Veterans transition to civilian life in Colorado’s Grand Valley
UPCOMING VETERANS DAY EVENTS
Veterans Day is officially Tuesday, Nov. 11, but the Grand Valley hosts many events throughout the week to remember and celebrate those who have served.
VETERANS DAY PARADE
Grand Junction’s annual Veteran’s Day parade is set for Saturday, Nov. 8, starting at 2 p.m. It will venture downtown Grand Junction on Main Street.
Palisade American Legion Auxiliary Unit #50 will hold its annual Poppy Drive on Friday, Nov. 7 from 10 .a.m to 4 p.m. at Wal-Mart Supercenter, located at 2881 North Ave., in Grand Junction. Donations provide therapy for handicapped and hospitalized veterans.
For more information, visit http://www.palisade.webs.com or call 970-623-0146.
REDLANDS LIONS CLUB
Redlands Lions Club members and volunteers will be placing flags out for Veterans Day on Tuesday, Nov. 11 (weather permitting). Flags will be placed in Tiara Rado, Seasons, Monument Village, Panorama, Village Way and other subdivisions. They also will be displaying flags at some local Redlands area businesses.
The Redlands Lions Club flag service honors 10 holidays throughout the year. The cost for residents is a donation of $30.
If interested in subscribing to this service or volunteering to help, please contact Lion Chuck Stevenson at 970-242-3222 or Lion Dave McIlnay at 970-433-7961.
MEET WORLD WAR II VETERANS
The public is invited to meet and honor World War II veterans and to officially open a new online video collection of veterans’ memories at a special event on Tuesday, Nov. 11, from 4-6 p.m. The event is set for Chick-fil-A at 522 Bogart Lane in Grand Junction.
Several local World War II veterans are scheduled to attend. Their stories are told in “Veterans Remember,” a new online video collection produced by Mesa County Libraries.
For more information about the project or to suggest veterans for project consideration, please contact Bob Kretschman, public information manager for Mesa County Libraries, at 970-243-4442.
Help Hospitalized Veterans will host a presentation by a U.S. Navy veteran, Clint Buniger. Buniger collected more than 10,000 postcards, with some dating back to the late 1800s. He has been collecting for more than 40 years. The public is encouraged to attend the free tutorial and view the display of postcards through Dec. 4 at Help Hospitalized Veterans, located at 1670 North Ave., in Grand Junction. A presentation is set for Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. at HHV.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle Davis, a Grand Junction resident and a veteran of the United States Army, is no stranger to struggle. After graduating from Colorado Mesa University with a mass communication degree in 2013, Davis — already a husband and father — sought employment during an economic downturn. Yet, years before that he faced an even greater challenge — returning to civilian life after serving in Afghanistan from 2004-2007.
According to Davis, he experienced a great deal of anxiety after returning from overseas service with post-traumatic stress disorder. He also sustained a traumatic brain injury due to “multiple roadside bomb attacks,” according to a previous interview with the Free Press last year, that caused him to experience headaches and seizures.
“The transition back to school from the military was more shocking and difficult than heading back to work,” he said.
In 2008, only a year before Davis was driving a Humvee in Iraq, dodging explosions. Being in a classroom with 18- and 19-year-old students was a vastly different experience.
“It made me feel older than I was, and it was so surreal to go from two extremes like that,” he explained.
Davis isn’t alone in his plight. Many veterans find the transition from service to civilian life difficult.
“Each vet is different when they get home,” Grand Junction VA Medical Center’s spokesman Paul Sweeney confirmed.
According Sweeney, more than 14,000 veterans live in Mesa County and only about 45 percent of the veteran population becomes involved with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
For returning men and women who are looking to get back into the workforce, Gene Farnsworth — a local veteran — suggests they choose a career path that represents life goals and interests.
“Prepare for a long and patient haul,” he said.
Farnsworth also said employers should take note that veterans may have many skills applicable to an open position, though they may not have local employment references.
“In the military we have to learn new technologies and processes quickly,” Farnsworth said, giving veterans a versatility and aptitude for learning that can be applied in a variety of jobs.
SUPPORT RESOURCES AVAILABLE
While attending Colorado Mesa University, Davis found the school’s Student Veterans Association to be a useful outlet. It enabled him to talk with other veterans going through similar situations, and it helped him reduce anxiety.
“It put me in a better place being able to talk to other veterans,” he said. “There is a strong support system for vets here in the valley. Nothing beats talking to other veterans who have been in similar situations.”
Colorado Mesa University’s Student Veterans Association is just one of the many resources available locally for members of the armed forces returning home.
“Mesa County is one of the best resources for veterans,” Sweeney said of Grand Valley’s community. “If one place can’t answer the issue for the veteran we can send them to someone who is able to help.”
The Grand Junction Vet Center, located at 2472 Patterson Road, offers readjustment counseling for veterans free of charge. Plus, the Grand Junction VA Medical Center offers many rehabilitation and vocational workshops through local nonprofits. Project Healing Waters, for instance, offers fly-fishing retreats for disabled veterans as a way to help find peace.
Grand Junction’s American Legion, as well as Grand Junction’s Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, also provides support for veterans of all ages. Disabled American Veterans offers a chapter in Grand Junction, too, providing “free, professional assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service,” its website said.
For more information on veterans services available in Colorado’s Grand Valley, visit http://www.va.gov.
Caitlin Row, Free Press editor, contributed to this story.
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