Local organizations aim to help veterans

tjefferson@vagazette.com

When veteran Tom Monahan moved to Williamsburg from New York four years ago, he was looking for a way to give back to veterans.

That desire led him to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 957.

Monahan, who has been president of the organization for three years, served in the military from 1962 to 1989 and leads the chapter in its efforts to aid veterans.

According to the Virginia Department of Veteran Services, there are 27,000 veterans living in the Greater Williamsburg area. Local groups and state agencies work together to help them access their federal benefits, get into housing and job training programs and find fellowship with other veterans.

Monahan’s chapter does its part for veterans by raising money and connecting veterans with support groups.

Members of Monahan’s group braved the chilly, rainy conditions Thursday outside the post office on Monticello Avenue to sell poppies to commemorate Veterans Day. All of the proceeds will go to veterans organizations, according to Monahan.

“Our purpose is to help veterans,” he said.

As they do every year, chapter members, along with the Combined Veterans Organization Committee of Greater Williamsburg, spent two hours Friday morning placing American flags on the graves of veterans at Williamsburg Memorial Park.

Monahan said the organization raises about $5,000 annually and the money supports local charities, including the Vets House in Virginia Beach and the Hampton VA Medical Center. The Vets House is a 12-month program which provides housing, assistance in job hunting and transportation for referred veterans.

Every year since 2008, the chapter has hosted a tour of Jamestown Settlement for wheelchair-bound and other physically challenged veterans from the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Monahan said the group also supports a dinner for veterans at Golden Corral during the Christmas season, Angel Airlines for Veterans and a picnic in June. Angel Airlines provides free travel for veterans in need of long distance clinical care.

“We spread the money around,” Monahan said. “We do what we can.

“If somebody comes to us with a real need, we sit down and talk with them and help them. We are a community resource group.”

Monahan said his branch is one of 20 in the state, and they work together to help veterans in Virginia.

Monahan’s group is also part of the Combined Veterans Organization Committee of Greater Williamsburg, which includes the American Legion and the local branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The American Legion Post 39 in Williamsburg supports and serves veterans with a baseball league. The organization also helps veterans access their benefits and awards scholarships to school-age children.

The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness, according to its website.

“Our big thing is outreach to veterans. We want people to know we are in town,” Bill White, post commander of American Legion Post 39, said.

Both White’s and Monahan’s chapters will participate in the Colonial Williamsburg military march Saturday. The commemoration will feature the Fife & Drums, military programs staff and Williamsburg veterans groups.

Virginia Department of Veterans Services

Another resource veterans have to call on is the newly opened Department of Veterans Services’ Williamsburg branch on Ironbound Road.

The office serves military veterans and their families in Williamsburg, along with those in James City, York, New Kent, Gloucester and at Fort Eustis. The office is the 29th in the state.

“Veterans and family members can come to the office to receive free assistance in accessing their federal and state veterans benefits,” said Steven Combs, deputy commissioner at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

Previously, the nearest veterans benefits office was in Hampton, which provided a satellite service once a month at the Williamsburg Library.

“The demand for services and the number of veterans in the area caused us to look at a more permanent presence in the Williamsburg area,” Combs said.

The office also staffs a representative from the Virginia Veteran and Family Support program, which aims to help connect veterans and family members to behavioral health care services and rehab services.

The Veteran and Family Support program also works to find shelter for homeless veterans.

“We’re a one stop shop in Williamsburg,” Combs said.

Want more information?

Virginia Department of Veterans Services Williamsburg Office

Where: 203 Ironbound Road

Phone: 757-221-1734

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

American Legion

Call 757-508-4314 or visit www.alpost39wmsbgva.com/index.php.

Vietnam Veterans of America

Call 757-566-1443 or visit vva.org/chapter/vva-chapter-957.

Wounded Warriors

Call 757-224-5208 or visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.

Disabled American Veterans

Call 877-426-2838 or visit www.dav.org.

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Call 757-258-9802 or visit vfwpost4639.org.

Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.

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