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Old 06-14-2018, 03:17 PM
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Default Veterans affairs board looks to improve veteran experience

For Kurt Jackson, the hardest part of helping veterans is finding them. Jackson, the director of the Jasper County Veterans Affairs Commission, is constantly working to identify and help local veterans, and a new tool may make Jackson’s job even easier.

During a recent national training event, Jackson met with staff members from the National Veterans Intermediary —*a group that works to ensure veterans receive the assistance they need. One of NVI’s biggest goals is to boost community engagement among veterans, and the group offered to send a representative to work with Jackson to mobile community partners in Jasper County, something Jackson said will make a difference in the lives of local veterans.

“We want people to help veterans get engaged in the community,” Jackson said.

Jackson gave several examples of what potential engagements would look like, including creating a group to welcome returning veterans, similar to the Home Base Iowa program already in effect. Home Base Iowa, a statewide initiative designed to encourage veterans to relocate to the state of Iowa, provides discounted services and other offers for veterans who are considering relocating to Jasper County.

Commissioner Mike Naber said he’d like to see the group help veterans get acclimated to life in Jasper County.

“You don’t just point at that building over there and say, ‘that’s finance,’ no,” Naber said.

One of the biggest issues facing the Veterans Affairs Commission is that often, Commissioners are unaware when Jasper County residents have been deployed overseas. Commissioner Marta Ford said she’d like to have better lines of communication established to make it easier to recognize local veterans who are returning home.

“We don’t even know the people from Jasper County who are deployed right now,” Ford said. “When Jerry (Nelson) was in the Guard we had an in, but now we don’t even know.”

With no official listing of veterans living in the county, Jackson is often forced to wait until veterans seek him out. With many Vietnam era veterans unwilling to talk about their time overseas, Jackson spends much of his time working on different ways to reach as many veterans as possible. Events like The Wall That Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which visited earlier this month, help the Veterans Affairs Commission increase their public profile.

“I was surprised by some of the veterans I saw at the wall. I didn’t know they were veterans,” Ford said. “There’s a certain group that always comes to veterans events, but these were new people I’d never seen before.”

Jackson told commissioners the NVI was willing to send a representative to Jasper County to help the commission figure out how to get organized. He’s planning to network representatives from Home Base Iowa to map an outreach strategy.

“They’re going to help guide the community to us, and help us leverage the best ideas from the public sector,” Jackson said.

Wednesday, commissioners also approved a raise for Keith Thorpe, Jackson’s assistant at the Jasper County Veterans Affairs office. Both Thorpe and Jackson attended a national training event in Reno, Nev., where Thorpe successfully completed the testing required to become a county veterans service officer. The raise will bring Thorpe’s wage to $12 per hour. Thorpe is a part-time employee at the Jasper County Veterans Affairs Office.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com




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