There is an African proverb that says "it takes a village to raise a child."
In its best sense, it means every person in a community has a vested interest in seeing to it that every child is well cared for, well educated, and well raised.
The same can be said for the successful reintegration of our fighting men and women back into our community. Successful reintegration for our veterans and their families is in our collective best interests.
We live in a very unique community that really seems to get that. We have a collection of supportive services, veterans service organizations, veteran-friendly colleges, veteran owned businesses and community partners who understand that the future of our community is very much intertwined with the success of those who've worn our nation's uniforms.
Take a look at some of what the Rochester community has to offer our veterans:
- Veterans Outreach Center, Inc. is the oldest community-based veteran outreach effort in the nation. Opened in 1973 to support Vietnam veterans coping with their wartime experiences and to facilitate government benefits claims, the VOC has evolved to meet the contemporary and ever-changing needs of all veterans. They are national leaders in employment services for veterans, creative arts therapy and residential services for veterans and their families. You can find out more about the VOC at www.veteransoutreachcenter.org
- The Rochester Regional Veterans Business Council provides veteran business owners and operators a forum in order to make the veteran business community an economic force in employment and business development. They provide support to veteran owned businesses, provide a forum for networking and education, support reintegration of veterans into the workforce, and support the activities of veteran’s services organizations in the Rochester region. The RRVBC meets monthly at Nazareth College and their input has been crucial in developing veteran specific internships. You can learn about the RRVBC at www.veteransbusinesscouncil.org
- CDS Monarch developed the Warrior SALUTE Program to help Service Members and their families with personalized life and job transition support. Warrior SALUTE helps Service Members regain their lives and dreams by providing quality employment opportunities as well as clinical and rehabilitative services. To learn more about this great program please visit www.cdswarriorsalute.org
- The Rochester Blue Star Mothers are committed to helping our veterans. "We are moms in the Rochester, NY area who now have or have had sons and daughters honorably serving in the United States military. Our mission is to support all members of the Armed Forces through a variety of activities and events." You can see more about what the ROC BSM's do at their Rochester Blue Star Mothers Facebook Page.
- Honor Flight Rochester is one of the most active Honor Flight Programs in the country. They fly World War II veterans to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. The average age for veterans participating in this program is 88. To learn more about Honor Flight Rochester visit ww.honorflightrochester.org/
- Our community is lucky to have the first Army Strong Community Center in the country. Designed to be a "virtual military post" for family members who are far away from a military installation. Army Strong Community Center is part of Help Base Greater Rochester, which serves a six county area and includes the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Vet Center, the VA Healthcare Network of Upstate New York, and the Monroe County Veterans Services Agency. You can find more information at the HBGR website.
Clearly our community gets the concept that "it takes a village." In addition to all those programs and services, we also have very active local chapters of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign War, as well as AMVETS.
Three of our local colleges - Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Nazareth College - were named "Best Military Colleges 2012" by Military Advanced Education Magazine. This annual guide to military/veteran friendly colleges is available on every installation in the Department of Defense community.
The first incarnation of the GI Bill helped usher in a new era in this country. Before 1944, colleges were mostly generational services where the rich sent their families to learn the finer points of higher education. After 1944, countless service members were on college campuses. This led to the most prolonged period of economic growth in our country.
We now have an opportunity to repeat that with the new GI Bill benefits. The next “American Economic Renaissance” has its leaders on our campus and on other college campuses around this great country.
Our new great national leaders have already been leaders on the battlefield. They have courage and conviction, but they need our support. Our future community, state and national leaders need "a village" to lean on.
Together, we can be that village.
_ Jeremy Bagley, a United States Army veteran is the Coordinator of Veteran Student Enrollment and Supportive Services at Nazareth College. You can email Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Nazareth College Office of Veterans' Affairs at (585) 389-5017.