21 May 2014: CCVC does amazing work for vets

CCVC does amazing work for vets

I was recently invited and privileged to attend the Clear Creek Veterans Coalition meeting and walked away impressed and amazed by what was happening, not only in the room but also beyond in initiatives the group has undertaken in its short history.

First, I was instantly corrected by several for stating while introducing myself I was likely the only “non-vet” in the room.

“Wow!” I thought.  “I guess I’m not a fish out of water after all.”

Incongruences seemed to abound: a Buddhist pagan sitting next to a man of faith who in turn was flanked by and sitting across from others who among themselves were of opposing political persuasions. However, it mattered not to those around the table.  Personal beliefs, transcendental to political, were left at the door.  The focus was on men and women who had volunteered or had been conscripted to serve their country through its military and honorably did so.

“Dwindling numbers and aging” have contributed to the decline in membership and attention to veterans’ needs, according to Gen. George Clark (Ret.), the coalition’s founder and chair.  Also, with wealth continuing to coalesce to the top of the money food chain, the stress and strain on veteran services is increasing with funding at the state and national levels cut by $50 billion.

So, by bringing the various services and veterans groups under one umbrella, thus pooling their individual or smaller group resources and efforts, the CCVC has brought about changes in need of attention.

In so doing, the CCVC has revived community awareness and focus on veterans and their needs with membership growing beyond Clear Creek to several other counties including Gilpin, which was represented at the May meeting by Commissioner Connie McLain and Director of Human Services Betty Donovan.

Addressing immediate veterans’ needs is a CCVC primary goal and practice.  Due to their experiences, some veterans might, for example, be dealing with mental health issues such as PTSD, paranoia, and schizophrenia that in turn might result in poor, questionable, and even violent behavior that lands them in court.  Thus, the concept of a “Veteran’s Treatment Court,” which would allow for appropriate treatment in lieu of legal consequences (jail time), to put an alternative tool in the hands of district attorneys as well as a mentoring system are being fostered.

In addition, to help prevent unhealthy behavior the CCVC is focusing efforts on aiding and training local community health providers and crisis responders.  It is also assisting in providing transportation for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

The CCVC’s efforts are not always directed towards veterans dealing with personal issues.  One of the orders of business was an account by Rick Scott (USMC) of efforts made to assist two families, one whose vehicle broke down while returning to California from a funeral in Michigan and the other that has come upon hard times and thus forced to relocate back East.

A very visible piece of evidence of the CCVC’s efforts will be displayed once the widening project on the “Twin Tunnels” is completed.  The official new name by unanimous consent of the Colorado legislature will be the Veterans Memorial Tunnels.  Not only does the naming do justice and bring honor to veterans but it also makes a statement to travelers funneling through the tunnels each day about the Clear Creek community.

Another initiative near and dear to my heart on which the CCVC is tag-teaming is Mission Readiness, a nonpartisan national security organization of senior retired military leaders operating under the umbrella of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America.  According to MR, “75 percent of 17- to 24-year olds in the U.S. cannot serve in the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a serious criminal record.”  More on that in a future column.

The CCVR is dedicated as well to fostering a positive and appropriate patriotism by reviving and renewing interest in patriotic holidays.  Throughout this weekend, events and activities will be held beginning with a steak dinner at the Elks Lodge Friday at 6:00 and culminating in ceremonies on Monday at 10:00 at the Idaho Springs Citizens Park and at Georgetown’s Library Park at noon.

“Helping our veterans is an idea whose time has come,” says George.  “It is a calling that motivates and unites the entire community.

“By helping raising awareness and fostering a community-wide approach, it helps us put aside differences, care for each other, and serve the whole.”

Right on.

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