Local veterans benefit from Legion events, organizer says

Posted: August 13, 2017 at 1:05 a.m.

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 beneÿt 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.

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.

Community Health Summit on Thursday

The Community Health Summit will start at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Fayetteville Town Center. The summit is put together by Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks and will address the needs of veterans in multiple areas, including pain management and suicide prevention, according to a news release. A job fair is planned 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and a housing summit for landlords will begin at 1:30 p.m., according to the schedule.

Source: Staff Report

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."

NW News on 08/13/2017