Orlando: We should ensure veterans receive benefits they need and deserve - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Orlando: We should ensure veterans receive benefits they need and deserve

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Matt Orlando is an elected Chandler City Council member.

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 9:46 am | Updated: 12:08 am, Mon Sep 24, 2012.

Serving our country through the military is a great honor and our soldiers deserve to be treated with utmost respect. That is why I often write about the importance of supporting and honoring our military personnel.

As I have noted in the past, many soldiers find it painfully difficult to adjust back into society upon their return from service. Some may experience physical handicaps, others may have financial burdens and some may struggle emotionally or psychologically. Regardless of the situation, there is a great need for veterans to be connected with the services that can be most beneficial to them.

A few years ago, the Arizona Department of Veterans Services opened an office in Chandler to serve the veterans of our community. Two Veteran Benefit Counselors are available to provide claims assistance, guidance on securing discharges, referrals to other agencies and information about federal and state benefits. The office is located 3130 N. Arizona Avenue #114 and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more specific information, you can call (480) 558-2052.

The annual Military and Veterans Benefit Expo sponsored by the City of Chandler and the Arizona Department of Veterans Services is also set in place to connect veterans with the services they need. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave. Dozens of service providers will be available to promote programs and address questions.

One of the agencies on hand at the Benefit Expo will be Operation Freedom Bird. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1988 by Patrick Lynch, a pilot and decorated Vietnam veteran, to offer trips to memorial sites in Washington, D.C. Combat personnel who experience post-traumatic stress disorder can receive counseling and be selected to travel on the healing journey to pay tribute to fallen heroes and share memories in a supportive setting.

Over the years, I have become familiar with Operation Freedom Bird’s impact on veterans. I have heard powerful testimonies of soldiers who have started to heal from their traumatic experiences, which sometimes occurred decades ago. It is a true privilege to support this organization’s mission. Like many other nonprofit organizations, Operation Freedom Bird is funded solely by donations. Two fund-raising events are scheduled annually to cover the cost of transporting and accommodating the selected veterans. A “Heroes Breakfast” is set for Friday, Sept. 21, at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Resort in downtown Chandler. And on Saturday, Oct. 6, there is a golf tournament scheduled in Sun City.

More information about these events can be found online at www.operationfreedombird.org or by calling Pat Lynch at (602) 284-7431.

Many other worthy organizations will be present at the Military and Veterans Benefit Expo on Oct. 20. I encourage all military personnel to attend and take advantage of these services. As a past member of the U.S. Air Force and Arizona Air National Guard, I wholeheartedly support efforts to assist fellow service members and their families. We should never forget the sacrifices of those who died in combat and remain committed to ensuring that those who have served receive the benefits they need and deserve.

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