By Assemblyman Will Barclay
Maybe some of you have heard of Dakota Meyer.
At the age of 24, Dakota Meyer became the first living Marine in 38 years to receive the nation’s highest award for combat valor, the Medal of Honor. He has written a book that is due out in September which highlights many struggles he encountered, as well as priorities he has made since he returned home from the war.
He is credited with braving enemy fire multiple times during a frantic effort to recover four missing members of his team. He eventually found them dead in a trench and worked with other troops to remove them from the valley where they were killed.
His story and his award has brought to light many issues that veterans face, especially when they return home from the front lines. He is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring our Heroes, to help draw attention to veterans who return home from serving their country, yet have trouble finding work. Unemployment is high among returning vets and some say it’s as high as 13% when the national average is about 8%. In an effort to change that, he has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring our Heroes.
I was proud to co-sponsor legislation that was recently signed into law by the Governor to better assist veterans in finding work or developing job skills when they return from active duty. The Division of Veterans’ Affairs website will soon include an “employment portal” to direct users to appropriate federal and state governmental programs that assist veterans in finding work. Many skills learned in the military such as hard work, discipline, equipment training, machinery operating, and dedication to service are attributes welcomed by any employer, however, additional training or help marketing skills may be necessary.
This portal will be launched by the end of October, according to the new law. I am pleased this legislation I helped sponsor became law. Helping our veterans find placement after serving our nation is the least our state can offer.
In recent days, Dakota Meyer admitted that he tried to commit suicide in 2010, the year before he received the Medal of Honor. Traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicide attempts are high among returning vets.
Meyer’s struggles have also highlighted mental health problems many returning veterans exhibit. It is estimated that 18 veterans die every day by suicide. Help is available. There is a great resource available at the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which can be accessed at http://www.ptsd.va.gov/. It chronicles videos of veterans who explain what it is like to live with PTSD and depression. It also directs visitors to several resources where they can find help locally and get treatment. Families too can also access treatment.
There is also help through an organization called NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has dedicated a section to Veterans and the Military. This group has several local resources and many locally have been able to find support within the group by connecting with people who have been through a similar mental health situation, either themselves or with a loved one. To find a local chapter, visit www.nami.org. To find veteran resources, click on “Support and Programs” on the top of the page and scroll down for Veteran and Military Resources.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.
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