Clergy provides link to help veterans

The legislative chairwoman of the Society of Military Widows, Nevada’s Janet Snyder, is well-versed on local veterans issues and travels across the country gathering information and promoting legislation that helps members and veterans in general. Recently, she participated in a Veterans Affairs’ Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships conference call. The topic was “Journeying Together: An Overview of Partnerships with Local Clergy, VA Chaplains, and Community Leaders in Caring for Our Returning Combat Veterans.”

The speaker was Chaplain Michael McCoy, acting director of the VA’s national chaplain center. Snyder reports that McCoy talked about aid and spiritual needs of returning veterans; challenges of post-deployment; psychological effects of war; pastoral interventions; brainstorming for VA chaplains and local clergy; referring vets to the VA as a trusted link; and educational outreach about issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, spiritual wounds, suicide prevention and veterans centers.

“Part of the workshop is to teach civilian clergy about the definitions of military acronyms,” Snyder says. “Teaching about the life-altering changes of returning vets is most important. He told a story about a returning chaplain who had been deployed in Afghanistan, and felt that he was still on watch. He saw a man in one of the pews who had a bulge in his pocket, and kept his eyes on the man and that bulge. At one part of the service, he jumped down and tackled the man, who showed him that he had a baby bottle in his pocket for his child who was in the nursery.”

Snyder learned that half of returning vets are members of the Reserve or National Guard and that many struggle to cope with the scars of battle.

“They are not the people they were. It’s the same with active duty. There are upsetting feelings, lack of safety, when triggered. Also financial hardships: Jobs promised may be gone.”

She said she learned from the call that clergy can be a connection for locating resources.

Snyder was told and believes that spirituality is the essence of all humanity with religion paving the way. She said McCoy states that there is a capacity in all people for love, peace, hope and compassion.

“Everybody needs help sometimes. Keep the welcome mat out,” McCoy said.

The society is open to all military widows, whether or not their spouses died in combat. For more information, contact Snyder at groundhog71@gmail.com.

NEVADA VETERANS DEPARTMENT

The governor’s office and the Nevada Veterans Services Department will host two veterans legislative meetings in preparation for the Nevada 78th Legislature.

Carson City reports very good response thus far, and there is still space left for participants to attend. The first gathering will be Jan. 22 at Las Vegas City Hall, 495 S. Main St., followed by a meeting Jan. 23 at Reno City Hall, 1 E. First St. Veterans and veterans advocates are invited to the summits that will attempt to unveil various veterans initiatives to be pursued during the legislative session, in addition to generating awareness for statewide veteran efforts.

For more information, e-mail pio.ndvs@veterans.nv.gov.

U.S. VETS

The national organization of U.S. Vets has an active operation in Las Vegas. It serves mainly older veterans, including many who served in Vietnam and carried the burden of serving in what has been an unpopular war. Some feel disconnected from society, and many lost themselves in drug and alcohol and became unemployed and eventually homeless.

In Southern Nevada and six states, along with the District of Columbia, U.S. Vets reports it is the nation’s largest nonprofit devoted to homeless and at-risk veterans, caring for more than 3,000 daily.

The Nevada executive director is Shalimar Cabrera, who began as a volunteer and rose to the top over a period of more than 20 years. In a recently published profile, she told how she started on a volunteer mission, helping a homeless veteran enroll in U.S. Vets. She stayed on to help other veterans, paying homage to her Filipino grandfather, who was a veteran of World War II. She pursued a master’s degree in social work and, upon graduation, was offered the executive director’s position.

I’ve interviewed Cabrera many times and can attest to her devoted mission of helping veterans. She urges the public not to forget that veteran on a park bench or freeway onramp.

Contributions help support veterans at the facility in downtown Las Vegas who are taken in to learn such basics as job interviews, resume writing, communication skills and related disciplines.

For more information, go to usvetsinc.org.

STAYING ON DUTY

Boulder City families who have members serving in Iraq, or on their way to Iraq, might see them staying on in that nation longer than initially expected. The top U.S. commander overseeing the military mission in that country said a “minimum of three years” will be required until the Iraqis are capable of taking back and securing their country from Islamic extremists.

The Military Times reports that Army Lt. Gen. James Terry said hundreds of additional U.S. troops will flow into Iraq during the next several weeks to begin training Iraqi soldiers in basic combat skills. He said long-term U.S. support will be needed before the Iraqis can begin to mount decisive attacks and retake lost ground.

The U.S.-led training mission is not likely to begin for several months, according to an unnamed military official who spoke to the Military Times. In November, President Barack Obama authorized an expanded mission raising U.S. force levels in Iraq to as many as 3,100 troops and setting up four training sites where Americans and other partner nations will provide military training.

No additional U.S. troops have received deployment orders yet, in part because Congress only approved funding for the mission Dec. 12. In late December, troop levels remained at about 1,700.

Terry said four months of U.S. air strikes on Islamic State, often referred to as ISIS, are starting to turn the tide in favor of the Iraqi government by degrading the enemy’s ability on the battlefield to communicate and resupply. The Iraqis have urged Americans to provide additional weaponry. But that will not help unless the Iraq develops better logistics and maintenance capabilities, Terry concluded.

Journalist and author Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a recipient of the Purple Heart. He can be heard each Thursday from 8-9 p.m. on “The Veterans Reporter Radio Show” on KLAV 1230 AM.

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