Future Generations Rural America Hosts Veterans Summit

Logan, W.Va. – Using the success of the West Virginia Broadband Opportunities Program, Future Generations Rural America is looking ahead to find the best way to help West Virginians connect to much-needed online resources.

The Franklin, W.Va. based non-profit organization recently completed a three-year project to open 60 computer centers based in volunteer fire departments around West Virginia to help train rural communities to use computers and high-speed Internet.

One demographic Future Generations Rural America identified as having great needs in was West Virginia’s veterans. Many of these veterans could benefit from online resources available through the local computer centers.

“Approximately 174,000 veterans reside in the state. This means West Virginia has one of the highest number of veterans of per capita in the nation. Serving our veterans should be a top priority. One way we can do this is by utilizing technology to get much-needed services to veterans in our rural communities,” LeeAnn Shreve, Director of Future Generations Rural America stated.

In order to help veterans find the best way to address these issues, Future Generations Rural America hosted a Veterans Summit on October 26 at Chief Logan Lodge in Logan, W.Va. A wide variety of veterans and their advocates were invited to express their opinions on what services could be improved upon the most. Attendees included members of Workforce WV; Charles M. Baisden, Commander at the Military Order of the Purple Heart Department of WV; Cheryl Stiles from the Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Services; Meg Cianfrocca, the Veterans Affairs Coordinator's Office of Senator Rockefeller; Larry Kammerer, Command at the Marine Corps League; WV Department of Veterans Assistance; Emma Witson from the Small Business Association; Mike Dawson, Commander at WV Disabled Veterans; Mike Browning for Senator Joe Manchin; and James McCormick from the WV Veterans Coalition.

James McCormick, chairman of the West Virginia Veterans Coalition, and Shreve, co-facilitated the event.

“That’s what we’re here for – to bring people together and hash out the plan and the ideas,” McCormick stated. “I see the greatest opportunity for networking right here in this room.”

Topics covered at the summit included roundtable discussions on veterans’ benefits, homelessness and poverty, mental health, community development, jobs/small business development, healthcare issues, and education.

Guest speaker Eric Newhouse,  a Pulitzer Prize winning author, addressed the group on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“Uncle Sam is very, very good and sending young men, and more recently, young women, into combat – into harm’s way – but he is not so good about taking care of them when they come back.”

Newhouse went on to share stories from people he’d interviewed who had dealt with the effects of PTSD and TBI.

“We are in a situation right now where the VA (Veterans Administration) is overloaded.” Newhouse explained. “We have 2.5 million service members coming back, and [the VA] is still processing their way through Vietnam vets.”

The summit also featured a presentation by Julia Zawoysky. Julia, along with her brother, Iraq War veteran Eric Zawoysky, run a small business out of their garage building aircraft parts for the military. Their work shows a positive way veterans can return to everyday life after active duty.

“I’ve heard so many good ideas and so many different perspectives that I think we can pull this together with some very definitive action steps,” Doug McContha, Executive Director of Future Generations concluded. “To follow up on what James [McCormick] said, ‘the more we sweat in peace, the less we’re going to bleed in war.’”

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