Better serving our veterans in Central Oregon

Veteran outreach groups say High Desert is on right track

Serving those who serve

BEND, Ore. - It's the biggest day of thanks to our heroes behind the flags -- veterans who devoted years of their lives serving us -- but are we doing enough to serve them?

"Our military was always taught, you don't ask for help, you move forward, you overcome, you adapt," explained Central Oregon Vet Center spokesman Greg Ford on Monday.

He said, consequently,  our veterans don't always reach out or get the help the need.

Ford said about 12 percent of Central Oregonians are veterans, roughly 15,000 service members return home to Central Oregon changed: some physically and mentally.

"The change from just being in the military to the civilian life is hard enough," Ford said.

Just a few years ago it was even harder -- services like the Central Oregon Vet Center and the Central Oregon Veteran's Outreach didn't exist until a few years ago.

It's a community that's come along way.

"We look at the outpatient clinic (VA clinic) that has expanded, ourselves, so many more nonprofits are popping up," Ford said.

But 97-year-old World War II Colonel Bill Lauderback said there's still more work ahead.

"I don't think in a lot of cases they're being properly taken care of," Lauderback said.

Local veteran services coordinators say even with successes and expanding program,  the battle isn't finished at home.

There's not as many mental health workers as we need," Ford said. "The jobs for our younger veterans in particular, are one of the most important things that guys come and talk to us about."

"These guys come back and they just want to work," said Central Oregon Veteran's Outreach case manager Kim Burger, who agreed that with Ford that jobs are a particular challenge veterans face.

Ford said providing more services can only start with caring about our veterans -- like the parade in downtown Bend on Monday.

And for one vet-- there's no other place he'd rather be on Veteran's Day.

"I've never seen a place in the United States, that does it better than Oregon, specifically Central Oregon," said Air Force veteran and Bend resident Sid Poe.

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