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Veteran Outreach

     Below is a common story that many Veterans can relate to about their time in service. To understand why Veterans in Raleigh need help, some may need to read that story. However, if you would like to see the services I wish to see brought to our city, then please skip to below the italicized font.

     For the past 18 years, the US has been in conflict with an enemy that has given every military in history great grief because of its difficulty to eliminate, an insurgency. Millions of Americans, and those seeking citizenship, have joined the greatest military on planet Earth since 9/11 and continue to do so. Unfortunately, just under 7k have not returned home alive again, thousands have been physically wounded from combat. The majority of service members return home from service unscathed, but not all return home the same person they were before. The greatest killer of service members in the War on Terror isn't a bullet or a bomb, it is the 22 a day from suicide.

    On 13 July 2005 at a small MEPS station in Des Moines, IA, I raised my right hand and recited my oath of enlistment. I had enlisted to become an M1 Abrams Tank operator in the U.S. Army and I was going to be stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany for duration of my active duty contract. The next year I would gain a new family of 30 brothers, attend the Airborne School in Georgia, and be reclassed to a Cavalry Scout to perform reconnaissance operations for the Army's first Airborne Cavalry unit, the 1-91 Cav of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. In 2007, myself and members of Task Force Saber deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 7 & 8 during "The Surge." During this 15 month long deployment we were tasked with hunting the insurgency, establishing trade routes with local villages, building hearts & minds, & providing much needed medical help to the province of Paktika. My unit performed that mission admirably, but not without loss of life on our side.

     The soldiers of the 1-91 returned to Germany, some staying in the Army and some choosing to go home. In 2009, I had chose the latter path to continue my education and be home with loved ones and friends. However, home changed, friends moved on in life, and I wasn't the same person I was before. The military had trained me, and scores of others, to be a lethal warrior in their service, but they had not trained me to come home from that.

     Reintegration wasn't easy. I had left a career where life was organized from waking moment until sleep, including how people socialized together while in uniform to... not. I didn't have my 30 brothers by my side anymore, it was just me. I thankfully had family to stay with and savings to rely on until I could find a job or start school. Translating what I had done in the Army to a resume wasn't exactly easy either. Combat experience wasn't a skill many employers were looking for in applicants outside of private contracting. Like so many others, I eventually found my way by exercising my demons, getting an education, & landing solid employment. Others were not so lucky as I was. Many left the service and didn't adjust well in society and let their demons control them. Some became homeless, substance abusers, or worse... chose to end their life. Many of those suicides could have been prevented had options been in place for them at their local level.

     22 Veterans a day commit suicide in the US. Veterans and supporters fight to drop that number everyday with outreach programs, services, and advocacy. In Wake County, we have the Veterans Services Office which helps Veterans and their family members apply for benefits and services from the VA as well as the NCDVMA. What isn't available are smaller resources that can mean the world, even life and death, to any Veteran in need. I would like Raleigh to pioneer Veteran Services and be an example to the rest of North Carolina by following the template Franklin, Massachusetts has put forth. In conjunction with the Wake County VSO, I would like to see Raleigh offer these services:

▪ In-home visits to veterans who are disabled and need assistance completing required paperwork to complete applications.
▪ A home check up program for at risk vets. A simple phone call or home visit to make sure the vet is still alive can be as crucial as the senior well-check program.
▪ Put Veteran preference on applications to city government employment.
▪ Job search, workshops, seminars, and employment training opportunities.
▪ Transportation to medical appointments and Veteran's facilities.
▪ Retrieving military records.
▪ A friendly ear is provided to veterans who come in and need someone to talk to.
▪ An annual "Welcome Back" event held in a local park in Raleigh for Veterans Services Awareness.

     This is not a complete fix for the problems facing Veterans in our community, but it does put forth services where NONE existed before. It will show that Raleigh cares for vets and help them succeed in reintegration.

Committee to Elect James Bledsoe
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