about MCCC’s Homeless Veterans Housing Center, which is under construction in Pike County.
Debbie Brammer of the VA Medical Center in Huntington said the well-attended event allowed that agency to work numerous veterans through eligibility and enrollment procedures.
Pausing for lunch with his son, Army veteran Ed Ashley said he was quite impressed with the expo, and especially appreciated the number of large companies on site seeking employees.
Ashley, who was severely wounded while serving overseas, said he received tremendous assistance from the VA Medical Center in Huntington, and added his respect for their efforts to reduce the suicide rate among modern veterans.
Ashley also said he is aware of many veterans who have difficulty making the transition back to civilian life and cited lack of employment opportunities among their greatest challenges.