Hampton VA Medical Center
Event Honors American Heroes
Thirty-three years, 11 months and 4 days. That’s how long Willie Moss served his country and the Army Veteran was proud to share his story during Friday’s Hampton VA Medical Center’s “Welcome Home American Hero” event. The job fair and barbecue luncheon honored local returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) service members and their families, as well as area Veterans interested in programs and employment.
“I joined the Army in 1975 and got out Aug. 24, 2009,” Moss said, adding that this year’s event was a great way to assist local service members transitioning into the civilian community. “It’s really good for a lot of Vets. The job market isn’t good so it’s great that these Veterans can come here and have references to jobs and find out about going to school.”
Lydia Acosta, OEF/OIF/OND transition patient advocate, explained that the annual event is important to returning service members because it both lets them know that the community appreciates their sacrifices and to help them plan for their future.
“My role is to ensure that our service members separating from active duty have a smooth transition into the Veterans Health Administration (VHA),” said Acosta, explaining that the reason this event’s so important is because Veterans coming back from the war zone are facing a multitude of challenges ~ from injuries to integrating back into community life. “We want to provide them with all of the resources available throughout the entire community. They served us, now it’s our turn to serve them.”
Staff Sergeant James Rogers, stationed with the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Eustis, said he heard about the welcome home event with its job fair and stopped by to see what they had to offer. Rogers, who will be transitioning from Army to civilian life in 2012, is interested in employment in law enforcement, management, security, and transportation.
“This event has been very interesting,” Rogers said. “There are a lot of vendors with good information for those of us getting out of the military which can be very helpful, such as filing and claims.”
Collecting resources and knowing what job opportunities are available for Soldiers at Fort Eustis is Angie Dixon’s responsibility as an occupational therapist for the Warrior Transition Unit.
“I guide them on their decisions so that they are purposeful and productive when they get out and become civilians,” she said, adding that the Hampton VAMC event was full of valuable brochures and information and made her aware of numerous opportunities.
Marine Veteran Randy Cardona explained that he is pursuing a bio-medical technician internship at the hospital. He said that he’s been with the Hampton VAMC since he got out in 2003 and has 135 hours to complete his degree. The Veteran said that he wants to do anything he can to help Veterans, and is proud to support the medical facility in all that it does to care for them.
“It’s because of you that we are safe,” said Hampton VAMC Director DeAnne Seekins during a short ceremony in which she thanked the service members and Veterans for their commitment. “It’s because of you that we are able to sleep at night ~ and I just want you to know that we appreciate all of the sacrifices you and your families have made to serve our nation.”
Attending the Welcome Home was also Charles Stanton, regional representative for Senator Jim Webb’s office. Stanton said he was happy to be a part of the event as he represented both himself and the senator, and spent the day speaking with dedicated service members and Veterans.
“As a dad of an OIF Marine Veteran, I appreciate everything the medical center is doing for our Veterans in helping them find employment,” said Stanton.
According to Julia Allaman, OEF/OIF/OND program manager, more than 35 organizations attended this year’s Welcome Home to offer beneficial program information and employment opportunities. “Our team is extremely dedicated and volunteered countless hours to make this a great success,” said Allaman, but added that they appreciate all of those organizations and individuals who participated and supported the occasion.