veterans day

Wood County focuses on serving its 12,895 veterans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the nation prepares to honor those who served on Saturday, the Wood County Veterans Assistance Center is working to serve the 12,895 veterans living in this county. Mary Hanna, a Vietnam War veteran and executive director of the county office, presented a program this week on veterans in Wood County. Though few in the room were veterans themselves, the majority were descendants of those who served. “Presentations like this are like preaching to the choir,” Hanna said. Over the years, the county has seen the age of its veterans shift. The current stats show the following numbers in each age group: 2,321 ages 17 to 44 3,901 ages 45 to 64 4,903 ages 65 to 84 1,770 ages 85 and older. The biggest share are Vietnam veterans (33 percent), followed by peacetime (23 percent), Persian Gulf (22 percent), World War II (12 percent) and Korean War (10 percent). Women veterans in Wood County total 850, accounting for 7 percent of the veterans overall. The number of veterans to die last year in the county was 111. Meanwhile, the number of new veterans registering here was 1,146. It’s that disparity that worries Hanna, since the federal government is eyeing cuts to the Veterans Administration’s budget. The federal stats put Wood County’s veteran population at 8,100 – but Hanna has proven that the number is actually 12,895. “We’re gaining veterans in this county,” and she wants to be able to give them the service they deserve, Hanna said. Last year, the Veterans Assistance Center had contact with 14,424 veterans, and several of their dependents. “Our services don’t only address the veterans, we have services for their dependents,” Hanna said. Nearly a quarter of the dependents are from WWII veterans. “Most of those WWII veterans now are in nursing homes or other care.” One of the main services offered by the county office is transportation to VA medical facilities for veterans with no other options. Last year, 310 transports were provided. “We pick them up at their door and take them to their appointment, then return them back home,” Hanna said. The office also provides emergency financial assistance. Last year, that financial help added up to $71,728. The biggest need was food (43 percent) followed by rent and mortgage assistance (25 percent), then such items as electric bills, burial expenses and car insurance. “Every county operates differently,” Hanna said. “We rarely turn a veteran away who is in need if they can substantiate the need. If they can show the need, we help them.” The office also makes sure veterans get the federal benefits that are coming to them. “This is what I really love to do – making sure veterans get everything they are entitled to is my passion,” she said. In 2016, the veterans assistance office helped secure $33.6 million in federal dollars for local veterans. “I know that money is going to the veterans who deserve it,” Hanna said. The office also helps make sure local veterans get their pensions, medical aid and education services. Approximately 1,200 veterans in Wood County receive disability pay. And the office provides funding for grave flags and markers, plus honor detail services at burials. The veterans office has made some changes in recent years to…


Veterans reminded their service is not forgotten

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County veterans were reminded Saturday that their service to the nation has not been forgotten. That gratitude was shown in the resurrection of a monument in their honor, and in the effort made to give a final salute at veterans’ funerals. Both were explained during a Veterans Day program in the Wood County Courthouse Atrium. “None of us who have served consider ourselves heroes,” said veteran David Ridenour. “We are ordinary citizens who may have performed extra ordinary feats.” And those selfless acts for the greater good must not be forgotten. Army veteran Joe Fawcett, who is assistant municipal administrator for the city of Bowling Green, talked about the city’s efforts to restore the veterans memorial at the entrance of City Park. The memorial was first dedicated on Memorial Day 1931, with the etched statement, “Bowling Green has not forgotten.” That statement was the catalyst for Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft to restore the monument to its original glory. Over the years, the monument had become overgrown by arborvitae, and had suffered from neglect. “Unfortunately, it appeared we had forgotten,” Fawcett said. In addition to removing the shrubbery and restoring the monument, the city also put bases in for flags around the site. The city invested more than $20,000 and countless hours in the effort. “Brian’s vision is one that we can all be proud of,” Fawcett said. “We all owe it to them to live up to the words, ‘Bowling Green has not forgotten,’” he added. Local veterans are also being remembered in another way, with a final farewell performed by fellow veterans. Mary Hanna, executive director of the Wood County Veterans Assistance Center and a Vietnam War veteran, talked about the importance of military funeral honors. “It’s the final demonstration a grateful nation can provide to a veteran’s family,” Hanna said. In 2009, Hanna worked to put together the Wood County Honors Detail, to be present at veterans’ funerals. The veterans fold and present the family with an American flag, perform a gun salute, and play taps. The honors detail was created due to the increasing number of requests for military burials and the difficulty meeting the needs, Hanna said. Since its formation, the honors detail group has attended more than 270 funerals. The organization currently has 35 members, all honorably discharged veterans. Hanna presented certificates to each of the volunteers present on Saturday, and thanked them for their service. “They make sure our fallen veterans are taken care of properly,” she said. Also during the Veterans Day program at the courthouse, music was performed by Evie Van Vorhis and Greg Hernandez, who calls himself “The Rebel Fifer.” “Our American troops have stood tall all over the world,” Hernandez said. Once the program in the atrium was complete, the veterans moved outdoors for laying of wreaths at memorials on the courthouse grounds. A salute was performed by a Civil War re-enactors firing squad, the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. And taps was played by Jordan Schuman. Saturday’s program was sponsored by AMVETS Post 711, American Legion Post 45, Paul C. Ladd VFW Post 1148, and the Fallen Timbers Memorial Association.