Honoring Veterans on Friday, Nov. 11

Honoring Veterans on Friday, Nov. 11
Randy L. McKee

Spotting a Vietnam War veteran during a Saturday morning visit to a Fin Feather Fur Outfitters store, Brandon Irving approached the man and thanked him for his service. That started a conversation.

“It turned out that he had some disabilities that weren’t being addressed because he didn’t realize the benefits that he was entitled to,” said Irving, executive director and a veteran service officer at Holmes County Veterans Services. “I got him to come to my office and helped him to get the services he needed. Being there for our veterans is what we do. It’s a passion more than a job.”

The county-funded agency provides comprehensive support services, including financial assistance, transportation to VA medical facilities, and help with filing for claims and benefits.

Irving said the agency this year is planning a Veterans Day ceremony he hopes will entice enthusiastic community participation.

“We’d like to see everybody getting involved,” he said. “We’re bringing it back to the courthouse lawn in the center of (Millersburg), next to the Veterans Monument, after being held in a remote location. We’re going to have the police, fire and sheriff’s departments there. We’re going to have some Head Start groups come and sing a song for the veterans. It’s a positive thing if we bring our kids up understanding what veterans have done and what they have gone through.”

The featured speakers at this year’s half-hour ceremony will be a pastor and his wife who met while in service to the country. Veterans will be invited to enjoy a free meal after the ceremony at the Barb Snyder Senior Center.

“The ceremony will include the West Holmes marching band, and there will be coffee and doughnuts for attendees,” Irving said.

He said he hopes to draw significantly more veterans to the ceremony than the 20-30 who attended last year.

“We’ve been doing a lot of outreach to let the local veterans know that we’re here for them and to try to get them more involved,” he said.

Outreach efforts include a coffee group for veterans, he said.

“I started out with two to four veterans coming to my first coffee group,” he said. “Now I’m hitting about 60. I’m trying to let these veterans know that I’m a veteran myself and I am here to help them — to work for them — and I want to make sure that they all get everything they are entitled to and to know that nobody is ever going to be turned away from our office.”

Irving became executive director of the agency in June 2021 after working with veterans in Richland and Marion counties for five years. He served 10 years in the National Guard with two deployments to Iraq. One of the first things he did as executive director was to bring in a mental health provider from a veterans center in Stark County.

“She’s here every Thursday,” Irving said. “Nobody wants to drive an hour, let alone to do a mental health appointment. Now they can drive 10 minutes or less to my office and get the treatment they need right here.”

Treatment often includes help for post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

“Most of the veterans we see are Vietnam boots on ground,” he said. “We see a lot of PTSD, which is something we didn’t know anything about at the time of the Vietnam War. They also were exposed to Agent Orange, and we’re now seeing the prostate cancer and other cancers that can result from that exposure.”

Irving said community members can help veterans just by understanding what they’ve gone through.

“Just being there to show your support,” he said. “Just a simple ‘thank you for your service’ could change the whole day — especially for Vietnam veterans who came home to bad circumstance and weren’t appreciated at all.”

The Veterans Day ceremony will be held Friday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. near the Holmes County Veterans Memorial at the intersection of routes 39 and 83 in Millersburg.

Holmes County Veteran Services is located at 75 E. Clinton St., Suite 104, Millersburg. You can get more information by visiting HCOhioVeterans.com or by calling 330-674-4806.

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