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Groups reach out to help vets in need

Tahlequah Daily Press - 11/7/2018

Nov. 07--Veterans organizations in Tahlequah remain busy throughout the year, as the groups hold regular gatherings and offer assistance when they can provide it.

Members are typically veterans and their relatives, and most of them joined so they could help the community in some way. At the American Legion Post 135 in Tahlequah, the group holds annual events like Halloween carnivals and Easter egg hunts, but it also helps pay for students to experience how governments work first-hand.

"We support the Boys State and the [American Legion Auxiliary] support the Girls State," said Commander Tommy Pack. "It's a one-week course in civic duties, where they learn how to run their own town. They elect their own judge, their own city councilor, governor, police chief and all of that. Some of them get scholarships and it costs about $275 per boy for a week."

Post 135 has a bar at its location, which helps pay for building maintenance and veterans' benefits. Post 135 and Post 50 both have trouble acquiring new, younger members. According to Becky Wolfe, American Legion Auxiliary member, if more people joined such organizations, they could offer better services for veterans across the country.

"The number of veterans makes a difference in laws that get passed and who gets elected," said Wolfe. "Hopefully, people who are supportive of veterans and their causes will be the ones in Congress who can make the difference with veterans' health care and benefits."

For those feel lucky, the Tahlequah Veterans of Foreign Wars Post hosts bingo nights every Monday.

"The [VFW] Auxiliary actually puts on the event," said Faye Morrison, Auxiliary secretary. "All of the money goes directly to the VFW just to help maintain the building, utilities and those type of things. There are incidentals where they may need or choose to help another veteran or something."

The VFW has a service officer who checks in on veterans. For those who need help with medical benefits or financial assistance, the VFW will help them file the appropriate paperwork to prove they're veterans.

"We just do so much to help all veterans in their times of need, during hospitalization, or helping them get the things they're entitled to," said Morrison. "They know where to go and can make the connections to get you to the right things that you're entitled to it."

The Cherokee Nation Veterans Center is also a haven for veterans looking for help. The center has a readjustment councilor, who can offer group or individual counseling. A HUD-VASH [Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing Program] councilor is also available for veterans trying to get back on their feet.

"We have a lady who works with the homeless veterans who comes in, who is employed by the VA," said Barbara Foreman, CNVC director. "If we have veterans who are coming in and they're having trouble with housing -- they may be in between living with their relatives and having a place of their own -- or they're homeless, they can come in and she'll see what she can do for them."

The CN Veterans Centers hosts bingo nights throughout the year. It also serves as a food pantry site every quarter, distributing produce to people with low incomes through a partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

The Disabled American Veterans nonprofit organization also assists service members in the Tahlequah area. The organization helps disabled vets obtain benefits and services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and other governmental agencies.

Another organization made up of the mothers of veterans -- including active military -- is Blue Star Mothers. The Blue Star Mothers advocates for service members overseas. Every month, the Tahlequah chapter sends 12-20 care packages to active-duty military personnel. The deployed soldiers receive snack items, toiletries, hand warmers and other gifts -- a sign of gratuity from the Blue Star Mothers.


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