BY MELANIE BUCK –
A lunch and learn event was held at the Arkansas National Guard Armory on Morrow Street on Wednesday, March 2nd to inform attendees about the vast amount of services offered for military members, veterans, and their families.
Members of several Polk County agencies were in attendance to learn how their services could line up with the local services offered by the military including furthering education, counseling, getting back into the workforce, and youth and family services and programs. One organizer, SFC Garner said, “We want to help soldiers make a better transition back to their communities. Educating community members that will be in contact with veterans is the point of today’s meeting.”
CPT Marable gave a brief rundown of the local battalion’s history and the combat they have faced and community service they have performed in the region. The local company is the Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The entire battalion is headquartered at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock and encompasses 44 units across 37 counties in the state, and includes more than 3,000 soldiers. The battalion brings in over $10.5 million per month in payroll and $130 million annually in payroll expense, bringing a large workforce that boosts the economy. Hundreds of those soldiers flock to Mena every other weekend for drill training.
Over the years, soldiers from this company have made overseas deployments to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Egypt, and Iraq. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, 33 soldiers were killed, 16 of those from Arkansas. On home soil, the battalion provided almost 3,000 soldiers to assist after Hurricane Katrina and have supported border missions in New Mexico. They also train for Earthquake Response Preparedness in the event that the New Madrid Seismic Zone ever erupts.
In addition, these soldiers assist local authorities in events such as the recent flood in December 2015 when a man was washed into a creek in his vehicle. The county asked for assistance of the National Guard and their heavy duty trucks to make it to the man for a safe rescue. Sandbagging operations, security, and search and rescue missions are also part of their regular duties.
So for all of this that they do to serve their local communities, their state, and their country, the Lunch and Learn was to spread the word on how these soldiers can further benefit from all of their hard work to keep their communities safe, at home and abroad. The services are free and cover every aspect of assistance that is needed.
Following the presentation by CPT Marable, community leaders from Rich Mountain Community College, Polk County Emergency Management, ARCO (Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas), Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce, as well as veterans gained valuable information through vendors that were on hand to explain their specific services.
Military OneSource is just what it says, a one source place for all types of assistance for veterans and military members. Their staff is designed to get clients in touch with exactly the right provider to fit individual needs. Providing information and assistance with deployment, relationships, grief, spouse employment and education, and child care are part of their programs. Learn more at www.militaryonesource.mil.
One benefit of Military OneSource is their Transition Assistance Providers program. Helping soldiers coming home from combat zones back to ‘normal’ life takes a transition. This branch of OneSource provides support to make it easier on soldiers and their families. Counseling services are offered face-to-face, online, or by telephone.
Youth and Family Services provide camps for kids and symposiums on coping with deployed parents. The program promotes quality of life and also provides high-quality support services and enrichment programs.
Survivor Outreach Services is an Army program designed to provide long term support to surviving families of fallen soldiers. They provide assistance with financial benefits and entitlements, health care, education, housing, and more. If you are a surviving family member, you can learn more at www.sos.army.mil.
Closest to home, Cindi Sawyer, Family Assistant Specialist, who represents the local Family Assistance Center, and one call to her will get most of the answers needed for any of the programs offered. Whether before, during, or after deployment, FAC offers information and referral services, no matter what branch of the service served, or the duty status. Legal assistance, as well as financial assistance, crisis intervention, community outreach, and more are available.
To learn more about any of these programs and how they may impact you or your family, contact Cindi Sawyer at the local Family Assistance Center by calling 501-212-7865.