Support our local veterans and their needs

Support our local veterans and their needs

Macoupin County has 4,591 living veterans. There are happy veterans, grouchy veterans, loud veterans, quiet veterans. There are veterans who want to be back in the service. There are veterans who never think of their time in the service. There are old vets, young vets, female vets and male vets. I am sure you get my point without me continuing on like Dr. Seuss. There are just as many types of veterans as there are any other types of people.

Each and every one of them deserves our support and gratefulness. But there is one kind that does not: veteran impersonators.

There are people out there attempting to cheat patriotic and caring citizens out of money, time, services and even admiration by falsely claiming to be a veteran. Some of these people attempt to do this in “uniform.” Examples include attempting to get free meals, discounted housing, even jobs. There are also seedy charities claiming to help veterans that are actually scams.

It is a dishonor to the uniform, fellow veterans and our country to falsely claim or use one’s status as a military veteran (not to mention against the law). As a veteran, I can say with certainty that using one’s veteran status, or falsely claiming such status, in such a way is appalling. All of the veterans I know are loud and proud about their pride, patriotism and love for their country. The honors and privileges received because of their service are obtained quietly, without fanfare.

For a long time, people have been looking the other way or simply dismissing the men and women who impersonate true, honorably discharged veterans. Now, people are calling out these imposters. Sites like guardianofvalor.com investigate and publicly inform citizens of bogus veteran claims.

Enough about those guys; we’ve wasted too much ink on them already. There are many valid and very good organizations that help veterans right here. Macoupin County is home to seven American Legions, an AMVETS in Mt. Olive and four VFWs. I apologize for any organizations I missed. These groups help our local veterans, current military members and communities. If in doubt, an organization’s validity can be verified through the Attorney General’s office.

Macoupin County Veteran’s Assistance Commission, led by Superintendent Joe White, is a good starting place for supporters and new veterans alike. This organization should be a first stop for returning veterans.

Joe says their mission is to assist veterans and their families financially. His main focus is on members just coming out of service. There are some elderly and folks below the poverty level being assisted as well. The majority of the VAC’s resources benefit temporarily helping with housing and utilities; they may also obtain local food vouchers.

Services such as this are an important step in the military experience. For a long time, veterans were issued everything they needed from eyeglasses to housing. Healthcare needs and their jobs were located on a military base. Once their military time is up, a first step to a solid rock like the VAC will help in establishing the next chapter to their lives.

The VAC is funded through county tax monies, and additional donations are accepted and will benefit local veterans directly.

White’s advice to newly discharged veterans is to contact the VAC. He has the ability to assist in obtaining employment, finding housing and navigating veteran’s health care. He travels throughout the county to better serve each community within it. Additionally, Macoupin County also has a VA Veterans Service Officer, Kellie Cravens.

A note to fellow veterans, please realize times are changing and the VA is becoming more relevant to new veterans. Things get tough, and that’s okay. To ask for help is the right thing to do. Call 800-273-8255.

This Veteran’s Day, thank your local veterans and be sure to support our fine post-military organizations.

By Kathleen Clark