Cherokee County veterans and the Military Ministry at First Baptist Church Woodstock are teaming up to implement a new, innovative program called Operation Not Forgotten Vet Life Community.
The program, which is set to begin in July, will allow veterans of all conflicts and military branches to “come in and discuss in a secure and supportive manner life issues that they have or have had that deal with their time in service,” said Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program director Jim Lindenmayer.
The effort is to have local community-based programs that are designed to support local veterans and their families and to provide local services the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does not provide, Lindenmayer said.
“Our veterans feel abandoned and alone,” said Tim King, director of First Baptist Church Woodstock Military Ministry and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “Their lives are ending much too soon, and communities across America are feeling this pain. Although our veterans served our country, there is not enough help when a personal crisis occurs.”
According to a Military Ministry press release, one in three returning service members is being diagnosed with serious Post Traumatic Stress symptoms and less than 40 percent will receive help. It is an “established fact” that about 76 percent of all veterans never see the inside of a VA medical center or VA clinic because most are reluctant to communicate their pain for fear it may be perceived as weakness — and many fear the potential label or stigma, the release said.
For those suffering from combat trauma, two out of three find their marriages are failing. Veteran homelessness is on the rise with one-third of the nation’s homeless being veterans, according to the release.
“Veterans trust other veterans and find comfort from support of a ‘community.’ So, through Woodstock Vet Life Community we intend to step in and create a sustainable framework to improve the lives of our local veterans and their families,” King said.
There is no other program like “Vet Life Communities,” said Steve Schiffman, Operation Not Forgotten executive director.
“While most veteran centers, such as those operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, are located in major cities in each state, Vet Life Communities meet vets right where they live and work,” he said. “The people in local communities, who really care, and who see firsthand the needs of local veterans, now have a way to make a real difference.”
The Vet Life Community meetings use a peer-mentoring approach, Schiffman said, and are completely confidential, “which helps veterans share their issues with other veterans who have similar experiences.”
“One of the best tools of the Operation Not Forgotten model is an on-line assessment tool that veterans can take to help them determine various issues they need to deal with,” said King. “With this unique instrument, they can identify the areas of their lives that need attention then join with other veterans to help provide solutions.”
An information meeting will be held for everyone interested, including veterans, families, community leaders and citizens, on July 13 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church Woodstock, Building B, Room 240, at 11905 Highway 92 in Woodstock.
The Woodstock Vet Life Community will have meetings for male veterans starting on July 20 every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. A female veterans meeting will start in the “near future,” the release said.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/firstbaptistchurchwoodstockmilitary/ or the Operation Not Forgotten organization website at www.operationnotforgotten.com.