Garfield County Veterans Service Officer Lisa Reed-Scott had a busy day Tuesday.
She, along with members of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition, celebrated the third anniversary of the Jesse Beckius/Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center in downtown Glenwood Springs with an open house to the community.
The location is named after two local veterans who died by suicide in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The alarming rate of suicides among veterans is one of the many challenges Reed-Scott hopes to combat by raising awareness.
Reed-Scott was named Garfield County Veterans Service Officer (VSO) in February, after working at the Colorado Veterans Community Living Center in Rifle for 11 years.
Although the Rifle resident is still settling in to her new position, helping local veterans in need has been a longtime mission of hers.
“I’m here for them,” she says. “I need to make sure that I listen to every veteran that comes through this door and help them in any way I can.”
Some of the veteran services Reed-Scott provides include assistance with paperwork for disability claims, education benefits, health care, and Veterans Administration appointments.
“When you go on the military, they train you to be a soldier, but no one trains you to be a civilian,” said Charles Hopton, Board President of the Western Slope Veterans Coalition. “Our job is to provide that information and help.”
Reed-Scott and the Western Slope Veterans Coalition share offices and efforts at the Resource Center building located at 803 Colorado Ave. in Glenwood Springs.
She also works part-time from the Garfield County office in Rifle.
Something Bigger Than Herself
The sole woman to serve in a family with three generations of veterans before her, Reed-Scott enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 at age 20.
“People thought I was crazy.”
“I wanted to do something bigger than myself,” she said. “Because of Desert Storm, the Marine Corps was the only branch allowing women to go in at the time.”
The Marine Corps has the lowest ratio of women among all of the U.S military branches. Even though that didn’t stop Reed-Scott from enlisting, it was a constant challenge throughout her service years.
“There were not a lot of women,” she said. “I had to do it better because it was so difficult to gain their respect.”
Reed-Scott served as a communications operator, MOS 2542. She was stationed in Japan and California and was close to being deployed to Somalia.
“I was on-call 24 hours a day,” she recalled. “We were preparing, that’s what our job was.”
The Michigan native got emotional when remembering her time in service.
“My favorite part was the camaraderie with the other Marines,” she said. “You learn not to take life for granted.
“It’s a tough experience, but it’s worthwhile. You are doing something bigger than yourself.”
After being honorably discharged in 1995, Reed-Scott moved to Parachute before settling in in Rifle — a city she hopes will be her forever home.
“I wanted to raise my kids here.”
No One Left Behind
According to Reed-Scott, the majority of veterans who seek help from the Garfield County Veterans Services are Vietnam veterans, followed by those who served in the Korean and Gulf Wars.
She continues to point out that female veterans are a rarity.
“Getting through to a woman can be 10 times harder than getting through a man,” she says. “They just put their walls up.”
She affirmed that until recently there were no services or groups focused on women veterans in the Western Slope, which made it difficult for those seeking specialized assistance.
“If a woman was assaulted in service, do you think she would want to discuss that with a group of men?” Reed-Scott said. “It makes it harder for them to reach out for help.”
Housing, substance abuse, homelessness, mental health and suicide are the main issues affecting Garfield County veterans of all ages, the VSO reports.
But she believes everyone can find their own way to help, and a simple way to start is by showing appreciation.
From making financial donations to the Coalition, which Alpine Bank will match up to $5,000, to more local businesses providing special military discounts — Reed-Scott said just listening to veterans or offering a simple “thank you for your service” can go a long way.
“These men and women are fascinating and have so many amazing stories to share.”
For more information on veteran services provided by Garfield County, contact the VSO Lisa Reed-Scott at 970-948-6767 or email@example.com.
“The first step is contacting us, we can get help,” she says. “I’m a Marine and I don’t leave anybody behind.”
The Tuesday event also celebrated the United States Marine Corps’ 244th birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony led by Lt. Col. Dick Merritt.