Arkansas veterans were recognized by dignitaries in a North Little Rock ceremony Wednesday. The event came as the state Department of Veteran's Affairs begins instituting policy reforms.
The 106th Army Band and local Color Guards kicked off the ceremony. Active and former members of the military and their families heard from Governor Asa Hutchinson and others thanking them for their service.
“Not all receive medals, not all are recognized, but all deserve the honor of those who serve our country,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson also emphasized the importance of military installations around the state. The Governor had formed a state organization earlier this year to study how military installations operate as an engine for economic development.
65-year old Johnny Franklin, an Air Force Vietnam veteran, attended on behalf of North Little Rock's American Legion Post 74. He says the post often assists service men and women who've returned home from recent conflicts abroad.
“A lot of them don't have any kind of direction when they're discharged as to what's available for them, so we try to assist them to get they're educational benefits, hospital benefits,” he said.
Franklin attended along with 63-year old Claudette Simmons, an Army veteran of Desert Storm and operation Iraqi Freedom. She's seen many return from recent wars in need of mental health treatment, particularly for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
“And that right there is a frightful thing because they fear for their life, even at home,”
Guiding veterans to get help and be active members of the workforce is the focus of Matt Snead's efforts. He's the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We have to help people who have problems. We don't leave a fallen comrade behind. But we get them back on they're feet and give them task and purpose too,” he said.
The ADVA, separate from the federal department of Veterans Affairs, recently completed a strategic plan, which Snead said will help organize resources among nine state districts, as the agency trains and seeks accreditation for county-level veteran service officers.
“A veteran comes in and says I need a job, a veteran comes in and says I need help with my resume, a veteran comes in and says I need to file a claim. We may not render the service. But if you go to a county veteran service officer or one of these district veteran service officers, their job is to connect you to those services,” he said.
But most of all, Snead wants to combat any perceptions that vets are liabilities on the job. They are skilled laborers ready to work, he said.