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American Homefront

Ways Civilians Can Help Returning Veterans

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WUSF Public Media

On what was the most pleasant and least humid Saturday in the Tampa Bay area since April, some chose to spend a few hours inside.

The Friends of the St. Petersburg Library gathered in the auditorium of the main library to learn about the challenges and successes of the newest generation of veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Student Veterans Association President at USF, Ray Mollison, and SVA officer Patrick Schweikart served as their guides.

They said the SVA’s mission is to serve student veterans but also to reach out to the community.

Their outreach includes helping to build homes for injured veterans through Homes for Our Troops, joint exercise like runs and cycling and social outings with Team Red, White and Blue  and making presentations to public groups.

One of the questions they fielded was how civilians can get involved and help veterans. Ray started it off with two suggestions:

  1. Participate in Team Red, White and Blue events like the cycling he did at the Flatwoods park Saturday morning. He said civilians are welcome to become part of the RBW team and enjoy the benefits of exercise and socializing.
  2. In-state tuition for veterans is the top priority for the USF student veterans. Their chapter has tried unsuccessfully for a few years to get it passed by the legislature. The bill in the 2013 legislature never made it out of a senate committee. Rep. Kathleen Peters and Sen. Jack Latvala are sponsoring veterans in-state tuition bills for the 2014 session. So, Mollison suggested civilians can help lobby lawmakers to get legislation passed next session.

There are a myriad of options to veterans. Here are a few ideas:

  • Join the Got Your 6 program – it offers the community ways to share in the sacrifice and show appreciation for those who have served like becoming a mentor or providing care packages for homeless veterans.
  • Wreaths Across America – The group of veterans who fund-raise for the wreaths at Bushnell National Cemetery are trying to get enough donations for 10,000 wreaths in 2013. They also need volunteers to lay the wreaths before the holidays.
  • Support the Troops Inc. – Volunteer to help put together packages for troops deployed overseas.
  • Honor Flight West Coast Florida – Volunteer to escort a World War II veteran for a day of touring national memorials in Washington D.C.

If you have an idea on how civilians in your community can help veterans and military families, write a comment or send me an email at bobrien@wusf.org.