Or­ga­nizer: Le­gion events aid vet­er­ans

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - SCAR­LET SIMS

FAYETTEVILLE — A hand­ful of vet­er­ans wan­dered be­tween booths piled with in­for­ma­tion about health care, fed­eral ben­e­fits, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and coun­sel­ing ser­vices Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon at the Shel­ton Tucker Craft Amer­i­can Le­gion Post in Fayetteville.

“We do this to help the vet­er­ans in our com­mu­nity,” said Stephanie Hub­bard, who or­ga­nized the third an­nual Vet­er­ans Ben­e­fit.

For the first time, the fair and ben­e­fit were held to­gether, Hub­bard said. The event is meant to help vet­er­ans nav­i­gate the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs ser­vices, said Dave Swin­dle, a mil­i­tary veteran of sev­eral branches who helped or­ga­nize the in­for­ma­tion fair. Among the ven­dors at­tend­ing were the Vet­er­ans Health Care Sys­tem of the Ozarks and the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs re­gional of­fice in Lit­tle Rock.

Swin­dle said turnout for the events didn’t mat­ter as much as mak­ing it avail­able.

“If one per­son gets help, it doesn’t mat­ter how many [peo­ple] show up,” he said.

The ben­e­fit, it­self, is a fundraiser for vet­er­ans pro­grams, in­clud­ing a vet­er­ans emer­gency fund, Hub­bard said. Both the ben­e­fit and fair hap­pened just as a mas­sive re­mod­el­ing project for the post fin­ishes up, Post

Com­man­der Mark Foster said.

New floors were fin­ished Fri­day. Out­side, vet­er­ans chat­ted on a fenced-in pa­tio and re­cently do­nated out­door fur­ni­ture.

The post was picked as a project by the En­ac­tus stu­dent group through the Sam M. Wal­ton Col­lege of Busi­ness at the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Be­tween ren­o­va­tions and the events, the Amer­i­can Le­gion may at­tract younger vet­er­ans, vet­er­ans said. It also will be more rec­og­nized as a place to come for in­for­ma­tion and help, they said. Even older vet­er­ans are find­ing ben­e­fits and ser­vices they didn’t know they qual­i­fied for.

John Hutchi­son, who was in the Marine Corps, said he dis­cov­ered the ring­ing in his ears is el­i­gi­ble for health care at the fair. The prob­lem is linked to his mil­i­tary job work­ing on sup­port equip­ment for air­craft, he said.

U.S. Coast Guard veteran Drew Dominguez said he picked up in­for­ma­tion on den­tal care to pass along to an­other veteran friend who lives in Phoenix. Dominguez is work­ing in North­west Arkansas cur­rently and lives in Ari­zona.

Back in­side, Birch Far­ley, out­reach spe­cial­ist for the Fayetteville Vet Cen­ter, stood at his booth and ex­plained Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der to a Viet­nam veteran. The cen­ter pro­vides read­just­ment coun­sel­ing ser­vice.

“If we can do any­thing for you — we do,” Far­ley said about vet­er­ans. “That’s what we do.”

Hub­bard said she hopes even­tu­ally to ex­pand the an­nual event to two days, not just Sat­ur­day, and add a job fair. Vet­er­ans de­serve the help and ser­vices, she said.

“We wouldn’t be here with­out [ vet­er­ans],” Hub­bard said. “We wouldn’t have free­dom with­out them.”

“We wouldn’t be here with­out [vet­er­ans]. We wouldn’t have free­dom with­out them.” — Stephanie Hub­bard, event or­ga­nizer

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE

John Hutchi­son (right) of Fayetteville, a Marine Corps veteran, speaks Sat­ur­day with Jay Mer­gen­schroer, pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer with the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs’ Lit­tle Rock of­fice, while tak­ing part in a in­for­ma­tion fair dur­ing the third an­nual ben­e­fit for vet­er­ans at the Shel­ton Tucker Craft Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 27 in Fayetteville. The event fea­tured mu­sic and food and serves as a fundraiser for lo­cal vet­er­ans.

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