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Greenlight A Vet a gesture to honor veterans

ILLUSTRATION/ PHOTO: TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/KANSAS CITY STAR/MCT

By DAVID IRVINE | Henderson Daily Dispatch, N.C. | Published: December 10, 2015

December is a time of lights.

A Christmas tree is topped by a star representing the Star of Bethlehem.

During Hanukkah, the menorah recalls the miracle in which the lights burned for eight days on one day’s supply of oil.

The seven candles of Mishumaa Saba are lit during Kwanzaa to symbolize the seven principles African people are urged to live by.

Different people celebrate different traditions with those lights. One more light might not add a great deal of brightness.

But a green light can carry a message that is different from the others. Greenlight A Vet, a nonprofit organization, is asking Americans to display a green light to honor veterans of military service.

A green porch light, a green light in the window or a green light among the many lights used to celebrate the season will be a sign of gratitude for veterans who have devoted years and energy—and sometimes blood—to serve the country.

A number of area businesses and organizations are collaborating to Greenlight A Vet.

Kristy Hunt, an assistant manager at the Wal-Mart store in Henderson, said the store held a special Veterans Day promotion that featured green lights, as well as items such as Veterans Day sweaters. The green lights proved to be popular. They were completely sold out, Hunt said.

But honoring a veteran can go beyond displaying a light. The Tri-County area is home to almost 10,000 veterans, of which 1,500 are receiving compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. While they bring their talents as well as economic benefits to the area, they also bring their own kinds of needs.

Vance County Veterans Service Officer Linwood Martin said his main duty is assisting veterans in submitting claims to the VA for compensation for service-connected disabilities. The process can be complicated, especially if the veteran does not have documentation to show that a disability stems from active duty.

Martin said he could use additional staff support to handle the many requests he receives from veterans.

In addition to the veterans themselves, the office serves spouses of veterans.

Another need for local veterans is transportation to the VA hospital in Durham.

“It’s very difficult to get volunteers to do that,” Martin said.

Warren County Veterans Service Officer Jamytta Bell said many veterans in that county also have problems finding transportation. They have relied on transportation services from Vance County to keep medical appointments with the VA.

“But sometimes emergencies happen,” Bell said.

Finding transportation at the last minute is a problem.

Veterans face a number of other problems. Some are unemployed or underemployed and underpaid, Bell said. Others are homeless.

“There should be no homeless veterans,” Bell said. “It’s sad.”

Although the military offers training in many career fields, some veterans have trouble adapting the skills they acquired in service to civilian jobs, she said. Vocational rehabilitation programs are available, but veterans may have to pay out-of-pocket unless they have a pension or are on disability.

Until recently, Granville County was served by a part-time veterans service officer. He retired and the position is currently vacant. Some veterans from that county have sought assistance in Vance County.

“I’ve had 23 contacts with veterans from Granville County in the past week,” Martin said.

Jobs, health concerns, training: These are a few of the needs veterans encounter during the transition from military to civilian life. A coordinated effort by the community is needed to make that transition take place smoothly.

Placing a green light on the porch can be an important symbolic gesture. Action can make the transition a reality.

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